Saturday, June 11, Brittany Spencer graduated from UC’s College of Allied Health Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders. Spencer, pictured with her boyfriend, fellow UC student Travis Moryl, was selected as the CAHS flag-bearer for the ceremony.
For some undergraduates, focusing on their academics and not their social life can be difficult. But not for recent UC graduate Brittany Spencer, who says education has always been "everything” to her—even as she spent much of her college years working through family difficulties and stress at home.
On Saturday, June 11, Spencer graduated from UC’s College of Allied Health Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders. In the fall, she will enter the college’s graduate program in speech-language pathology.
But that success wasn’t guaranteed when Spencer began her academic career. During her sophomore year, her father was convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to 10 years in prison. While comforting her family, including two younger siblings, Spencer maintained her attendance at UC, trying to keep her academic life apart from her family life.
"It was really tough ... but I tried to keep it all separate,” she says. "Our home life was not very good. There was a lot of violence and I knew I needed to keep myself out of it if I wanted to get past where I was and the lifestyle I grew up in.”
Spencer went so far as to remove herself from her family’s home during college, moving in with her grandmother and then a friend before finding her own apartment. She’s lived in six different places since graduating from high school and continues to work two jobs to support herself.
That dedication showed to her professors—when deciding to major in communication sciences and disorders, she started visiting associate professor Carney Sotto, PhD, to learn more about the field.
"Brittany has such a strong work ethic and will to succeed,” says Sotto. "Her commitment to the profession and desire to improve the lives of those with communication disorders is evident. It’s amazing to me that she has come this far and has excelled academically without having family support.”
In addition to her classwork, Spencer became a member of the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association and a volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House.
"I’ve fallen more and more in love with communication sciences as I learned more about it,” she says. "I’m very excited to get into the clinical setting and fascinated by the medical aspect of speech and language, but also am intrigued by the literacy aspect of studying speech. My current dream job would be to work at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, but I have yet to have my clinical experiences to confirm that is what I truly am meant to do.”
During her senior year, Spencer worked with Jo-Anne Prendeville, EdD, on an honors research project studying literacy skills in young children. Working with parents and their 4-year-olds, Spencer measured the children’s recollection of a short story told by their parents—both if the parent elaborated on the story and if he or she read it as it was written. Spencer plans to continue the study through graduate school and work on it for her thesis.
For her dedication and achievement, Spencer was selected as a student marshal and the college’s flag bearer for the 2011 commencement ceremony.
Her family was there to watch her graduate—including her siblings, D.J., 19, and Paige, 16.
"I tell them that education is everything,” says Spencer. "It’s not an option, it’s the only way. I couldn’t imagine not going to school—this is my path out of the lifestyle that I’ve had.
"Your education is something that no one can take from you, and is yours to cherish. That, I have come to learn, is the best feeling.”