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December 4, 2008

ULM speech pathology student wins big at national conference

A ULM speech pathology student thought she was traveling to a national conference to acquire knowledge and do some professional networking – little did she realize she’d also win a new car just before the holidays.

Graduate student Stephanie Swillie of Vicksburg, Miss., and several others, attended the annual convention of the American Speech Hearing and Language Association in Chicago in late November. The association credentials thousands of audiologists, speech-language pathologists and speech, language, and hearing scientists across the U.S. each year.

Swillie said the vehicle was a gift from one of several major vendors at the convention, EBS Healthcare, which is a leading provider to those with special needs. Since the company also employs thousands of pathologists across the country, Swillie took special note of the large booth EBS had erected outside the convention hall.

“They had the car right there,” said Swillie. “They were giving pins to put on your shirt that read ‘Pick me for a Car’ … (and) they were choosing people out of the crowd if they saw you wearing that button.”

The company chose Swillie as one of 30 potential winners who were then each asked to choose a number at random.

“I chose 19 because it is my fiancé’s favorite number,” said Swillie. “We all had to come back at 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, and they handed out all the envelopes with our number in it. We all opened up the envelopes at the same time.”

Much to her shock, Swillie’s envelope contained the winning number.

“I was screaming. Nothing like that ever happens to me,” she said. “It was kind of surreal.”

In the end, however, Swillie was given the choice of either taking the car or $15,000 in cash. She chose the cash.

“I didn’t really need a car. I’m planning a wedding and I wanted to help my parents out with that,” Swillie explained.

Swillie expects to earn her master’s degree in May 2009, and she credits her parents with setting her on her chosen career path. “Speech language pathology has a personal meaning to me,” she said. “I was actually born with bilateral hearing loss in both ears. My parents teamed up with a speech pathologist, and they caught me up on language skills and speech. I want to be able to help kids just like me. I know I’m going to love it,” she concluded.

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