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Jill Hoover, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director of Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Director of Sounds2Syntax Lab.
Dr. Hoover’s research investigates the interfaces between phonology, lexicon, and morphology. She is interested in understanding how these language domain interfaces can advise diagnosis and treatment for preschool and early school age children with language disorders.
Audra Sterling, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Associate Professor in Communication Sciences and Disorders, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Investigator at Waisman Center.
Dr. Sterling’s research examines the language and cognitive development in children with neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorders and Down syndrome.
Emily Zimmerman, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Associate Professor in Communication Sciences and Disorders, Northeastern University; Director of the Speech and Neurodevelopmental Lab.
Dr. Zimmerman’s research studies the development of infant feeding and its relationship with neurodevelopment and environmental exposure.
For the Episode 39 Transcript, Click "Read More" below
00:00:12 Tiffany Hogan: Welcome to See Hear Speak Podcast Episode 39. This episode is guest hosted by Emily Zimmerman. She talks with her peers Jill Hoover and Audra Sterling. This is a special episode because I’ve called Emily, Jill, and Audrapeers and friends since we were in graduate school together way back when at the University of Kansas. In this episode they discuss peer support. Though they focus on peer support in academia, their insights still hold for other employment settings that you may find yourself in like a school, private practice or hospital. And I’d also say their discussion applies to peer support in life outside of work. For example, I’ve personally benefited from their kind and constant peer/friend support while I went through cancer treatments this year. In fact as I record this, I’m packing for a camping trip with Emily and Jill and our families. We are fortunate enough to live near-ish each other in Massachusetts and we have kids around the same age. In this conversation Emily, Jill, and Audratalk about the importance of authentic peer support throughout your career, and they note that if you don’t have peer support, you can and should create it. They also highlight the benefits of interprofessional peer support. This is the last of my guest hosted episodes and I have really enjoyed listening to each one and I hope you have too. This may be something I continue to do to increase content, spotlight these amazing guest hosts, and give them a platform to try out podcasting. Thanks for your continued support throughout this wild and whacky year of covid and cancer. I appreciate you very much! Now this is the part of my introduction where I remind you of our website and resources. Check out our website,www.seehearspeakpodcast.com,to sign up for email alerts for new episodes and content, read a transcript of this podcast, access articles and resources that we discussed, and find more information about our guests. And, if you like this podcast, don’t forget to subscribe and leave a positive rating in apple podcast or wherever you are listening.
00:02:23 Emily Zimmerman: Hello, and welcome to the See Hear Speak podcast. My name is Emily Zimmerman, and I will be your guest host today. I'm an associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Northeastern University in Boston. I am also the Director of the Speech and Neurodevelopmental lab where we examine infant feeding development and its association with neuro development and environmental exposures across patient populations. Today's podcast will focus on the importance of peer support. We have two fabulous guests with us today to discuss this topic, Jill Hoover and Audra Sterling. Before they introduce themselves, I want to thank the See Hear Speak podcast founder and host, Tiffany Hogan, for the opportunity to guest host today. Jill, why don't you introduce yourself first by telling us more about your background and your current position?
00:03:17 Jill Hoover: Great. Thank you, Emily. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be here today because I am a huge fan of the See Hear Speak podcast and of Tiffany Hogan, of course. My name is Jill Hoover, and I'm an associate professor in the Department of Communication Disorders at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where I also serve as our department's graduate program director. I also direct the Sounds2Syntax lab where we study the interfaces between language domains like phonology, the lexicon, and morphology, and what that means for preschool and early school age language acquisition and disorders.
00:03:57 EZ: Great. Audra, can you please tell us more about yourself?
00:04:00 Audra Sterling: Yes. Hello. Thank you so much for having me, Emily, and the fabulous Dr. Hogan. And I'm excited to talk about this topic, 'cause mentoring and peer support is something that's been so important to my career. So this is a fun topic. I am an associate professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and an investigator at the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin Madison. And my research program is focused on language and cognitive development in children with neuro developmental disabilities.
00:04:36 EZ: Wonderful. So I'm so happy to be joined by both of you today. You are both colleagues and friends. And full disclosure, the three of went to graduate school together along with Tiffany Hogan all around the same time and in the same department. So we have a lot of shared experiences surrounding peer support at at least the graduate level, but then have very different experiences as we've moved through various stages in our lives. So we'll share relevant stories as we touch point at different time points. So also, as we get started discussing our theme of peer support, I wanted to say that we are primarily discussing this topic through the lens of academia, and this is because this is where we've spent most of our time professionally and through our careers, though I do wanna say that many of the same ideas and discussion points can be applied to clinically as well as in various settings. So let's first begin by defining what we mean by peer support. So Jill, what is your definition of peer support?
00:05:46 JH: So when I think of peer support I, at the broadest level, think of support that can actually be either formally put into place so it's something that maybe you have sought through a program that already exists. But I also think it can be really informal and you can kind of just pick up peer networks as you navigate your way through life. I've benefited from both of those, and I think both are equally good and equally effective. I think that peer support is something that should evolve overtime, either in terms of its purpose or the composition of the peer support network that you have. But critically, I think that peer support should feel for everybody like it is a safe space where you can be vulnerable and honest about what you need support for without having to worry about what others might think about you needing that support. And I think it's most effective when you feel like you can be your authentic true self in your support network, so really getting honest and real with that network.
00:06:56 EZ: Wonderful. Those are really great points. Audra, would you say your definition differs from Jill and... Or perhaps what would the opposite of peer support be?
00:07:08 AS: I think Jill's definition was fantastic. The only thing I'll add is that we often get mentorship throughout our lives and our careers from people who are significantly more advanced in their career than we are. That was the model I had for sure in my grad school and postdoc. And I think of peer mentoring and support as being someone who's in a pretty similar either life stage or professional setting that I am, so perhaps a fellow professor who's in a pretty similar place, or even at the personal level. I'm a mother of two young kids, and so seeking out peers who share the same kind of experiences that I do instead of someone who is perhaps a bit more advanced in their career.
