Spotlight on Social Sciences Alumni: Lauren Nehilla

Name: Lauren Nehilla
Age: 32
Education (UR and additional): B.A. in BCS, University of Rochester, 2001; M.S., Emerson College, 2006.
Current city/state of residence: Seattle, WA
Job Title: Speech-Language Pathologist
Employer: Seattle Public Schools
Community activities: Volunteering with a local hunger relief organization

When and how did you choose your major?

I think I had my major (BCS) pretty much settled by the time I started my freshman year. I knew I wanted to do something related to psychology, but with a more technical science bend. I saw psychobiology majors at other schools I was looking at, but when I found out about the (at the time, fairly new) BCS department, it felt like a perfect fit.

What activities were you involved in as a student, and what did you gain from them?

I was involved in the Todd Theater program as both a stage manager and an actor, and I was on the BCS undergraduate council. My theater experiences were a perfect counterpoint – emotionally, socially, and mentally – to my academic experiences! It was the first group I was part of on campus that really felt like a family.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

Immediately, I started working in an autism research lab in Boston, where I stayed for three years. I planned to go into Clinical Neuropsychology and felt like I was on a bit of a conveyor belt to do the research assistant thing before starting a PhD program.

What do you do now, and why did you choose this career?

Working on an autism research project made me realize that my true passion was language development and disorders. I got my masters degree in Speech-Language Pathology and spent four years working in Early Intervention. I currently work for the Seattle Public Schools.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

The ability to read, interpret, judge, and appreciate scientific literature has been the most useful skill since graduation. In addition, the skills and knowledge I gained as a research assistant in Dr. Bennetto’s lab laid the foundation for so much of what I do/understand/love about my job today.

How do you balance your work and personal life?

Ha. Good one. I try really hard to be mindful – thinking about what I’m doing in the moment, so I’m not thinking about work every waking minute, and when I AM working, I am very focused on it. I try to keep things in perspective and think about what I’ll look back on and be glad I did – i.e., probably a great hike, not a pile of paperwork.

What advice do you have for current students?

Don’t pick your major right away! I loved my major and my department, but I know I took classes I didn’t really have to but thought I “should”, and I didn’t take advantage of the many opportunities to learn about different things from incredible professors. You will not appreciate how incredible college is until about half way through your senior year, so just get used to that idea.