A passion for helping kids

Darby Hines, '17 BEd, '19 MScSLP: Fall Convocation Graduate Spotlight

20 November 2019

Why did you choose to study speech-language pathology?

I originally thought I wanted to be a pharmacist. That's what my dad did, and I thought it looked good, but the more I learned about pharmacy and myself, the more I realized that the two didn't line up as well as I had thought at first. At Christmas during the first year of my post-secondary studies, I had a chance to chat with one of my aunts, who is a teacher, and she suggested I look at SLP. I reached out to some of the SLPs in my area and chatted with them about what their day looked like and what they did. I knew I loved kids and I loved to work with them-I had been involved in sports and coaching from a young age, and I had been fortunate to work a lot with kids, so I knew that was something my values aligned with. I definitely knew I wanted to be in a helping profession. So when the SLPs I spoke to talked about helping out kids in schools, it was really appealing to me.

My younger brother went to speech therapy as a child. He wasn't talking much, and my parents were a little concerned, so they took him to the local speech therapist. He would come to the session and he would speak just fine, and so they set up cameras in our home to try to see what was happening. They figured out that he didn't have to speak at home because I was jumping in to speak and interpret for him. So even as a child I wanted to help others communicate!

Why did you choose the U of A Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine?

My father had graduated from the U of A in pharmacy, and my grandmother and many of my relatives had also graduated from the U of A in the Faculty of Education, and I had heard nothing but good things about the U of A. Being close to home and family was also important to me, so I had my sights set on staying in Edmonton or the area. The research opportunities that the U of A offered in my undergraduate and graduate studies were also a factor; I had so much hands-on experience even before my master's degree. That helped me tremendously, and the U of A turned me into a critical thinker which will help me very much in my practice.

You've received more awards than any student in your department has before, including the Dean's Medal in Rehabilitation Medicine for having the highest grades in your graduating class. Do you have any tips on achieving academic success and balancing it with work and friends?

You need to lean on those who are there in the program with you. I'm lucky to have a close-knit group of good friends, and with all the group projects and studying we've done together, they like to say that they should be coming up on stage with me when I receive my awards! And to be honest, I kind of agree with them; I couldn't have done it all on my own. It's also important to reach out to your professors. When I was in my undergrad, I was scared to reach out, I thought I was just a number in a big room. But I've realized that professors are there to help, and they want you to succeed. I also found that my learning was improved when I was thinking critically about how I was going to apply it in practice-then you're not just learning it for the exam question, but because you know you're going to have to actually do it. This really deepened my understanding of the theory behind my profession.

Is there an award that you're especially proud of receiving?

For me, one of the highlights was receiving the academic and clinical awards from ACSLPA [the Alberta College of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists]. I'm especially proud to have received the clinical award, because it affirms for me that I'm in the right field. Receiving it was a huge boost; I remember going to work the next day thinking that even if I'm still learning my way through a new job, I can feel confident that I'm on the right track.

What is one of your fondest memories from your time in the program?

I really look back fondly at the time I spent on my capstone project. Instead of doing a traditional research project, I worked on program and module development. I remember loving that project so much, and being so excited that the program had offered something other than just a typical research project. I remember loving all of the time-and it was a copious amount of time-we spent on our projects, and I remember liking the fact that we were in a group and were able to make the project ours.

What did you do for your work placements?

I first did two in-house placements at the U of A, which I can't say enough good things about. I had the chance to work with both children and adults at the U of A in my first year-and-a-half of study, and then we went into the "real world". I did a pediatrics placement with Alberta Health Services and an adult placement in a hospital with the Saskatchewan Health Authority. I remember saying many times to my preceptors at those placements that I felt so much more prepared to go into the placements because of the in-house placements we had at the U of A, which not every program has. My preceptors and I appreciated that I had more experience coming into the longer placements.

How are you going to celebrate your graduation?

I am bringing up my family, my grandma and all those important people with me up to the city, and we plan to take part in the Convocation ceremony, and then the Faculty of Rehab Med reception. I was fortunate to make some close friends in the program, and we're going out for a celebratory dinner after Convocation. I want to spend time with the people who were there for the whole process; they helped me as much as I helped myself. So we're going to go out and celebrate this awesome accomplishment and all the hard work that went into it!

What are you going to do next?

I was fortunate enough to land a job with the Lloydminster Public School Division, which started this year at the end of August. I plan to be part of their SLP team there this year and maybe many years to come. Having my education background, I feel very comfortable in the school division, so I was elated to have a position there. I also love teaching, and perhaps one day I'd like to get back into academia and maybe teaching in a post-secondary program. That's the teacher in me.

What would you tell someone who asked you, 'What's so great about the U of A MSc Speech-Language Pathology program?'

In general, it's the people; it's a small program, you get to know people really well, and they are all so friendly. There was always somebody I could talk to if I had questions, and that made such a positive impact. The faculty does a great job of treating you like colleagues and not students, which makes for a positive experience.