00:08:02 AS: The opposite of peer support, I was thinking a lot about this, and I think... I've been very fortunate that I haven't encountered this a lot, but I think there can be a competitive aspect to grad school or professional positions. And while I think competition can be great and healthy, if it's at the expense of someone's maybe mental health, that can be really difficult. So for instance, I remember when I was in grad school, sometimes people would brag about staying up all night, or really kind of come down on you if you would say that you had done something fun, and I don't think that's a healthy peer support model. Instead, it's celebrating all different aspects of your life and helping you to move those forward in a healthy way.
00:08:59 EZ: And I think with both the definitions and even the alternative to peer support that you both have mentioned, pointing out that I guess other alternatives in our field could be support from a superior or a mentor, and that typically involves a hierarchy. So with peer support, we're hopefully stripping away that hierarchy, and as you both said, being fully supportive of the various aspects or the anxieties or the problems that are being presented to your peer. I think the best way to talk about peer support is at various levels or time points as the models for peer support change immensely throughout an academic journey or a clinician's path from graduate school to CF and so on. So for instance, the peer support you might need in graduate school may be very different for someone who's on a 10-year clock. So let's start from the beginning. Let's start from graduate school. So Jill, why don't you tell us about the peer support network or experience that you had during your graduate program?
00:10:10 JH: Sure, so I think I'm gonna focus on the peer support that I benefited from during my PhD program rather than my master's program just because it's the most salient in my mind and certainly lasted longer than my master's program did. And it's still going strong, the peer support network. So I earned my PhD from the Child Language doctoral program at the University of Kansas, where I was mentored by Dr. Holly Storkel in her Word and Sound Learning lab. And so for those listeners who don't know about the child language program, this is an interdisciplinary doctoral program where training incorporates language acquisition and language impairments with developmental psychology and linguistics. So because of that program's interdisciplinary nature, I actually feel like my peer network at Kansas was quite large. So I became very close to many of the doctoral students in speech language hearing sciences, which is how I met Emily and Tiffany, but I also became really close to PhD students who were studying linguistics and psychology, which is kind of how I met Audra. I met her in other ways too.
00:11:20 JH: But, over the years of that graduate program, we all... Many of us became very close to each other just as friends and supporters. And I feel like we really relied on each other for many different reasons, the reasons that you might expect in graduate school like having some friends listen to a practice talk that you're giving or maybe reading over sections of the paper, but then other invisible ways that we support each other like encouragement when you're feeling stressed out or frustrated about something during your program. And really that network that I created during my days at Kansas, they're still my network, and I really think these are my people. And you two are part of those people. So certainly the support that we provided each other in graduate school has totally changed as we continue to support each other now, but I think the important thing is that we made this network when we were graduate students, and it didn't dissolve once we earned our degrees. It has evolved over time, which is what I spoke to when I thought about how do you define a peer network. So I was thinking about this, and for any listeners who are thinking about going to graduate school, whether it's your master's program or your PhD or whatever it is, maybe in a different field, I think it's really important to find that peer network and find one who you feel like you can show your authentic self to.
00:12:53 JH: Because if you can do that, you are really building a network that can stay with you for the rest of your life. And I think that we don't always think about that when we're first starting something new like graduate school. And Audra brought up this idea of how competition can feel kind of like the opposite of peer support. Sometimes I think in graduate school, that competition that you feel with peers is... I don't know why, but it's like a natural feeling. But I guess my advice to listeners who are about to start this part of your life is set that competition aside and really look at your peers as like you're all going through the same things together. Yeah, so that's kind of... That's... Most of my support was informal. There were a few formal peer networks that we had at Kansas. And Emily and Audra, you... I think you... Well, you both were a part of these as well. But we had a graduate student organization. I don't know, Emily, if you were a part of that. It was...
00:13:52 EZ: Yeah, I was.
00:13:53 JH: Speech language hearing and child language, yeah. So we... Students came together, graduate students came together, on a regular schedule where we were I think mostly navigating issues in higher ed, professional issues. But then we also had the child language pro seminar, which I know Audra was a part of. That was a requirement for anyone in the child language doctoral program. And that was kind of a nice support network in a little bit of a different way because it was students, but it was also faculty. And that was always our first audience for giving conference presentations. And sometimes we would walk into those practice talks and be a little bit nervous from it, but really that audience was there for us to support us before we went to give a talk to strangers or whatever. So those were my memories from graduate school and what support looked like there.
00:14:50 EZ: Audra, do you have different peer support models or ways to expand upon what Jill has laid in her foundation for graduate school peer support?
00:15:00 AS: I love that Jill brought up the idea of don't be afraid to look for peer support outside of your immediate department. So, that's how I found my peer support network in graduate school. So I... My degree is actually in the cognitive psychology. And my interests were so different than many of the other psychology students, and there was a lot of turnover in the psych students as well when I was there, so a lot of people who either changed course or decided that grad school wasn't for them. And so I was fortunate enough to get involved with the child language program, and it felt like such a good fit. And we all shared similar interests and a passion for working with kids but came at our research questions from a slightly different angle in our training. And I think that was a huge compliment and really helped me forward my thinking in my research, and then it also just turned out to be a great thing for me personally. And so one thing I remember from grad school, and I try to talk to the students that I work with now about this, is it is hard when you're in grad school and you're all applying for the same awards, or scholarships, or training grant positions, or jobs, or from a clinical master's you're applying for similar CF positions.
