Reality-television royalty visited the Chippewa Valley last week as Cassie Randolph continues her pursuit of a master’s degree from UW-Eau Claire.
The Californian earned fame by winning the 23rd season of “The Bachelor” and is currently enrolled in UW-Eau Claire’s online communication sciences and disorders program. She is on track to earn her master’s degree in speech pathology in 2021.
“This was the required second-year residency period for Cassie,” said Abby Hemmerich, an associate professor and online graduate program coordinator for communication sciences and disorders at UW-Eau Claire. “Our students are required to come to campus three times during their graduate program, one week each summer.
“This week was a wrap-up of summer courses and a chance to do extensive hands-on practice with various materials we have here in the department.”
Some specific examples, Hemmerich said, include: learning how to do swallowing evaluations and therapy, practicing how a speech language pathologist would test a child for language problems, and discussing how the students’ first clinical experiences went.
Randolph is one of about 70 students in the three-year online program. Another 36 students in the on-campus program also interacted with the group last week.
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Former NFL player Colton Underwood was the focus of the television show on which he and Randolph proved to be a match. Randolph’s visit drew a post on UW-Eau Claire’s Facebook page that read, “She may have gotten Colton Underwood’s final (insert rose emoji here), but we’re giving Cassie Randolph a quality education.” And Underwood’s playing a role in that as well.
“Uhh, yeah, Colton really is very sweet and tries to help me study,” Randolph told Sam Thompson, social media lead for UW-Eau Claire, and student Demi Cimiaskaite, who conducted an interview for the university. “He actually does a lot. I will give it to him. He is like my little prop whenever I have to do fake assessments or exams. He’s a good sport about it.”
As far as choosing UW-Eau Claire as opposed to other online options, Randolph said a friend’s experience drew her to the school.
“... One of my best friends, Katie, from Biola (University in Southern California), is actually in their online speech program and told me it was great and loved the professors and her cohort,” Randolph told Thompson and Cimiaskaite. “Once I looked into it myself, I thought doing an online program would probably be best for me and my lifestyle and what’s going on with everything.
“And then, also, this program is so good and very interactive and rigorous and hard, but also you learn so much from it and the professors and the students in my cohort are so kind and fun. It’s just a great program overall.”
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The demands of “The Bachelor” made online coursework particularly important.
“When filming started, I actually told my professors about it and they were so accommodating,” Randolph told Thompson and Cimiaskaite. “They allowed me to stop classes and put it on pause and then rejoin later on.
“One of the main things I love about this university is the professors care about you so much, especially in my department. They genuinely want you to succeed and they set everything up for you to succeed, so if something is really hard for you in the moment, they’re going to work with you as much as they can to let you keep going through school at your own pace.”
Randolph said she got into the field in part because it offers a variety of options. “You can work with stroke patients or in a hospital with traumatic brain injuries,” she said. “Or you can work with businesses or in the entertainment industry with vocal coaching. It’s such a fun, wide-set major.”
And the educational aspect of the field has now become a family affair.
“My mom and my aunt are actually in the post-baccalaureate program here at UW-Eau Claire, so we’re all three hopefully one day going to do something together in speech,” Randolph said. “Ultimately, I think our dream would be to open clinics or our own private practice and work together somehow.
“I don’t exactly know what specific field of speech I want to go into yet, which is what I’m exploring with grad school.”
Hemmerich said most students start out in clinical settings such as hospitals, skilled nursing facilities or schools.
“Setting up a private practice requires a lot of experience with both the clinical side of things and the business side of things,” she said. “It would be great if she would open a private practice someday, but we’d like to see her get plenty of clinical experience to prepare her for that.”
She aced at least one tough question during her Eau Claire visit when Thompson and Cimiaskaite asked, “What is a Blugold?”
“I think it’s a bird,” Randolph said. “Honestly, I didn’t know for a little while what it was, but I knew that it’s what I was, so I thought it was important to find out.”