Center for Advancing Teaching Excellence: Jack Rodreguiz Spotlight

Moody Graduate Student Spotlight: Jack Rodreguiz

Describe a typical graduate student day working at the Blank Center.

I work part-time for the Blank Center, 10 hours per week. I report to work after classes. When I arrive, I prepare for an adult group session by refining the lesson plan. This usually takes about 2 hours. Then I facilitate a 90-minute session targeting competency in communication effectiveness (e.g., gestures, eye contact, facial affect, body positioning, and intonation, etc.). I emphasize that a person can be a strong, dynamic speaker and still stutter on every word. 

Working as an emerging speech language development professional, I appreciate the Blank Center’s emphasis on advocating for self. For example, I coach individuals to begin conversations with a self-disclosure statement that conveys the possibilities for needing additional time to speak. 

In my graduate worker role, I am a leader, mentor, and role model to support others to advocate for self to build resiliency as a communicator. I explain that while there may be situations where a person may receive a negative response to their stuttering, they can embrace their stuttering as a strength to never give up. Never stop talking.  

From a graduate student perspective, which learning experiences stand out as unique to you related to interactions in the Blank Center?

The Blank Center does a tremendous job of preparing students to understand reformative practice. The focus is not on fixing the stutter, but on how to help the person live their best life with the stutter. 

The learning is experiential where we are working with individuals from the ages of 3-years-old to folks in their 80s. There are multiple locations, such as a satellite center in Atlanta, Georgia, that expand the reach of the learning. 

From the top, the overall environment in the Blank Center makes everyone feel like the most important person in the world. The holistic approaches enhance clinical practices to treat the whole person. 

In addition to the experience in clinical situations, I am working on my master thesis. I am learning from the top researchers in the field in a program that is ranked in the top 10 in the nation.

How did your learning experiences translate to developing your expertise as professional?

Exclusively, stuttering treatment should be client led. The practitioner needs to understand what the client wants to achieve and use clinical expertise to help them achieve their goals. We are on a journey together. It is a collaborative effort to achieve dreams. We are their biggest cheerleader.  

What is one thing you think people should know about working with people who might be experiencing a barrier to help them overcome the situation and thrive in life?

One thing is to be a good listener. Hear their story, their experiences. Validate that first. Let them guide the process and be a support for their goals. If you are trying to “fix” them, that is not going to get the results they want. 

Be empathetic as you guide them to the mindset that the barrier can be a strength. Life gets better when they can reframe their view that the barrier is an opportunity, not an obstacle.  

Anything else you would like to share?

Because the individual might not be able to control stuttering, it can be seen as an opportunity to enhance other facets of communication to build confidence. 

The work in the Blank Center is life changing. Faculty make sure students have a comprehensive knowledge of past treatments, theoretical frameworks and, most importantly, the lived experiences of people who stutter. This sets the foundation of why the work we do now is so important. I have experienced the life changing effect first hand, the focus on communication effectiveness, resiliency, advocacy. 

The Blank Center gives the opportunity to work directly with people who stutter. Once we have this experience, we are well equipped to serve the stuttering community when we graduate. 

By design, everyone who walks into the Blank Center feels seen and they feel heard and that they are the most important person in the world. This starts at the top with Dr. Courtney Byrd. I am personally grateful for her. She created Dream. Speak. Live. graduate scholarship as a full ride scholarship to experience the Blank Center.