00:16:28 AS: But learning how to celebrate your peers successes alongside them in a truly genuine way, it's just such an important part of that peer support network. And that's where I knew that I had found the most amazing group of people, because they could be genuinely happy for me when I did well, and then help me think about how I can reframe things when things didn't go well. And so I think that's just such an important thing to find. And I know that not everyone has that experience where you walk into grad school and there's this ready-made peer support network for you. And so sometimes people have to work pretty hard to find that. And so looking outside your department or even sometimes looking at other universities. Maybe you're a part of the ASHA network, you're deeply involved with them, or some other sort of network, and you're connecting with people on different levels. I know some of our grad students will get pretty involved with WSHA, which is the Wisconsin State Hearing Association, and they have some mentoring support networks for peers. And so sometimes it's also finding people maybe at a conference or something that are in a similar stage to you if that's not readily available to you within your department.
00:17:48 EZ: And I think that's...
00:17:49 JH: That's a really...
00:17:50 EZ: Oh, I was just gonna say I think that's a really great and important point. What happens if in your graduate program there is no built-in peer support? And I have a doctoral student, for example right now, who's in more of a motor-based rehabilitation PhD program; which she has her peer support system there, but it doesn't necessarily set her up for the same peer support that we had at our graduate program in the sense of she'll see these peers at ASHA every year, etcetera. So how do you think you build a peer support model? And Audra gave some really great examples of ways in which you can look outside your department and get involved in various organizations. Jill, were you gonna add onto that a bit?
00:18:36 JH: I was gonna... Yeah, just really similar to your experience with your current student, Emily, I also have a PhD student here at UMass, and our doc program is very small. And so I really feel for her, because she doesn't have this built-in set of peers in her department like I had. But she has been really, really proactive in looking outside of our department in other areas of the university. And so, at UMass, we have a really great office of professional development, and they offer all kinds of really innovative, important programming specifically for graduate students. And my doc student has made a point of going to all of those programs that are relevant to her, and that's how she's built her peer network. So Emily, as you say, she has a peer network, they're not gonna be the people she sees at ASHA every year, but it's still a peer network. And it doesn't have to be the people who are doing just what you do, it's the people who you feel safe with.
00:19:39 EZ: Absolutely, and I think at some point along my academic journey I remember someone telling me, "The mentorship or the peer support you want is the one that you seek and the one that you create." So I think even beyond peer support, when we talk about mentorship too, if you're not happy with your model or what is given, what could you build and how could you create it? And I would push people to kinda think along those lines too to be like, "How could I push myself at that next conference to meet someone who is studying the same thing maybe at another university, and I could start to build that support, or create a club or a journal club or whatnot?" And I wanted to also say, so in my graduate program, similarly to Audra's story, I was more of a focus on neuroscience and neuroscience and speech and feeding, so I wasn't part of the child language program. But oddly, I met Jill and Tiffany in Dr. Storkel's lab when I was working as an undergrad hourly student. So that was a wonderful experience, which then connected me, of course, to Audra and to many other University of Kansas colleagues.
00:21:00 EZ: But, I had a really large lab that I was a part of and some of which continue to do research and science and some of which don't. And these were all really close peers that I had. And I think an important thing to remember, and many of which I'm still friends with today, is that you build this peer relationship on friendship. So even if someone leaves academia, or somebody goes to industry, or takes different paths or decides to be a stay-at-home mom or whatever, I think it's really important to remember that this peer support is built in a foundation of trust and friendship and not necessarily like the clinical outcomes or the how many papers or any of the academic metrics that we are always seeking to achieve. And I also did my master's at the University of Kansas and continue to be close with some of the people that I did that program with, and I think that's a very strong program across those programs across the nation at building a really strong peer support clinical network for individuals. So before we move on in our journey through the next phase, which is postdoc, do we have anything else we wanna add about graduate school peer support systems?
00:22:28 AS: I think one thing I wanna say, and I know that we'll touch on this again in a bit, is grad school is really stressful and hard. You know? The master's program is tough. And I see that in our students now, the demands that we place on them. And the PhD is a long, hard program, and so there are gonna be times when you're feeling really stressed out, and there are often mental health issues that can arise. And so it's so important to have people that you trust that you can talk to about that piece of it as well. "I'm struggling. I don't know if this is right for me." I definitely had that during grad school where I thought, "Am I in the right career? Is this the right move?" And that's such a normal, healthy thing to think, and it can be hard though to say those words out-loud, or like, "I'm struggling," or, "I'm having a hard time," or, "This class is hard." And so that's another important thing to think about with this peer network, is that it is as Emily said, not just about number of papers or clinical outcomes or report writing. It's also, "I'm having a hard time", or, "I'm going through this in my personal life." And I think that's a theme forever with peer support, but grad school can just be a really challenging time for some of us.
00:23:56 JH: Absolutely, Audra, that's such an important point to make. And I feel like... I think I just said this to you the other day, there's the term like the story you tell yourself in your head. And it's like if you don't have a peer support network, you can really spin your wheels in your head with, "Is this right for me? Am I doing this all wrong?" But if you have that person that you can express those things to, there is usually a solution that comes about from your peers. And so that's why it's just so critical to... We all feel that stress. And talking about it is scary, and it's hard to admit you're feeling that way, but once you rip that band-aid off and share it the outcome is usually positive.
00:24:40 AS: Right. For somebody else to say, "Yes, I have impostor syndrome too", you know?
00:24:44 JH: Right.
00:24:45 AS: Like to commiserate with you and say, "I felt that way a month ago, or last year in this class or whatever," and just to know that you're not alone, that can be a very powerful thing and easier, I think often, maybe not always, but to talk to with a peer versus a supervisor or a professor or somebody who has a bit more of a supervisory role over you.
00:25:13 JH: And now as I am a professor and advisor and a mentor, I do try really hard to share with my students that I had these feelings of stress too. Because I think when you are a student, you don't think your professors ever felt this way. You're like, "They never had impostor syndrome. They never found it hard to find a writing time. It was all easy for them." And so now I feel like it's my responsibility on the other side to really listen to students and be like, "Oh, I remember that feeling too, and it really sucked. This is how I got through it." So I think that's important for those of us who are mentors and teachers to hear that message.
