Rachael Shaffer ’23 discusses her research project, "Speech-Language Pathology and Music Therapy: An Exploration of Collaboration," with Eric Sanders, program director and associate professor of speech-language pathology.

I am graduating in December of 2023 with a BS in health sciences on the communication sciences and disorders track and a BA in music. I will graduate in 2025 with a master’s degree in speech-language pathology [SLP].

It is so interesting that you have two degrees that are very different from each other. What do you enjoy about both academic pursuits, and why get a degree in both? Assuming SLP is your future career, why not just take a couple of music courses along the way rather than commit to a major?

When I was in my college search, I looked for a program that would allow me to pursue music and speech, since I had a heavy interest in both of them. I had the intention of pursuing a music minor before meeting with Dr. Wetzel, and with my dual enrollment credits from high school, I was able to complete both programs. While SLP is my main focus, I have a great interest in music therapy and have the intention of eventually pursuing more education in the music therapy field. Music was a big part of my childhood; I began playing clarinet in fourth grade. I also have a strong interest in speech pathology, having gone through speech therapy myself when I was younger for an articulation disorder and fluency difficulties.

Do you see an overlap or intersection between these two fields?

While there is no true overlap, there is an aspect of collaboration between SLP and music therapy. This is something I am looking into. As an undergraduate, I received a SOAR [Student Opportunities in Academic Research] grant to explore the collaborative relationship between speech-language pathologists and music therapists.

What activities are you involved in?

I was a member of the Moravian Marching Band as an undergraduate and am still involved in a leadership role. I was a member of the Moravian University Wind Ensemble, Clarinet Choir, and Orchestra. I also served as a 26-Point Ambassador and was a South Campus trainer for two years. I served on the executive board of the Zinzendorf Literary Society and held positions as the treasurer, vice president, and president. For five semesters, I worked with Sarah Baer and Christopher Hassay as a writing fellow for first-year writing classes, and I worked in the writing center as a tutor for two years and for the music department in a variety of positions for all four years.

What is your long-term goal?

To be able to practice as a speech-language pathologist while continuing to work on the research I started in SOAR.

Tell us about one of the best experiences you’ve had at Moravian University.

SOAR. I did not know how much of an impact it was going to have on me. I worked with a professor I knew well and was able to create a project that combined both of my interests—music and speech. My SOAR experience opened up many more opportunities for me, including going to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire and attending the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association convention November 16–18 in Boston.