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UW Undergraduate in Division of Communication Disorders Wins National Honor

February 3, 2021
woman sitting at a computer
UW student Samantha Power, from Mandan, N.D., is a winner of the 2020 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Students Preparing for Academic and Research Careers Award. (Jon Cabrera Photo)

An undergraduate speech, language and hearing science major at the University of Wyoming has won a 2020 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) Students Preparing for Academic and Research Careers (SPARC) Award.

Samantha Power, from Mandan, N.D., received the honor from the national professional and scientific organization that provides credentials for audiologists, speech-language pathologists and speech, language and hearing scientists.

Katelyn Kotlarek, an assistant professor in the UW Division of Communication Disorders, serves as Power’s primary mentor.

“The ASHA SPARC Award facilitates an inside look into academic research careers in our field through a custom, apprenticeship-style experience in research and teaching,” Kotlarek says. “I am blown away by Ms. Power’s passion for research and dedication to the field of communication sciences and disorders. I am confident that she has a very promising future ahead of her.”

ASHA supports its members by advocating for professionals and their patients, advancing science and setting standards for professional practice. The SPARC Award is offered as part of ASHA’s strategic objective to increase research commitment in the field of communication sciences and disorders.

ASHA’s SPARC Award supports student interest in earning a Ph.D. in communication sciences and disorders and pursuing a career as a faculty researcher. The award provides financial resources to meet individual teaching and research goals through mentored teaching and research activities.

Power’s research plan encompasses various aspects of the research process, including literature review, manuscript and abstract writing, and presentation of results. Her research project involves analyzing the morphology of the palatoglossus muscle in children using magnetic resonance imaging. She also has received funding to complete her research from the UW Honors College as well as an IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) undergraduate research assistantship. She plans to present her research at various local and national venues this year.

As part of her teaching plan, Power also is serving as an undergraduate teaching assistant in Kotlarek’s “Acoustics of Speech and Hearing” course for the spring semester. To facilitate her knowledge of teaching pedagogy and digital teaching and learning, Power has worked closely with the Ellbogen Center for Teaching and Learning. She will have an opportunity to observe and lead aspects of the virtual classroom this spring.

“The SPARC Award has provided an incredible opportunity for me to explore future career path options,” Power says. “Getting involved in the Speech Imaging Lab at UW has made me a more inquisitive student, which has pushed me to dive further into my studies and grow my understanding of the communication disorders field. I am incredibly grateful to Dr. Kotlarek and the UW Division of Communication Disorders for their continuous support of my academic and research endeavors.”

To learn more about the SPARC Award, visit

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