00:25:51 EZ: I completely agree, and I think that that's what is so magical about the peer support, because I think that hierarchy between mentor-mentee is stripped. In one of our resources, we are going to share a nature article that's called "Using peer support to improve well-being and research outcomes." And in this little article, they talk a lot about the worries about talking about sensitive issues with mentors. And of course, we've all been there and all been anxious about this and all been worried, and I think that peer support model really helps to reduce the anxiety, gives you that community group where everyone can have their shared experiences. And then, in this article, they also highlight that doctoral students, and I would also say master students and undergrad students, students in general, and even faculty, can ask what support is available for mental health and well being.
00:26:49 EZ: And I think just having those conversations... Like I was on a meeting the other day with a doctoral student who's in the final stages and coming to Northeastern for a postdoc. And I was of course like, "How is the dissertation coming?" The worst question ever, of course, but I was trying to be helpful. And then this other person on the call said, "That's really... It's two steps forward, one step back, of course, but really importantly, how are you incorporating self-care?" And I was like...
00:27:22 AS: I love that.
00:27:23 EZ: "You are so cool, and I am the worst, because I said the opposite thing." And so I was like, it's just a nice reminder to ask those questions 'cause we've all been there and know how horrible that question is. "It's coming along, piecemeal, whatever." But I think saying, "How are you incorporating self-care?" And I think similarly to the comments that both of you have made, as a professor now, making sure that the students that we support have that peer network to say, "You need to create that community for that mental health and well being. It's so important." Alright, so let's continue on our academic journey here to the postdoc time period. All of us here on this podcast have completed a post-doc, and we know that this position is very different than graduate school. So now as we think of shifting peer support to a new environment, likely a new state, potentially with new peers, maybe even a new country, how did you both navigate the space? And also important questions to consider throughout is really, who is responsible for this peer support system as you change settings and environments? And Audra, I'm gonna have you take the lead on this question.
00:28:43 AS: Great, okay. Well, I came to the Waisman Center Center at the University of Wisconsin Madison for my postdoc, and then I never left. And I moved here by myself. I did not come with a partner. And so that was a very big change for me to leave Kansas and move to Wisconsin where I didn't know anybody and start the postdoc. I'm sure many people can relate to moving to a new school or job solo, and it's exciting, but it's really scary and hard, and so I was very lucky though that the Waisman Center, I came to do a post-doc on a... It's called a T32 training grant, so it's a formal grant through the NIH that supports postdoctoral trainees, they also have them for pre-doctoral trainees, but this one is just for postdocs, and the Waisman Center has done a beautiful job of maintaining the T32 training grant and setting up a built-in peer network for all the postdocs. Now, I'm sure that if you talk to every postdoc who's ever done this T-32, they're not going to say the same thing that I did, but I was very lucky I came in...
00:30:06 AS: There are always four postdocs, so it's usually each person does a two-year position. And so there were two individuals that were a year ahead of me, and then I came in with another individual. And our offices are all right in a row, and we have a couple of formal activities that we're supposed to do every week. And so immediately I felt like I had this built-in network, which was really nice because I did not have that in grad school. In grad school, I had to go seek out my peer network by looking at other departments, whereas with this it was kind of just made for me. And UW Madison has a really strong post-doctoral network built in, and so there were quite a few postdocs at the Waisman Center. And so we started having some writing groups or lunches together. And so, I again, was very lucky that I was able to form friendships, but also people who... The T32 at Waisman is focused on neuro-developmental disabilities. And so the people that I was doing the postdoc with, none of them had the same educational background that I did, but they all were coming at questions related to quality of life and individuals with developmental disabilities through this shared common goal.
00:31:28 AS: And so we could talk about our work and grants and publications and things like this, and yet I could also talk to them about moving as a single woman and navigating that role, so I was very lucky that there was one built in through the T32 but then also, there were so many other postdocs who were hungry for these peer networks that were already at the Waisman Center.
00:31:55 EZ: I think your story is probably very similar to many of the stories of people venturing off to postdocs, and it takes bravery, confidence, all of these really important skills because you're moving. And I know that you had such a strong peer support system that you were moving from too to start this new journey. But you brought up something that I think is so important is that we've talked about interprofessional peer support models, and we all agree that that's super important, but talking about as we shift from graduate school to either this new clinical setting or a postdoc experience, we are now in a peer support model with people with very different backgrounds. So that foundational thing that kind of united the three of us as well as Tiffany, it is gone, and so you have to find the new way in which you have that foundation and how you relate. And for you it was the Waisman Center. But I also think in losing that background too you have the opportunity to create a more diverse and a more potentially unique peer support system that you would maybe not have had the opportunity to if you didn't do a postdoc or stayed where you were. So I think you're building now a new peer support system that is now like a layering cake on top of this great foundation you had. So now while we talk about cake, I'm gonna send it to Jill to add to that.
00:33:34 JH: So my postdoc was also a T32 NIH training grant, so similar to Adra in that way, but a little bit different in terms of the structure of how many postdocs were brought in and what it looked like over time. So I moved to Indiana newly married, so not alone, but navigating that, and the training grant at Indiana that I was part of was really large. And it was mostly comprised of people in psychology, which of course I was used to from Kansas interacting, taking lots of psychology classes. Audra has the psychology degree, so that was familiar territory to me. We came together every Friday for a lab meeting to hear different people give talks. That was always preceded by a Friday lunch, which was really fun, somewhere out in Bloomington. And so that was great, and I really enjoyed that time on Fridays throughout my postdoc, but those were not the people who I saw on a daily basis working on my research. So that part was a little bit tricky for me. So on a day-to-day basis, I spent my time in Judy Garrett's learnability lab in the speech and hearing department at Indiana University.
