ILAA Awards Four Scholarships to Audiology Doctoral Students

The ILAA Scholarship and Honors Committees and the ILAA Board of Directors are pleased to announce the 2015-2016 winners of the annual Doctoral Scholarship Awards for outstanding students in an Illinois Au.D. program. This is the thirteenth consecutive year that ILAA has offered scholarships with funds raised through the generous contributors and purchasers at the ILAA annual auction and raffle. Selection by the Honors Committee is based on 1) the potential for the student to make a significant contribution to the field of Audiology,
2) demonstrated academic accomplishment and intellectual ability, and
3) the applicant’s character, school and community activities, personal motivation, and leadership potential. 

This year's recipients of the Au.D. scholarships are Kelli Freeman (Northwestern University),
Natalie Hodge and Alexandra Larson (Rush University) and Melissa Tednes (Illinois State University). 

The ILAA offers its congratulations to each of these distinguished Illinois scholars.

Recent Scholarship Winners


Ms. Molly Norris obtained her Bachelors of Arts degree in Physics with a minor in Music at Boston University. She also obtained a Master of Arts degree in Music at Stanford University and a Master of Science in Building Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. In addition to her academic and clinical studies at Rush University, Ms. Norris serves as a student researcher, lab manager and department teaching assistant. She has received numerous awards, including the AAAF Empowering People Award, and has authored or co-authored seven articles in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. Ms. Norris’ volunteer experience includes acting as a recruitment coordinator and instructor for IMPACT Chicago, providing hearing screenings during several health fairs, and helping to install and test the induction loop systems at the ILAA 21st annual convention. With a combination background in architectural acoustic design, music technology and digital signal processing, Ms. Norris hopes to teach, be involved in the development of new technologies for use by people with hearing impairment. and work with a diverse population. She notes that the “beauty is that the field of audiology does not make any of these mutually exclusive.”

Ms. Margaret Nowak obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Speech and Hearing Science, Audiology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While there she received various awards and scholarships for leadership and academic achievement, and served on the Humanitarian Committee of the Student Academy of Audiology. Since starting her graduate studies at Rush University, Ms. Nowak has continued with an extensive vita of work, academic, research, leadership and volunteer activities. Volunteer activities include the Rush Caring Health Fair, Children of Peace School Carnival, Sound Experience at Lurie’s Outpatient Center, Walk 4 Hearing, and Special Olympics Healthy Hearing event. Ms. Nowak stated that early academic encounters cultivated an interest in pediatric audiology; however additional coursework fostered an interest in amplification, cochlear implants and electrophysiology. She notes that she likes the “individualized patient experience and counseling that audiologists can provide and the direct impact one clinician can have on a patient’s communication and hearing health.” She looks forward to a meaningful career as an audiologist in a hospital, private practice or VA setting, while holding a leadership position in which she can advocate for the profession and educate others on hearing conservation and hearing health. 

Ms. Lisia Rollman graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor of Science degree in Communicative Sciences and Disorders prior to entering the Northwestern University Au.D. Program. In addition to her clinical work, Ms. Rollman is currently conducting capstone research with Dr. Jason Sanchez in the Central Auditory Physiology laboratory. Their research is attempting to analyze the development of phase-locking capacities in cochlear nucleus neurons in the avian auditory brainstem. Ms. Rollman is proficient in both Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese, has received various academic awards and scholarships, and serves on committees of several professional organizations. She also is currently the President of the Northwestern University chapter of the Student Academy of Audiology. In addition to her academic interest in audiology, Ms. Rollman has a personal connection to the field, in that her brother has a severe hearing loss; she finds inspiration from him an d her parents who demonstrate that impressive educational outcomes can be achieved even with severe sensory impairments. Ms. Rollman hopes to work as an audiologist in a hospital setting in the Chicago area “providing the most individualized, comprehensive and effective patient care” possible. Other career objectives include “professional development through advocacy organizations, community outreach, humanitarian efforts and continuous education to maintain the highest level of patient care.” 


Ms. Dena Fahlquist obtained a Bachelors of Arts degree in both Speech and Hearing Sciences and Psychology from the University of New Mexico. In addition to her academic and clinical studies at Rush University, Ms. Fahlquist has served as a teaching assistant, as well as graduate assistant to the program director. Ms. Fahlquist currently serves as treasurer of the Rush University Chapter of the SAA and has volunteered for several philanthropies including Spring Into Motion & Health Fair, Sound Experience at Children’s Memorial Hospital, and Walk for Hearing. Personal family experiences and a desire to make an impact on the quality of life for individuals with hearing loss has led Ms. Fahlquist to a particular interest in hearing conservation. In the future she would like to work in a VA Hospital where she hopes to bond with those who have served this country giving them the tools they need to boost their confidence and improve their connection with the world.

