Sarah Willis

Communication sciences and disorders student Sarah Willis

Sara Willis is a senior Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) major at UNH.

Willis decided to become a CSD major because she knew that she wanted to work with people in the health field.

“I knew I wanted to help people and be in the health field but I wasn’t really interested in nursing. My mom has been a special education teacher for 20 years so it kind of sparked my interest.”

Willis is heading up a large research project about music and the brain.

“We are doing an outreach program at Seacoast Charter School. We are teaching kids about neuroscience and how to improvise. We hope to use this to show how music can be a therapy technique for speech pathology.”

“I have weekly meetings with all the students and with faculty. Most of my students go to the school once per week but I go twice per week just to oversee everything. I really like working with the kids one on one, playing the piano with them, playing the xylophones, letting them draw their brains. They are really sharp, really smart kids.”

There are many students and faculty collaborating on the project, but Willis has taken the lead role.

“We have about 10 students total and about five faculty with mostly student-led ideas. I am basically the lead on the project and then I have a mentor who is the chair of our department. There are two faculty members that are heavily involved and we have collaborations with three or four teachers at the actual charter school. We have five UNH students each day that go to the school to help teach. It’s really cool.”

Willis speaks very highly of the entire faculty in the department, as she believes that they have been with her every step of the way.

“I primarily work with Dr. Don Robin. I was here over the summer looking at research that studies music and its effects on the brain. I originally started by looking at the literature on music and the brain and then we decided that we wanted to do an outreach program and I just took it over from there. I work a lot with (clinical instructor) Amy Plante as well. I run all of my ideas by her and she has been really helpful in terms of lesson plan writing because that is a really new concept for me.”

Willis has some advice for anyone that is thinking about declaring CSD as his or her major.

“Talk to upper-classmen and don’t be afraid to talk to the faculty. They want us to do well and they want us to succeed.”