00:34:58 JH: So I didn't see any of the people on the T32 like Monday through Thursday. And so my network became the lab, and it was almost exclusively the lab. So there weren't any other postdocs in the building at the time that I was working in, and so I got really close to the lab manager and the master students and the undergrads that were working on the project. And that was kind of fun, because there was just a lot of variety in terms of where we were all at in our different stages in our career, so I felt like there was a lot of mutual mentoring going on. As a postdoc, I could kind of mentor the master students and the undergrads, but they in turn listened to countless practice job talks, and it was just this tight little family. Yeah, so it was a little bit different from the experience of Audra's T32.
00:35:52 EZ: Great. Yeah, so similarly, I moved from Kansas to Boston, also as a newly married human. Something also that Jill didn't mention is another peer support system that didn't go with you was your significant other. Or wait, was he there first? I don't remember.
00:36:17 JH: He was there first, actually, yeah.
00:36:18 EZ: Oh, he was there first.
00:36:19 JH: So my newly acquired husband... Gosh, I hope he doesn't listen to this. My newly acquired husband went to Indiana like six months ahead of me, so yeah, that was tricky too. And did that obviously for me because there wasn't really anything else for him going on in Indiana. So yeah, that was a transition for us as well.
00:36:44 EZ: Right. So alternatively, I moved to Boston, and then six months later my husband joined me, so I had six months where... And I did my postdoc at Brigham and Women Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. So it was a joint appointment, and I was the only postdoc in newborn medicine. So this experience for having a postdoc in their unit was new. And didn't really know many people in Boston, was there by myself, and similarly to your experience Jill, my peer support became the lab. So I was the most senior person in the lab, and then all the RAs who were working in the lab were my peer support system and mainly the main people I knew in this new state. And that was an experience for me where while I really enjoyed my new found peer support system, I did find that since they were quite junior, and some of them were even undergrad, I didn't... I was definitely seeking more of more communication or interaction with people at the same age and stage as I was just because I really wanted to share some of the experiences that I was having.
00:38:09 EZ: So I actually joined the postdoc organization at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School and became a member of that organization, which then really catapulted me into a group of postdocs that were indeed at the Brigham but just hard to find. So we were able to meet along common professional development. There would be happy hours and things like that, and I made a few really good friends who I'm still really close with today. But I feel like a similar scenario where we've talked about if that peer support isn't there, how could you seek it? And when you go to seek it, I think it's really nice, because often when you seek it you're either being innovative in creating a new system or you're getting a leadership opportunity that also is a win-win. So in that scenario, I could put on my CV that I was part of the leadership of the postdoc organization.
00:39:04 EZ: So that was something that I thought was really important. Alright, so then after postdoc, the three of us ventured into tenure-track positions. So what are some innovative peer support systems that you've been part of while on the tenure track at your respective university? Jill, would you like to start?
00:39:27 JH: Sure. I actually don't know that I was part of anything that one would consider innovative. [chuckle] But I certainly had many informal, again, peer support systems, lots of little informal groups. So one thing that I got involved in pretty quickly, and I don't even know how it started, was a writing group with some other assistant professors, not in my department though. So they were in Psychology and Linguistics here at UMass, and that was great. Because I think finding time to write when you're a new assistant professor seems like the hardest thing in the world because now you have to do all the other things that come along with being an assistant professor that you never knew you had to do. And so that was just a good network. Not only were we coming together for dedicated time to write, but we could kind of just talk about what it's like to be assistant professors. And we were all at really similar stages where we had started just within a year of each other or whatever. So I had that.
00:40:30 JH: I had another writing group that is fabulous. One of the many reasons I love my own department here is that we have a writing group among faculty. And it didn't start right away, but it started some time when I was an assistant professor, and it's just anyone who wants to come and write off campus can do that. And every semester, we pick a day of the week, and we're like, "This is when we're gonna go to a coffee shop, or we're gonna spend a day at one of the other colleges libraries in the area." And we first start out by just talking about what everybody's working on in terms of their writing, but we have lunch together in the middle of the day, and it just feels like a really comfortable scenario. And so I consider that to be like a peer network within my bigger network in my department.
00:41:26 JH: I also received so much informal mentoring that I also think is a form of peer support in my department from senior faculty that really spans teaching, research, and service. And the mentoring and advice I was given was really instrumental in helping me know what I should say yes to, what I should say no to, reading drafts of unfunded grants, talking about what it feels like after you find out that your grant isn't funded, and how you recover from that. And so, again, I think lots of assistant professors have those types of experiences, but they're all really informal. It was nothing innovative, nothing crazy and out of the box, but just stuff right in my home department.
00:42:18 JH: That being said, that Kansas peer network that we developed several years prior on the side, still continued to support me in a lot of other ways that these other groups couldn't because what was going on on the side of the working toward tenure as an assistant professor is becoming a mother, and many of us did that at the same time from our Kansas group. So many of us had kids at the same time, and of course integrating parenthood into assistant professor life is a lot. And so I was really grateful for the peer network that I had built several years prior to really swoop in and support me in those ways.
00:43:04 EZ: And Jill, how did you maintain that original peer mentorship throughout this journey?
00:43:11 JH: Texts. [laughter] No innovative things such as TikTok.
00:43:15 EZ: You're like...
J00:43:17 H: Text messaging, Facebook. Really. So Emily, one thing you didn't mention about your postdoc journey is that... Don't worry, it's not bad. The second year of your postdoc coincided with me, right, moving to Massachusetts. Was that the timeline?
00:43:32 EZ: Yes, that is right.
00:43:34 JH: Yeah. So Emily...
00:43:35 EZ: And then and then actually Tiffany was...
00:43:38 JH: And Tiffany came then too.
00:43:39 EZ: Tiffany came... Then she came out. It was...
00:43:41 JH: She came after us.
00:43:42 EZ: It was me, you, then Tiffany in masters. That's right.
00:43:44 JH: And Tiffany, yeah. So we had this Jayhawk descend... All these Jayhawks descend upon Massachusetts.
00:43:40 EZ: Massachusetts, yes.
