Cartago, Costa Rica
College:College of Health Professions and Sciences
Degree Program:Communication Sciences and Disorders MA
Research Focus:Language and literacy intervention and development.
Diana Abarca, a graduate student pursuing her Master of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders, finds inspiration from the people she serves. While earning her bachelor’s degree in communication sciences at UCF, Abarca completed a thesis in which she evaluated an adolescent mother’s use of dialogic reading when reading to her twin boys and the effect that use of dialogic reading had on the boys’ language development. Abarca found herself inspired by the mother’s eagerness and willingness to learn new ways to help her children, a feeling which encourages Abarca to work in collaboration with her clients to empower and facilitate their efforts.
Part of Abarca’s appreciation for her clients stems from her mentor, Dr. Jacqueline Towson. Dr. Towson, Abarca says, always reminds her that the reason for their hard work is the children and families that they serve.
Abarca has worked with Dr. Towson since 2016, when she became involved with Dr. Towson’s ELLIE Lab of the Communication Sciences and Disorders department. Abarca became Dr. Towson’s lab coordinator two years later and has worked on projects with various people, such as paraprofessionals and parents, to educate them on language and literacy techniques they can use in the classroom or at home to promote healthy language and literacy development in toddlers. Abarca’s involvement with this work played a large part in her decision to continue her studies at UCF – she was offered a fellowship and assistantship so that she could continue her research work with Dr. Towson. Currently, Abarca is involved in various projects with data collection, coding, and analysis, as well as beginning to plan her thesis this semester.
For Abarca, the best part of her program is the people in it. She finds it inspiring to work under faculty who have a genuine interest in the speech-language pathology field, and appreciates the knowledge, advice, support, and genuine care that they give to their students. Abarca states, “it is very empowering to have my ambition recognized by the faculty and staff in my graduate program. They provided me with so many opportunities and flexibility within the structure of the program so that I can focus on my research interests while still completing a master’s degree.”
Abarca’s advice to her fellow students is to welcome any opportunities with open arms. She points out that taking part in new opportunities and experiences allows you to learn about yourself and the world – Abarca herself only found out she loved research because she said yes when an opportunity arose.
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