Ms. Margaret Halinski graduated Summa Cum Laude in 1998 from Northwestern University with a Bachelors of Music degree in Saxophone Performance and Jazz Studies. She received her Masters of Music degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2000. After several years of experience both in performance and as a music instructor, Ms. Halinski cites her encounter with temporary threshold shift as her primary motivator in pursuing the profession of Audiology. Ms. Halinski’s unique experience as a professional musician and teacher has led to an interest in developing and implementing hearing conservation programs for children and musicians. She feels “there is a lack of regard for hearing conservation both in the general public and the music world and would like to play a part in the prevention of noise induced hearing loss.” Ms. Halinski’s interests also involve improving music perception for cochlear implant recipients and possibly being involved in implant research and development. Ms. Halinski’s capstone project, Cochlear Inhibition in Musicians and Non-Musicians, involves evaluating DPOAEs in musicians and non-musicians both alone and with a visual task. Ms. Halinski feels involvement in this project has provided her with an extensive background experience for possible future research endeavors.

Ms. Jaclyn Paisley graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelors of Science degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders. In addition to her academic studies Ms. Paisley has served as a graduate assistant for the School of Teaching and Learning, volunteered for various initiatives including Special Olympics Healthy Hearing, the Illinois State University Health Fair, and the Jumpstart for Young Children program. Ms. Paisley serves as the ISU student member representative to the ILAA board, in addition to being active in her local Student Academy of Audiology. After obtaining her degree, Ms. Paisley hopes to establish herself in private practice in Illinois with an emphasis on audiological rehabilitation. She would also like to travel the world to provide benefits to those communities lacking in hearing health care services. Personal experience with hearing loss has provided Ms. Paisley with the understanding that quality of life has no limits and that the motivation to succeed should be embraced.


Ms. Kristen Cortese obtained her Bachelors of Science degree in Speech and Hearing Science from the University of Illinois. In addition to her academic and clinical studies at Rush University, Ms. Cortese has assisted in several research projects with children and adults and notes she enjoys “research and the way it defines and makes improvements to our clinical methods.” She is currently developing a research project investigating whether pitch pattern training is correlated with improved speech perception. Ms. Cortese is President of the Rush Student Academy of Audiology and has also served as Philanthropy Chair leading fundraising efforts for Walk4Hearing Chicago. She has volunteered at a Community Health Center providing hearing testing for uninsured Westside Chicago residents, at Children’s Memorial Outpatient Sound Experience, and at Rush University Health Fairs. To help finance her education, Ms. Cortese teaches swim lessons. Upon graduation, Ms. Cortese hopes to be a pediatric audiologist in the Chicagoland area, and plans to be a strong supporter of the profession and significant contributor to the field.

Mr. Sean Flowers graduated Cum Laude from Marquette University with a Bachelors of Science degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology. He originally planned a degree in biomedical engineering, but after attending a lecture on hearing science and hearing aids, he realized he had found his “dream career that combined the fields of engineering, medicine and patient care.” He notes that as a stutterer he understands disruption of communication and withdrawal from social situations and knows the importance of overcoming those difficulties. While maintaining an excellent grade point average at Northwestern University, Mr. Flowers has demonstrated outstanding leadership by serving as the NU Student Representative to ILAA, and Community Outreach Chair of the NU Student Academy of Audiology. During this time he has managed the Walk4Hearing Audiology team, organized a group of student volunteers for Special Olympics Healthy Hearing and formed the first Polar Plunge team, raising over $3000 for Special Olympics of Illinois. He also is a member of the Hugh Knowles Educational and Community Service Committee. Mr. Flowers’ capstone project involves the interaction between cognition and compression speed during speech in noise tasks. In the future, Mr. Flowers hopes to open a Southside private practice with an emphasis on hearing conservation and health education. He also wants to be an active member in the governing bodies of audiology and be involved in legislative efforts that shape the profession.

Ms. Cheryl Robinson graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Deaf Education. After obtaining her degree Ms. Robinson was employed for two years at Park School as a teacher of total communication, providing services for children with multiple severe/profound disabilities. Her time at Park, working with students with hearing impairment, motivated her to pursue her long-term goal of a degree in Audiology. At Rush University she has been able to pursue her “personal research and clinical interests in Pediatrics.” Ms. Robinson has presented at four Grand Rounds, including Communication and Education Options for Children with Hearing Loss, Vestibular Labyrinthitis, Pierre Robin Sequence, and Disability Awareness. One research project, on which she is an assistant, is a study of audiovisual integration in background noise, comparing skills of children with normal hearing vs. children with hearing loss. Her current research is on audiologists’ perspectives on family supports and resources for parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. The study will compare perceived importance of supports between audiologists and families, audiologists’ perceptions of their own ability to provide the supports, and insight into those aspects of counseling where additional education may be beneficial to include in curricula and/or continuing education. In addition to her studies, Ms. Robinson is involved with fundraising for the Chicago Young Professionals Development Board, volunteers for the Chicago area Special Olympics program, as well as at GiGi’s Playhouse Chicago, a national network of Down Syndrome Awareness Centers, where she provides literacy tutoring and facilitates developmental playtime. She has also served as national representative of the Rush Student Academy of Audiology and is currently its Secretary.