00:43:52 JH: And so pretty quickly we re-invigorated that, 'cause we could physically see each other in close... We were in close proximity to one another. But we all kept in touch with each other. I mean, Audra and I text each other 800 times a day, every day. My husband is like, "Did you talk to Audra today? I'm like, "Of course I talked to Audra today."
00:44:13 EZ: You're like, "Obviously."
00:44:15 JH: "What kind of question is that?" So yeah, nothing innovative. It's just like we were such a tight-knit group that we were friends. I think it comes down to that, right? You found the people, and it's built on friendships that you wanna keep. They're helping you along your career path, but at the end of the day you're still friends. And if you didn't have that career, if it changed, if I became a paleontologist, I have no idea why I chose that, but if I did, you all would still be my peer network, I'm pretty sure of it.
00:44:48 AS: And because we're...
00:44:48 EZ: Wonderful. Audra, yeah.
00:44:49 AS: In a similar... I was gonna say also just to add to that, because we're all in this similar discipline, we get to go to similar conferences. So ASHA, I feel so lucky that I get to go to this awesome conference every year, but I also get to see my peer network there. And for... Many speech pathologists attend the conference as well, and they get to have an opportunity to reconnect with people from graduate school. And so maybe at your state-wide conference level, if your a school or hospital allows, pays for professional development, and you get the opportunity to travel to these conferences, that can be an awesome way to rekindle these peer networks that you're not getting to see in person all the time anymore.
00:45:42 JH: Yeah, one of the things I love that our clinic director does here at UMass is she somehow keeps our graduating cohorts of SLP students connected to each other. So it's like they're all leaving UMass, but she'll invite them back together like a year later to talk about what are you doing, how is the CF. And then she invites our current graduate students to hop in and listen to that. And that is building that peer support network. It's like here are these SLPs all over the country, some of them are in schools, some of them are in hospitals, but they're still coming together to support each other and to support people who are coming up through our master's program.
00:46:26 EZ: So Audra, have you had other peer support experiences while on the tenure track?
00:46:33 AS: Yeah. So mine have been pretty similar to Jill's. So my first year at UW Madison on the tenure track, I went to a talk by the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity. They came and visited UW Madison and gave this awesome talk that was helping us all talk about how many of us felt imposter syndrome and the importance of daily writing. And while I was there, I happened to be sitting next to someone who was also an assistant professor but in the Psychology department. And so we started talking, and one of the things that was recommended in the talk was to form a writing group. And so she said, "You know, I know a couple of other new professors that are in different departments. Maybe I can reach out to them and see if we can form some sort of group."
00:47:24 AS: And so it ended up being four women, and we all had a background in Psychology but we were in different departments on campus. And so that was awesome because we knew kind of the background of what each other's research was about, but yet we had really different research interests. And they became, and are, some of my dearest friends here at UW Madison. Not only did we support each other through going through the tenure process, which is a tough process, but we also were able to support each other through many different life transitions. And the thing I really loved about this group was that they weren't in my department. So my department when I came on was very top-heavy. There was one other assistant professor, and she went through tenure I think a year or two after I joined the faculty. So it was just me as an assistant professor. And my department has been amazing and so supportive and I...
00:48:30 AS: Susan Ellis Weismer was my tenure mentor, and she is phenomenal. She was awesome about, like Jill said, reading grant proposals and things like that. But it was also really nice to be able to go to this group of women and be like, "I'm struggling with this", and I didn't have the pressure of them being in my department. You know? It just felt like this very safe space, and that was a fantastic group. And we were all in different life stages. One person had a step-daughter who was a teenager, and one person didn't have children, and I had my babies on the tenure clock, and so it was just... But yet, we all came at this lens of like, "We're women in academia. We're supporting each other, and we're helping each other navigate this process." And I am forever grateful for that.
00:49:22 AS: And it's interesting too, because it started off as this writing group, but it wasn't necessarily only about writing. I think writing groups can be fantastic. They can also be a little tricky though, because carving out that dedicated time for writing, and then you're there and you're talking about other things. And so I think you have to be kind of careful with the writing groups. But they just turned out to be this phenomenal group, and we've been able to celebrate each other's wins but also help each other through some of the harder times. Because another thing is that our jobs aren't all of us, and so life challenges happen to everyone, and the four of us experience those life challenges. And for each person, it was very different, and we were able to support each other along the way, which was fantastic.
00:50:11 AS: And so that was really the best one for me, I definitely have been lucky that the Weisman Center is this interdisciplinary center, and so there are so many people who do similar work to what I do. And so I've been able to build in these peer networks at the center as well with people who are at similar... Maybe have similar research interests, or at similar life stages. 'Cause I think an important piece of the peer mentorship for me was just navigating motherhood and what that means, and how to be a good mom and balance what I need to do and get through these years when your babies aren't sleeping and you're... Maybe you're pumping and you're trying to figure out how to do that while going to a conference, and so that's where these peer networks can just be such an awesome resource.
00:51:08 EZ: I completely agree. And I think that once you're able to be honest and vulnerable and share what you're going through at that stage... And typically it's the work-life balance, it's more than just the research. And we know that the three of us can get together and never talk about work, which is nice and a good release in and of itself.
00:51:33 JH: It's healthy.
00:51:33 EZ: It's healthy, right.
00:51:35 AS: It is. And I wil tell you that, like my partner, he'll be like, "Oh, it's so nice when we can get together with your colleagues or your friends and we don't just have to talk about research." We can talk about so many other things, because my job is an important part of my life, but it's not who I am.
00:51:55 EZ: No.
00:51:55 AS: I really want to... And I try to talk about that with my students and my postdoc that our job isn't... Maybe if that's what you choose, and your job is what fulfills you, and that's where you wanna put all your energy and efforts, then that is a wonderful choice. And for me, I wanted to have kids and listen to podcasts like See Hear Speak, and run even though I'm slow, and do yoga, and live my life outside of my job as well. And finding a peer network that would celebrate that and help me live that and not make me feel bad about it was important to me.
