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Kean University

Speech-Language Pathologist Earns Doctorate and Becomes Kean Triple Alumna

Elizabeth Del Pino, in her commencement gown and doctoral tam, smiles outside the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

When Elizabeth Del Pino, SLPD, of Union was researching possible career paths in high school, she recalled she was excited to learn about speech-language pathology – and that she could study it nearby at Kean University.

Del Pino received her bachelor’s degree in speech-language pathology at Kean in 2017 – then continued on to earn her master’s degree in 2019 and this year, graduated with her doctorate, all in the same field.

“I want to be the best clinician I can and have the resources and information to bridge that gap,” she said. “At Kean, I felt very supported and guided through discovering myself as a student, a clinician, a professional and a person.”

Del Pino is a full-time speech-language pathologist at Morristown Medical Center, where she helps medically fragile infants overcome feeding and swallowing difficulties and guides adults in improving their communication and swallowing skills after strokes or traumatic brain injuries.

“I love that I'm able to help people across the lifespan with things that are crucial but we all take for granted,” she said.

Elizabeth Del Pino, wearing a commencement gown and doctoral tam, poses with her parents and boyfriend.
Elizabeth Del Pino's boyfriend and parents were on hand to see her receive her third degree, a doctorate, from Kean University.

While Del Pino could have continued her career without a doctorate, she was intrigued by Kean’s SLPD program, one of just eight in the nation. Encouraged and supported by her parents, grandparents, brother and boyfriend, Del Pino said she returned to Kean and was inspired to succeed through her “strong connection” to her profession and the University. 

As a doctoral student, Del Pino assessed whether services provided by practitioners across the country were in line with evidence-based practices. Her master’s program research focused on the properties of thickened liquids, used by speech-language pathologists to help patients overcome swallowing difficulties, or dysphagia. 

Del Pino credits Lecturer Karen Villanueva for sparking her interest in dysphagia; Assistant Professor Sarah Patten, Ph.D., for her guidance as her thesis advisor and the coordinator of the SLPD program; and Assistant Professor Iyad Ghanim, Ph.D., for his expertise on research and statistics. 

Patten said she has frequently seen Del Pino pay her appreciation forward by taking the time to support her peers, colleagues and newcomers to the field.

“Her calm resolve, understanding, and knowledge make her an ambassador for Kean and the field of speech-language pathology,” Patten said.

At Kean, she completed externships, served as a graduate assistant for Kean’s preschool, joined student professional organizations and conducted research. 

“I would like to continue research as it's clinically applicable to my setting,” she said, “but I want to be a clinician first. A lot of speech therapy research is done under perfect conditions, but in the real world, it's sometimes hard to carry out those practices realistically,” she said.

She will continue her work at Morristown Medical Center, where mentor Kim Minerley, CCC-SLP, describes Del Pino as “a one-of-a-kind speech pathologist.”

“She has worked hard from the moment she started her clinical fellowship here to build positive relationships with both colleagues and patients, share and use the most current evidence-based practices, and provide compassionate and thorough care,” Minerley said.

Del Pino has built the career she hoped for and encourages current speech-language pathology students to keep an open mind as they do the same.

“Sometimes you can be very focused on what you want to do,” she said, “but a field like speech-language pathology has so much to offer: different age ranges, settings, patient populations. You never know what you might stumble upon that might pique your interest.”