For Claire Ligon, ’10, dedicating herself to her two passions, music and biology, led her to her ideal career path; studying speech pathology at the University of Virginia. A biochemistry and molecular biology major and recipient of the Elizabeth Ramos Dunkum music scholarship, Ligon was able to study both disciplines at the University of Richmond.

Ligon has been very involved in extracurricular activities at Richmond – singing with Schola Cantorum, participating in Active Minds, choreographing for Asian Beat, and completing chemistry research with Dr. Michelle Hamm.

She became interested in speech pathology, the study of speech and language disorders, during her freshman year when she contracted laryngitis and needed to visit an Otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat doctor).  

“All of a sudden I realized that I had discovered a profession that combined all my favorite things,” Ligon said. “Speech pathology involves solving puzzles – the science component, helping others, sounds or vocalization – the singing portion, variability, and close interactions with patients.”

While taking a linguistics course during her junior year, Ligon fell in love with the idea of becoming a speech pathologist.  

“At first I was worried I would get into a graduate program and discover that I did not like what I was studying, but with my background in science and vocalism I believe that I will always have an interest to push me forward.”

Ligon began vocal training when she was in sixth grade and has been singing and speaking in different languages ever since. She remembers vividly trying to learn all of the correct ways to pronounce Italian words, which she believes will be helpful when working with patients in the future.

Ligon can still sing in countless languages and is constantly learning how to replicate sounds not pronounced in the English language through her vocal work with Schola Cantorum.

Her artistic interests paired with her scientific background, which helps her think in a critical and calculated manner, has made Ligon the perfect candidate to study speech pathology. The clinically-based graduate program at U.Va. fit all of Ligon’s criteria.

“Their program is very gradual and allows me to enter into a secondary track for students who have not taken the pre-requisite courses, such as language development across the lifetime or phonology and audiology,” said Ligon. “I can also choose to do research within the field and potentially continue with a Ph.D.”