00:52:38 JH: That's the part you don't learn in grad school, right? 'Cause when you're in grad school, no matter what kind of graduate school you're going through, the focus is to become a professional. And then you become a professional and you're like, "Oh, but I kind of am interested in some non-professional things too." And so you feel this push and pull. It's like I wanna be my best professional self, but I also wanna do yoga on the weekend 'cause that makes me feel happy and it rejuvenate me to go to work on Monday or whatever.
00:53:09 EZ: Absolutely. And I think too, when you're able... When I was working clinically, I would share resources or therapies or just different techniques that have worked for me that maybe others hadn't tried, or I'd reach out to colleagues being like, "Oh, I'm really having difficulty with this kid, what can I do?" And I think those peer supports are still such an important gift and a lifeline to help attain some of the goals for various clients too. So something I was gonna add on the tenure track that is a little bit innovative, but also kind of fulfilled a lot of the peer support goals that I was having during the tenure track.
00:53:55 EZ: So with a colleague at Northeastern, we created this group called MasterMind. So the objective of this MasterMind group, and it's modeled from the business world and similar to themes we've discussed, is to look outside your discipline for different mentoring techniques. So the goal of the MasterMind group was to address the lack of mentorship available for female assistant professors in STEM fields. We specifically addressed two mentorship gaps. One was the need for non-hierarchical, so junior to junior, mentorship outside of traditionally hierarchical, so senior to junior, assigned faculty partnerships and the lack of support for women leading large active research labs. So in this MasterMind group, we would meet once a month. And I also had writing groups, which were some of the shared people, some different people.
00:54:49 EZ: But to be in the MasterMind group... And again, you can create a group like this based on any criteria that you see fit. But our criteria was that you had to lead a large active research lab. So we would meet typically once a month and have guest speakers, so different people throughout the university, where we could showcase this innovative mentorship Group, but also gain insight. So how could we move up in the leadership role at Northeastern? Or how could we... Work-life balance type themes. So not only did it give us opportunities to meet and interact with new people potentially on campus, it also allowed us to have this really strong foundation among us. So when we weren't meeting to have a guest speaker or read a book or whatever we would do, we would often just exchange everyone pass the aims to the left.
00:55:57 EZ: And we'd look at almost like a speed dating with people's aims. And through our time as Mastermind, I think we were just writing our final report. We also did a writing retreat where we went and all wrote together for a weekend. And it was so fun and just really nice, 'cause again, most of these people aren't in your discipline. And I think when you're working and supporting people who aren't in your discipline, you also get to learn about their science, their lifestyle, of course. But when you learn about their science, there's so many rich ways in which you can collaborate. And I think that's so exciting for all of us, where we want to be working really inter-professionally and thinking outside the box on different problems that we aim to seek. And I think this transcends into clinical settings where if your peer support is like the PT and OT and you're the SLP, you're learning so much that you can implement into your sessions. And I think that's so powerful for not only you as the clinician, but also for the clients that you're serving.
00:56:56 EZ: And I think we all talked about the work-life balance and the peer support. So I think a big piece on the tenure track is having peers that encourage you to potentially say no to things, or what do you say yes to when we're all trying to carve out that time at home or with our various hobbies. We can't do everything, nor do we want to, and I think peers give that support to say, "This is what you can say no to, and when." All right, so the last phase of our journey is post-tenure. So we're all fairly recently tenured, and so the question is, how has peer support changed? What do you think?
00:57:42 AS: Well, I think in some ways it hasn't. It's always... Because it's always been evolving and growing. I do think that now... I mean, you always feel busy, right, in your life. I do feel pretty busy right now though with kids, and they're in school... Well, one of them's in school. And managing that, and of course, the pandemic is a whole other thing, but more responsibilities at work too in terms of leadership. And so, now, I don't have the same time that I did before to meet regularly with my peer networks, and I miss that. But, yet I can still rely on them and talk to them, and the needs of our conversations have changed.
00:58:34 AS: So now it's like, "Well, how are you navigating this part of our life? How are you still keeping up with getting your papers out while you're mentoring students or helping them navigate the job market and things like that?" And so I still feel so supported in my department by the senior members of my apartment, and they're great about talking with me about that, but it's really nice to talk to my peers at UW Madison and then nationwide, all of you, the Jayhawk network, about how to navigate this in this new phase. Because the post-tenure life is really different than the pre-tenure life, just like the postdoc was different than graduate school, just like a PhD is different than a master's program. And so the needs have changed in terms of the content, but I feel like it's just always evolving.
00:59:26 JH: I agree with all of that, Audra. Yeah, that's completely my experience now. I have to say that it's kind of nice. Like with my department peer support, I talked about what I received getting to the point of getting through tenure, but it was like once I got tenure it's new advice, and I love it. My department support didn't go away. It's like, "Okay, so now let's talk about what you need to get to the next level of promotion." And as you're both saying, does it make sense to say yes to that now, or is that something that you can pass on?
1:00:04 JH: One of the other things that is new for me, however, that I wanna talk about it, because this I feel like is innovative... I didn't have anything innovative pre-tenure, but post-tenure I feel like I have this opportunity for a widening peer support network, and I'm really excited about it. So I was asked to be a part of a mutual mentoring grant with six other women here at UMass. One of those women is actually in my department, but all the rest are from different departments within the School of Public Health and Health Sciences. So there's people in environmental health and epidemiology, kinesiology. But one thing that we all have in common is that we are mid-career and that we are all in various leadership positions within our departments and the university. And so this mentoring grant that we have, it's called Supporting Mid-Career Female Leaders.
