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Health solutions grad will leverage the speech challenges she overcame to help others

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Kaley Matthews remembers how self-conscious she felt when reading aloud in class during elementary school. It is those memories, along with a shared understanding and a great deal of compassion, that Matthews will bring to the people she’ll be helping now that she is graduating with a degree in speech and hearing science from ASU’s College of Health Solutions.

“I received speech therapy from a speech-language pathologist (SLP) for three years,” Matthews said. “My SLP had a profound impact on my life and when I was deciding on my career path, I chose speech-language pathology because I wanted to help others with communication difficulties similar to mine.”

“Kaley is a wonderful example of a student who had a speech and language disorder as a child and navigated her way to becoming an outstanding student in every way,” said Juliet Weinhold, a clinical associate professor and degree director at the College of Health Solutions who nominated Matthews as an outstanding graduate. Weinhold should know. She saw Matthews rise to the top of all three classes that she taught her in, and said that the stellar student earned an A+ grade in at least 20 courses overall.

Weinhold also worked with Matthews on her research examining test instruments used for the diagnosis of orofacial myofunctional disorder (OMD), a condition of abnormal facial movements that can impact talking, swallowing and breathing. Matthews conducted research that demonstrated the validity of an ASU-designed test and identified an existing OMD diagnostic test that is optimal for speech and hearing science. She presented her findings at the 2021 Arizona Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) conference, as well as at the College of Health Solutions Student Research Symposium.

Matthews also has been investigating the correlation between OMD and speech errors in college students. Along with advancing the science of OMD, this research will help clarify whether speech sound disorders are related to functional motor disorders. Weinhold said she expects results from these studies to be presented at the ASHA meeting next fall. ASHA is the national credentialing association for the profession and holds the annual event at which the latest research to advance the field is shared. 

Beyond the classroom and lab, Matthews’ academic prowess earned her the Sid P. Bacon Memorial Scholarship twice as well as a place in Barrett, The Honors College at ASU. She also completed a second bachelor's degree in family and human development from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU at the same time she was earning her speech and hearing science degree. 

Despite the heavy academic load, Matthews was also involved in many extra curricular activities and leadership opportunities. She served as an undergraduate teaching assistant, taught first-year college students as a peer facilitator in the CHS 101 course and, for two summers, worked as a counselor for incoming students at Camp Barrett. She also supported Barrett as an Honor Devil tour guide, worked as a student ambassador and was recognized as Honor Devil Member of the Year in 2021. 

Matthews was also co-president for the ASU chapter of the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association and remains active on the board. To support her fellow speech and hearing students, she organized online study sessions for core undergraduate classes so that online students could also benefit and participate.

As she prepared to graduate, Matthews reflected on her time at ASU and shared advice for fellow Sun Devils.

Q. What’s something you learned while at ASU that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A. Someone once told me that, "Your profession is only a part of who you are and does not encompass all of who you are." This quote changed my perspective and made me realize that I can have a variety of interests and passions outside of my major or profession. I have met so many high-achieving students who have an array of talents, interests and knowledge outside of their major. These well-rounded individuals inspire me every day.

Q. Why did you choose ASU?

A. I chose ASU because of the immense support I received from ASU and Barrett, The Honors College, from day one. They were so welcoming and helpful through the college admissions process. I was looking for a school with fantastic opportunities and resources, but also was looking for a university that cared for their students. I found my home in Barrett and at ASU.

Q. Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A. Weinhold has been an influential professor and mentor to me throughout my college experience. She has taught me so much about speech and hearing science, but also guided me through two research projects. She has taught me so many valuable lessons that I will carry with me not only in my profession, but throughout my life.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A. One piece of advice that I would give undergraduate students is to be open to challenging yourself and following your dreams. I feel that in school, many can become comfortable with their schedules and routines. My advice is to join organizations, start a research project, take an elective that you are interested in and explore all the opportunities ASU provides. I believe being involved is the key to growing during one’s college experience.

Q. What was your favorite on-campus spot for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A. My favorite spot for studying was Hayden Library on the ASU Tempe campus. My friends and I would reserve a room for studying, and I have so many fond memories of studying with my friends in the library. My favorite spot to meet friends was at the Memorial Union Starbucks that is right in the middle of Tempe campus and is always a staple for coffee and socializing!