The University of Iowa

International student profile: Soumya Venkitakrishnan

July 27th, 2020
Soumya Venkitakrishnan in Kerala, India

Soumya Venkitakrishnan in Kerala, India

As a high school student in Mumbai, India, Soumya Venkitakrishnan planned to work in a service or healthcare profession—she just wasn’t sure in which field. That is, until she watched a movie about a child with a learning disability and the difficulties he faced in the educational system. “This was a pivotal moment for me and sparked my interest in speech-language pathology and audiology,” says Venkitakrishnan.

Venkitakrishnan went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in audiology and speech-language pathology from Bharati Vidyapeeth University and Maharashtra University of Health Sciences, India, respectively. After working for several years as an audiologist in India, she was determined to continue her education and set her sights on the University of Iowa. “I realized that I was interested in trying to develop evidence-based research for use in clinics,” reflects Venkitakrishnan. “I decided to attend the University of Iowa because the Communication Sciences and Disorders department is highly regarded and I was interested in the research here.”

Initially enrolled as a PhD student in speech and hearing science, Venkitakrishnan soon added the AUD (clinical doctorate in audiology) program. “There are a lot of challenges that come with being a combined PhD and AUD student, but my department has helped me manage clinical schedules and teaching assignments and my research advisor has been very understanding, “ says Venkitakrishnan. “I love my department. I realize why it is ranked so highly as one of the best programs—my department has been really supportive of everything I have wanted to do.”

"I love my department. I realize why it is ranked so highly as one of the best programs—my department has been really supportive of everything I have wanted to do.”

As a student clinician in the Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Clinic, Venkitakrishnan works with people with hearing loss. She assesses their hearing and helps to manage hearing complaints through assistive listening devices, hearing aids, and hearing conservation. “The Wendell Johnson Clinic is very patient-centered and I have learned a lot by assisting patients from a wide variety of backgrounds and ages,” says Venkitakrishnan. Her dissertation research takes place at the Hearing Aid and Aging Research Laboratory, where she is investigating connections between emotions and hearing aid use in adults using facial expressions.

Soumya Venkitakrishnan with friends at a Children’s Museum STEM Family Free night creating awareness about Hearing and Audiology with the UI SAFE (Sound Awareness for Everyone) organization

Soumya Venkitakrishnan with friends at a Children’s Museum STEM Family Free night creating awareness about Hearing and Audiology with the UI SAFE (Sound Awareness for Everyone) organization
 

Venkitakrishnan certainly keeps busy as a dual doctoral degree student, but she has found time to get involved on campus and in the Iowa City community. She recently completed the Engaging Across Cultures program through UI International Programs, a program created for graduate and professional students to learn about fostering an intercultural campus. “I think it really opened my eyes to the differences among cultures, and the multitude of perspectives,” says Venkitakrishnan. “It was great to interact with such a diverse group of people and I plan to take what I learned from the program into my teaching and clinical work.”

During the upcoming academic year, Venkitakrishnan will serve as secretary on the International Student Advisory Board (ISAB), and hopes to advance initiatives that support the transition of international students to the university and surrounding community. Additionally, she is completing training through CommUnity to become a volunteer chat crisis counselor to help community members in need.

When asked how she is coping with changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Venkitakrishnan said she is doing okay and offered some advice on what she has found helpful. “Some practices that I have found useful during these times are developing a routine, having frequent interactions (via video conferencing) with family and friends, finding some time to relax, not brooding on the future and its uncertainties, and being gentle with ourselves.”

“I love the amazing resources that Iowa provides…the library, study spaces, fieldhouse and rec center, help with fellowships and other applications, teaching resources and workshops to improve teaching...Overall, I feel that the environment at Iowa is one that really fosters growth.”

Soumya Venkitakrishnan
Soumya Venkitakrishnan at the River Run 5K in Iowa City

Venkitakrishnan feels people on campus and in the community have been very welcoming and appreciates the wealth of resources provided by the University of Iowa. “I love the amazing resources that Iowa provides…the library, study spaces, fieldhouse and rec center, help with fellowships and other applications, teaching resources and workshops to improve teaching. I also love the academic environment in my department. My clinical advisors, academic advisors, and instructors have all been supremely supportive and encouraging. Overall, I feel that the environment at Iowa is one that really fosters growth.”


Learn more about the resources Soumya Venkitakrishnan utilizes at the University of Iowa


 

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