1:00:57 JH: And the point is to kind of help us help support each other as we navigate leadership opportunities within the university while we are also mid-career, so thinking about how to get to that next step of moving from associate professor to full professor. And the range of experience is pretty different in this small group. So I'm the newest tenured person in the group. Two people were just promoted to full professor this summer. And so I'm just really excited about this opportunity to meet with people who don't study child language, but yet I am confident that my research skills are probably going to continue to blossom as a result of being in that group. And then also I'm hoping that my opportunities for leadership and the skills that might be required for that will also Boston, so just kind of stepping into this new phase of my career.
1:01:53 EZ: That sounds really cool. You'll have to keep us updated on how that goes. The one final bit I wanna say before we move to our last questions, 'cause we're in the final few minutes, is that the other thing I've started doing when I go to conferences or meet new people or engage on different I would say national and international conference committees, etcetera, I've become Facebook friends with a lot of I would say those peers. And I think that is something that has been so nice to see the human... So you might go to a conference and hear a keynote or an experience or some sort of interaction or presentation from an amazing researcher, and then if you're friends on Facebook you get to see the rest of their lives. So I think getting the full human, like, "How are your kids? Oh my gosh, you just had a baby. This is so cool." And I think that allows for a level of peer support network that wasn't possible maybe when we were first starting off. I would have never Facebook friended a professor or anything like that, but I think it's really nice to see colleagues daughters who got married or anything like that.
1:03:13 EZ: And I think it just adds a richness to our journey. And not saying obviously we need to be Facebook friends with everybody, but just sharing that part of your life, whether it's pictures with colleagues or colloquially, I think adds to the peer support. Alright, so we are toward the end. I'm going to ask you both the last two questions for the See Hear Speak podcast. The first is, what are you working on now that you are most excited about? And I anticipate that it might be the same potential really exciting project that you most likely will share. So let me know what that is.
1:03:54 JH: Do you wanna say it, Audra?
1:03:56 AS: Well, speaking of peer support and peer networks, Jill and I have been talking about collaborating for a long time and have done a few smaller collaborative projects, but we decided to write a grant, and it was recently... Well, we found out it's going to be funded August 1st.
1:04:16 EZ: Woohoo!
1:04:19 AS: Yes.
1:04:19 JH: Yay.
1:04:20 AS: So I think that's probably the thing that we're most excited about. It's gonna be brand new, and it's a project that's looking at language and cognitive development in kids with developmental language disorder, as well as kids with Fragile X syndrome. So that is a very fun and exciting project, and I feel so lucky to get to do it with my best friend. It's been a lot of fun to just be able to call her up and say, "Hey, what do you think about adding this measure?" Or, "Let's think about this." And I was thinking too, it was funny, I called her the other day to ask her a question about the grant, and I had my kids in the car and they were fighting over a snack and I thought, "Well, this is my life, right?"
1:05:04 JH: Yeah, absolutely. Hands down, that is obviously what I'm most excited about too. And as Audra said, we've been cultivating this idea in our minds, I mean, probably since the first year on the tenure track. And it took a long time, but here we are, and I think we're both really excited to see where it's going. And I think it's just one little stepping stone to many other great things.
1:05:30 EZ: That is so exciting. And I think in not all cases peer support models turn into a funded R1, so congrats to you ladies. And I know as someone who is watching this grant from the outside, I'm so excited to see all the amazing discoveries that you will find with these really interesting patient populations. And really, you guys really span different disciplines, so I think this is super exciting and innovative and unique, and I can't wait to watch it develop. Alright, question number two, what is your favorite book from childhood or now? Audra?
1:06:07 AS: Well, I have an almost three-year-old. He's gonna be three August 4th. And Mr. Hanks favorite books right now are the Little Blue Truck series, so Little Blue Track, Little Blue Truck Goodnight, Little Blue Truck Springtime. There's a lot of them. Little Blue Truck Goes To the City. And we love them. I mean, he loves trucks, but they're always a fun message, and they're just so engaging. And there's a lot of different ones too, so we don't have to read the exact same book every night, so loving the Little Blue Truck series.
1:06:41 EZ: That's awesome. And I unfortunately cannot say that I've read that series, so you...
1:06:47 JH: You're missing out, Emily.
1:06:48 EZ: Have given me some weekend reading. Thank you, Audra.
1:06:51 AS: You're welcome.
1:06:53 EZ: Yes. Alright, Jill, how about you?
1:06:56 JH: Okay, I am sorry I have to give three, but I'll keep it brief. Anything by Mo Willems, so Piggy and Gerald, the Pigeon books, my kids, both of them, absolutely love Mo Willems. My daughter is really into a Amelia Bedelia chapter books right now, which as a language nerd, they are amazing because of course Amelia Bedelia misunderstands various figures of speech and takes words very literally. And so we always laugh a lot about that. But the favorite one, which I think is the perfect capstone to this idea of peer support, is this really beautiful picture book by Philip Stead called A Sick Day for Amos McGee. And we were given it as a gift from my mother-in-law, and it is the sweetest a story about friendship and support. And it's appropriate for ages three through five, I would say. But it's really great. If you haven't checked it out, you should.
1:07:52 EZ: Well, I... More weekend reading for me.
1:07:55 JH: Yeah.
1:07:55 EZ: Alright, so thank you both so very much for your time and your insights on peer support. And we really look forward to hearing about the amazing research project as it unfolds, and to hear more about all of the different exciting projects, both at work and at home and full human scope, that are going to be exciting in the future. So really great to see you as always, 'cause you're part of my peer support, so thank you so much. And that is it for this edition of the See Speak Hear podcast. Thank you.
1:08:28 AS: Thanks, Emily.
1:08:29 JH: Thank you, Emily. Thank you, Tiffany.
1:08:30 AS: Thank you, Tiffany.
1:08:34 TH: Check out www.seehearspeakpodcast.com for helpful resources associated with this podcast including, for example, the podcast transcript, research articles, and speaker bios. You can also sign up for email alerts on the website or subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or any other listening platform, so you will be the first to hear about new episodes. Thank you for listening and good luck to you, making the world a better place by helping one child at a time.