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UW Undergraduate in Division of Communication Disorders Receives National Scholarship

March 11, 2021
woman leaning against a railing outside
UW undergraduate student Isabella Mijares, from Pagosa Springs, Colo., is one of 10 students nationwide who received the 2021 National Student Speech Language Hearing Association Undergraduate Scholarship. (Allison Ragsdale Photography Photo)

An undergraduate student with the University of Wyoming’s Division of Communication Disorders is the recipient of a 2021 National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA) Undergraduate Scholarship.

Isabella Mijares, from Pagosa Springs, Colo., was awarded the scholarship from NSSLHA as a preprofessional student studying communication sciences and disorders. Only 10 undergraduate students are selected for this honor each year.

In addition to receiving the NSSLHA scholarship, Mijares is a current Wyoming Research Scholar. She credits Mark Guiberson, director of the UW Division of Communication Disorders, as being a “perfect” mentor, helping her advance her research interests, which include working in the Dual Language and Preschool Laboratory for Developmental Language Disorders.

Jamie Crait, director of the Wyoming Research Scholars Program, says Mijares has been an active member of the program from the start, engaging in science outreach and helping with events such as the Wyoming State Science Fair.

“Isabella hit the ground running with her research in Dr. Guiberson’s lab, advancing from a novice researcher to a valued lab member by her sophomore year,” Crait says. “We are proud to have students like her in our program, who can serve as role models and ambassadors for undergraduate research at UW and around the state.”

Guiberson’s lab is focused on culturally consistent early interventions for Latino and Native American preschool-age children and their families, as well as looking at linguistic and cultural considerations for children at risk and those with developmental language disorders.

“It has been amazing to have Isabelle in the lab. She has been learning so many different skills and has been developing really great ideas that will lead to new research,” Guiberson says. “I’m so thrilled to get to work with her during all four years of her undergraduate program through the Wyoming Research Scholars Program.”

Mijares’ research interests include developing culturally appropriate interventions with underserved and misunderstood populations. She and Guiberson are starting a project to identify parents’ teaching styles that will lead to culturally consistent rehabilitation activities for Native American parents and children.

Mijares plans to collaborate with the Southern Ute Tribe in southwestern Colorado for this study, which will add to Guiberson’s parallel work on the Wind River Indian Reservation. After visiting families while looking at books, she plans to complete behavioral coding and analysis that will describe parents’ general teaching strategies. This ultimately will help identify ways to support Native families with children with disabilities.

In recommending her research experience as an undergraduate, Mijares notes a strong sense of community support in the UW Division of Communication Disorders, with faculty dedicated to helping students reach goals and opportunities as they prepare to enter their careers as professional speech-language pathologists.

“I would advise any undergraduates who are looking at speech-language pathology to not hesitate to contact the professors and get involved,” Mijares says. “Joining a lab has been one of the best undergraduate experiences I’ve had so far. I appreciate Wyoming Research Scholars and Dr. Guiberson for giving me the chance to explore these topics during my time here at UW.”

Following graduation, Mijares plans to begin her graduate studies in speech-language pathology at UW while continuing to work with underserved communities.

“I plan to use what I have learned in Dr. Guiberson’s lab to help focus my work on those who are often overlooked, in a safe, respectful and culturally sensitive manner,” she says.

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