Loura-Derro-in-Grad-Cap-GownLoura Derro (she/they) ’23 MS has had their share of challenges these past few years, but as a testament to their character and strength they never gave up. As a 2nd generation Asian-American from a low-income background, Loura made the difficult decision to separate from a toxic family home all while dealing with a cancer diagnosis, coming out as LGBTQ, and experiencing homelessness. In 2017, Loura was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer and completed 4 surgeries, 4 rounds of chemo and 36 rounds of radiation, and 3 months of physical and occupational rehab at St. Jude neurology rehab clinic. Suffering numerous side effects from the chemo including hair loss, weight gain, anxiety and more, they found a supportive rehab team at St. Jude with Jason Tse, OTD, OTR/L  and Jean Dean, DPT who challenged them to set a long-term goal. Loura decided to apply to grad school with the goal to become a speech therapist and continue the work they started with their BA in Linguistics from UCLA.

A month after getting accepted into Chapman’s CSD program, Loura’s father sadly passed away. If that was not hard enough, they also experienced a stint of homelessness in the middle of the holidays and their first trimester finals, having moved 3 times within Nov-Dec alone. But Loura was determined to not give up and forged ahead to obtain their M.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders with the help of supportive friends, strong mentors, and their own fortitude to prevail over these life challenges. Loura shared with us a little bit more about their Chapman experience and some advice for incoming graduate students.

Did you work closely with a faculty member or mentor? If so, who?

I found most of my support through friends. One of my biggest supporters was Jason Tse. He coached me to finish my first race after cancer (e.g., a goal of mine at the time) and has continued to offer mental health support and advice. Secondly, I have an accountability buddy from my UCLA days, Ann. She’ll deny it, but I wholeheartedly believe she helped get me through undergrad, moving out, getting a job, applying to post-bac, and getting into grad school. She has always been my cheerleader in my life journey. Lastly, the new friends I made in grad school (you know who you are)! They have helped me feel safe and supported throughout this crazy grad experience.

As for faculty, I connected well with Sunny Changala, MS CCC-SLP and Lisa Lachance, MS CCC-SLP, who helped me regain my motivation for the field as I went through some questioning period of whether I had made a huge mistaking applying to grad school for CSD. They are the reason I want to specialize in voice and dysphagia. Another Chapman mentor was Claire Mackenzie. She also graduated as part of C12, and we continue to work together at BRAIN.

Loura Derro Posing in front of Chapman Sign

Were you involved in research or clubs or volunteering that you enjoyed?

I was a research lab assistant for childhood language acquisition headed by Dr. Fagan, MS CCC-SLP. I was involved with NSSLHA as the CSD graduate representative for C13, I volunteer at B.R.A.I.N. in Cypress as co-choir chair with Claire Mackenzie, MS CF-SLP.

What career are you interested in pursuing post grad school?

I want to work in the medical setting (e.g., inpatient, acute, or outpatient) to work with the pediatric and adult population specializing in voice and dysphagia, along with cognitive communication disorder caused by TBI, SCI, or degenerative disease. I am open to private practice and working in schools PT. In the future, I also want to start a non-profit for gender-affirming voice therapy to give back to under served LGBTQ communities.

What advice would you give incoming grad students in your program?

  • Remember your “why” (e.g., why do I want this, why do I do this, why am I working so hard?)
  • Perfection is overrated. Grad school is a place to make mistakes and learn. Aiming for perfection guarantees burn-out.
  • Find that one thing/hobby that regulates you. Mines is salsa dancing; it is my anti-depressant.
  • Do what you can and leave the rest. Every day, do your best, then leave it alone. Obsessing over what you did wrong or how badly you messed up gets you nowhere.
  • If all else fails, ice cream.

Congratulations Loura! We are so proud of you and all our talented Crean College seniors!!