Mr. Robert Risley obtained his Bachelors of Science degree from the University of Illinois in Biological Psychology in 2004 and a Masters degree in Auditory Science from Northwestern University in 2007. During his time at Northwestern, Mr. Risley was involved in five different laboratory projects covering areas, such as Otoacoustic Emissions, Hearing Biology, Auditory Neuroscience, Speech Research, and Auditory Research. Mr. Risley has continued his research interests at Rush University working under the direction of Dr. Valeriy Shafiro. His day-to-day running of several research studies investigating “Peripheral and Central Factors in the Perception of Distorted Speech and the Role of Auditory Training in Normal Hearing and Hearing Impaired Individuals” has earned him high praise from both staff and students. In addition to his academic studies and research efforts at Rush, Mr. Risley has found time to commit to a variety of community services, including running two health fair screenings for the underprivileged, organizing a campaign partnering with Audiology Awareness to speak to high school students about Audiology as a career choice, as well as organizing an interdisciplinary team, including audiology and other allied health professionals, to participate in home health visits. Additional extracurricular activities include serving as the current president of the local Rush Chapter of SAA and speaking at the Rush University Board of Overseers breakfast to represent Audiology in the College of Health Sciences. Upon graduation Mr. Riley would like to work with the aging population in either a VA, hospital, or private practice setting. In addition, he would like to continue his research efforts as well as “expand his 9-5 workday helping Audiology grow as a profession.”

Ms. Courtney Coburn graduated Cum Laude from Northwestern University in 2010 where she received her Bachelors of Science degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders with a minor in Psychology. While balancing a full-time academic course load, Ms. Coburn dedicated at least 20 hours a week on Northwestern’s nationally ranked Varsity Field Hockey Team. During her time as an undergraduate at Northwestern University Ms. Coburn served as a research assistant in the Mosaic Lab examining cultural perception, and completed an undergraduate honors thesis evaluating “Perceptions of Individuals with ADHD. Since starting her Au.D. program, Ms. Coburn has continued her research endeavors assisting on a study about attention and memory in individuals with ADHD, as well as exploring auditory perceptual learning in the presence of background noise. In addition to her academics, Ms. Coburn is actively involved serving as the co-founder and president of the Northwestern Chapter o f the SAA, is an active member of the Hugh Knowles Educational and Community Service Committee, serves as a mentor to incoming Au.D. students at Northwestern’s annual Audiology Boot Camp and is raising money for a humanitarian Audiology trip abroad. Personal family experiences and a love for Audiology has led Ms. Coburn to a personal academic goal of obtaining both an Au.D. and Ph.D. With this dual-degree she “hopes to assist patients with their health and communication needs on a daily basis as well as impact the lives of many individuals through clinically applicable findings in the field of Psychoacoustics”.

Dr. Samira Anderson received her Masters of Arts degree in Speech and Hearing Sciences from Indiana University in 1981 and her Doctor of Audiology degree from the University of Florida in 2000. After a successful career practicing in a variety of different audiology settings, service to the Minnesota Academy of Audiology, the Hearing Instrument Dispenser Advisory Counsel, the Minnesota Competency Review Committee, and as a facilitator of the distance-learning program for Northwestern University, Dr. Anderson chose to change career paths. For the past four years Dr. Anderson has worked with Dr. Nina Kraus at the Auditory Neuroscience Lab. During this time she has taken on the role of teaching assistant and student mentor, while at the same time conducting independent research to develop a “comprehensive model of reciprocal interactions of peripheral, central and cognitive processes in speech-in-noise perception in older adults and to determine the factors that promote ma lleability of auditory processing through short-term training.” Her dissertation, motivated by her own experiences trying to help older patients who had difficulty understanding speech in background noise, has led her to develop the IMPACT (Improvement in Memory with Plasticity-based Adaptive Cognitive Training) program. It is believed that this program will improve speech-in-noise perception, as well as cognitive measures that will result in enhanced encoding of brainstem responses in older adults. Dr. Anderson’s long-term goal is to combine her years of clinical audiologic experience with a strong scientific basis in auditory neuroscience research, into a faculty position in an Au.D/Ph.D. program allowing her to participate in the education of future clinicians and scientists.


