Alumni Q&A: An Interview with Communicative Sciences & Disorders Alumna Lisa Register

Lisa L. Register, M.A., CCC-SLP, graduated from Michigan State University with a B.A in 1999 and an M.A. in 2001. Her major was Audiology and Speech Sciences, which is now known as Communicative Sciences and Disorders. Register currently works for the Lansing School District as a Speech-Language Pathologist, where she assists students and creates IEPs, among other tasks that help the program run properly.

ComArtSci and Michigan State University invited Register to share her spartan alumni experience.

Q. When you look back at your life and work so far, what gives you the most pride?

A. I have the privilege of seeing my students do things they could not do before we started working together. 

Q. What inspires you to work toward your goals and accomplishments?

A. I am inspired by the power of words. Communication is integral to the promise that my students can and will affect change in the world.

Q. Could you describe a day in your professional life?

A. I currently work at three different schools in the Lansing School District. My students range from preschoolers to sixth graders. No two days ever look the same. Within a typical week, my days are filled with collaboration and problem solving with colleagues. I also participate in intervention groups with students addressing articulation, phonology, fluency, language and pragmatic skills. Data collection, maintaining service logs/session notes, planning for future sessions, meetings with parents, evaluating students, writing individualized education plans (IEPs), attending professional development meetings, sanitizing tables and objects, and making the most of the time I have with every student are all important aspects of my job.

Q. What are some of the greatest challenges working in your field?

A. There seems to be a greater need for speech language pathologists (SLPs) these days and the number of professionals entering the field are not meeting that need. Funding is also an issue. In my job, education budget cuts affect special education services in the schools. For my colleagues working in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and rehabilitation centers face funding challenges from insurance companies limiting coverage for speech and language services. Another challenge, which can be said for so many fields, is that there are not enough hours to complete all the things that need to get done.

Q. What would you consider to be the defining point in your life or career?

A. The defining point in my career would have to be when I walked into the Audiology and Speech Sciences advising office during my MSU campus visit in the spring of my senior year in high school 25 years ago. I had a half-hour between my meetings with the advisors in the communications and telecommunications departments. Dave Kragt was the advisor for Audiology and Speech Sciences (ASC) at the time. He met with my mom and I and explained to us what a speech-language pathologist was. I knew at that moment that I wanted to be a Speech-Language Pathologist. 

Coincidentally, Dave was the advisor assigned to my section of the alphabet at my summer Academic Orientation Program (AOP) a few months later. I changed my major at AOP and enrolled in two ASC courses my freshman year. 

Q. What is the most important lesson you have learned along the way?

A. Life is better together. Working within a team to support students, families and each other contributes to the greater good. 

Q. What opportunities did you have at MSU or ComArtSci that helped you get where you are today?

A. There were multiple opportunities that provided me with a well-rounded experience at MSU. I participated in the ASC Overseas Study Program to London, England for five weeks during the summer between my sophomore and junior year. I was a resident assistant during both my junior and senior year and made friendships that have lasted over 20 years. I was a member of the senior class council and the graduate student advisory board. I also participated in the Multi-Racial Unity Living Experience while I was a Graduate Advisor in the Department of Residence Life (now Residence Education and Housing Services). My time at MSU during both my undergrad and graduate career afforded me opportunities to network with professors. This led to me teaching an elective within the college as an adjunct faculty member and encouraged me to supervise graduate student interns in our field. Ultimately, these opportunities shaped the person and clinician I am today, respecting all cultures, families, students and professionals I interact with. 

Q. How do you give back to your community or motivate others to work toward the common good?

A. It is important to me to volunteer and give back. I have mentored students and served within the student ministry at my church. I have volunteered to supervise graduate student interns and clinical fellows as a way of contributing to the field. I appreciated the time that my supervisors gave to provide opportunities for me to earn my clinical clock hours and my certificate of clinical competence. 

I have benefited from those who have done so before me and wanted to do the same for others. I have served as the Michigan Speech-Language-Hearing Association (MSHA) president, and currently volunteer as a union representative for the special education department in my school district.  

Q. What are your future plans or career goals?

A. As my MSHA past-president term concludes in March 2020 at our annual conference, I look forward to having time to work with graduate student interns again.

Q. What advice would you give to MSU and ComArtSci students? 

A. Be flexible. Meet people that are different from you, make friends, get involved, try new things, volunteer and work together. Go to office hours, get to know your professors and try not to take out too many college loans.

By John Castro