A few years after senior Bryanna Marshall fell in love with Buffalo State College’s speech-language pathology program, she shared her passion with educators on the other side of the world.
In January 2019, Marshall flew alone to Accra, Ghana, where she spent two and a half weeks observing and assisting teachers at the New Horizon Special School, which educates children with special needs, including speech and language impairments.
“There is a stigma in Ghana that if you don’t live an honorable life, your children are cursed,” she said. “I tried to introduce teachers to the idea that these developmental delays are not caused by a curse.”
Her input led to a change in their teaching approach.
“Teachers were open to my knowledge and feedback,” she said.
When she returned to Buffalo, Marshall, who also minors in leadership, put together a poster presentation on her findings for Buffalo State’s Student Research and Creativity Conference, the annual SUNY Undergraduate Research Conference, and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) Statewide Student Conference, where she won first place. Since then, she has received invitations to present at other conferences.
“I didn’t go with the intention of winning,” Marshall said. “I wanted to bring awareness to what’s going on in other countries. I thought if we can build a foundation for helping students in Ghana and breaking such stigmas, it could be helpful to kids in other countries.”
Jo Yudess, lecturer in Buffalo State’s International Center for Studies in Creativity, which houses the leadership minor, served as the mentor for Marshall’s research project.
“The teachers and administrators in Ghana were thrilled to have Bryanna,” Yudess said, “and they have instituted techniques and lessons they learned from her.”
Marshall also harnessed lessons she learned in classes such as Language Acquisition and American Sign Language to volunteer with the Buffalo Hearing and Speech Center and the Rusk Rehabilitation at New York University Langone Health.
And she’s used skills from her leadership minor to help current and future Buffalo State students. She’s served as vice president of the Residence Hall Association, where she oversaw programming for the residence halls, as a peer mentor, and as an ambassador for both the Admissions and the Equity and Campus Diversity offices.
She currently works as an office assistant in the Residence Life Office.
“I get to greet and meet new students every day,” she said. “Sometimes, I come in hours before my shift because I love the welcoming environment.”
One of her proudest Buffalo State accomplishments was founding the inaugural campus chapter of the National Black Association for Speech-Language and Hearing.
“Starting this chapter made me feel that everyone belongs here, and everyone should have a seat in the department. It promotes a sense of belonging, diversity, inclusion, and mentorship,” said Marshall who started the process last October. The paperwork was recently finalized, and a few students have already become members.
Marshall also has made the Dean’s List and earned a Kaplan Scholarship through CSTEP.
“In high school, I didn’t apply myself,” she said. “When I got to college, I made a promise to myself to live to my fullest potential, and I think I have.”
As she looks back on her college career, Marshall said she has a key piece of advice for new students: “Always believe in yourself. And if you don’t feel like there is a space for you, create one. Buffalo State is the perfect place to find yourself and to grow into who you were meant to be.”
Video by John Myers and Ken Giangreco, Buffalo State College Creative Services.