Lauren Nadler graduated Summa Cum Laude from Northwestern University where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communications. While at Northwestern University Ms. Sandberg received a number of awards for academic excellence as well as worked as a research assistant in two different research laboratories. Since beginning her studies at Rush University, Ms. Sandberg has worked with two of her professors as a graduate/research assistant, and is the top student in her classes. In addition to her studies and research duties, Ms. Sandberg has actively engaged in several extracurricular activities including serving on the board of the RU Student Academy of Audiology as fundraising chair, serving as a student representative on the ILAA board of directors, and as a volunteer for the National Youth Leadership Forum on Medicine and SAA health and education fairs. Upon graduation, Ms. Sandberg would like to work in a hospital setting with a concentration on pediatrics and return to the academic setting to do research investigating how early intervention can change the psychosocial outcomes of children with hearing loss and exploring more effective ways to counsel patients.

Quentin Kennedy obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree Summa Cum Laude in Physics with a Linguistics Concentration, from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. While attending Carleton, Mr. Kennedy’s interest in combining the study of human communication with the body’s physical response to sound led to a fascination with hearing science. In 2007 he was awarded a National Science Foundation Scholarship to do an independent research project at the Imaging and Analysis Center at Princeton University. After gaining research experience, Mr. Kennedy returned to undergraduate study to pursue a career that would combine interpersonal communication with his interest in physics and problem solving. Since starting his program in clinical audiology at Northwestern University as a Hugh Knowles scholarship recipient and ranking first in his class, Mr. Kennedy has maintained a strong interest in research. In addition to his coursework and research endeavors, Mr. Kennedy has been involved in various volunteer activities including serving as Treasurer of NU’s Student Academy of Audiology, and as a volunteer for hard of hearing children at Children’s Memorial Hospital. Upon graduation Mr. Kennedy aspires to pursue a career in a university setting where he can both teach and contribute to clinical research trials.

Sara Neumann obtained her Bachelor of Science in Education: Deaf and Hard of Hearing at Northern Illinois University. For six years, Ms. Neumann worked as a deaf education teacher before pursuing a doctorate degree in Audiology at Illinois State University. As a musician and a drum corps/marching band alumna, she became interested in hearing conservation. Ms. Neumann completed a study that investigated attitudes toward hearing conservation in drum and bugle corps’ percussionists and will be participating in a poster presentation on this subject at the National Hearing Conservation Association’s annual conference. In addition to her academics, Ms. Neumann serves as a Developmental Therapist-Hearing (DTH) Independent Early Intervention Provider through the State of Illinois as well as teaches families and daycare providers ASL. Along with her full time graduate assistant duties, Ms. Neumann serves as the president of the ISU Student Academy of Audiology, serves as ISU student representative to the Illinois Academy of Audiology Board, and volunteers as an audiology consultant to the Drum Corps Medical Project and to the Special Olympics Healthy Hearing Program. Upon graduation, Ms. Neumann hopes to be practicing in a pediatric or educational setting after attaining her Listening and Spoken Language, Auditory Verbal Therapy certification. In addition, she would like to continue researching topics related to hearing conservation in drum and bugle corps and serve as the audiologist on the Drum Corps Medical Project team.


Kristine Trester graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communicative Disorders prior to entering the Rush University Au.D. program.  Ms. Henslin is currently Philanthropy Chair of SAA and Audiology Student Representative to the Rush University College of Health Sciences. She enjoys the medical and scientific aspects of audiology as well counseling and education. Upon graduation she would like to work in a private practice setting in Illinois and eventually own her own practice.
Rachel Specht graduated from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology.   She is Rush University SAA Philanthropy Co-Chair, and has organized or participated in numerous volunteer activities. Ms. Specht notes that audiology is “a mix of everything I have always been most passionate about, from languages and hearing disorders to the mechanisms and research behind it.” She looks forward to working in an environment where she can help others and is engaged with others similarly interested in a scientific profession.
Jay Vachhani graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Health Science, and obtained EMT certification before entering the Rush University audiology program. In addition to participating in numerous volunteer activities, he was Professional Development Chair of NAFDA at Rush and SAA National Representative for Rush University. He has participated in Grand Rounds, presented a poster session at ASHA, and co-authored an article on AudiologyOnline. In 2009 he was awarded the Audiology Foundation of America’s Outstanding Au.D. Student Scholarship. Upon graduation he would like to be involved in noise control and hearing conservation since he is a strong believer in preventive healthcare, and would like to conduct studies on the synergistic effects of organic solvents and noise.

Illinois Academy of Audiology (ILAA)                      
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