Speech and hearing graduate hopes to give future patients a voice

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

Inbal Donenfeld-Peled was doing the mandatory two-year military service her native Israel requires when she met Uri. Born with bilateral congenital deafness, he had cochlear implants, and, because of his disability, the Israeli government wouldn’t allow him to serve his military obligation.

Uri fought back. He wanted to do his share and make a difference, despite his disability.  

By the time Donenfeld-Peled met him, he had won his case and was an Army cook on the base where she was stationed. As she got to know him, he told her about his speech therapist and audiologist and all they had done to improve his life. “Rather than limit his goals, they taught him how to compensate for and learn from his hearing disability,” she said. “I remember feeling fascinated by the difference they had made in his life because they gave him hope, determination and a voice. When it came time for me to choose a profession, I knew I wanted my chance to make such an impact on someone’s life.”

Donenfeld-Peled graduates this spring with a bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing science from the College of Health Solutions.

Question:  What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

Answer: I learned that passion for what you are studying is what drives your success.

Let's just say I was not the best student in high school. I was completely bored by the material, bored by my teachers who didn't seem like they wanted to be there. I was completely unmotivated. My dad used to wake up with me at 5 a.m. to explain math, and my grandma, who used to be a teacher, helped me study before some of my exams. My parents spent hundreds of shekels getting me private tutors, and still, nothing.

Once I decided I wanted to be a speech therapist, everything changed. I moved to Arizona two weeks before community college began, and right from the start, I was getting straight A’s. It was my first time studying in English, and I spent tons of time in office hours and studying at home. My family was very surprised. Nothing that I was studying had to do with speech, but just knowing that was where I was headed, that passion for the field, drove me to work hard.

When I transferred to ASU everyone told me to adjust my expectations. I heard a lot of, "It's going to be really hard," and, "It's not like community college." But again, I got A's. I showed up to office hours, formed study groups and loved every minute of it. It felt nothing like struggling through class in high school.

My teachers in high school never gave us the time of day between classes, let alone sit with us for a half hour after class to go over the entire slideshow again, one-on-one, just because we didn't understand something, but that actually happened at ASU. My passion for speech and the amazing support I got along the way are what changed my perspective and made me realize that when you really love something, you will succeed at it.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Many reasons. The diversity of the student body was very important to me because I was coming in as an older student. The prestige of the Barrett college, and the transfer program ASU has with Maricopa County Community Colleges were also factors.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Don’t be scared to talk to your professors. Once I was sitting in a professor’s office for help before an exam, and he said he wished more students would ask for help because most students don’t come to office hours. I was really surprised because I was a regular at office hours for almost every single class, and I quickly realized the speech professors really wanted their students to succeed and were willing to spend time explaining the material. I got to know my professors and developed a rapport with them which was crucial when I had to ask professors for letters of recommendation for grad school.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: Who in speech and hearing science has time for a life? We mostly studied in the Coor (Lattie F. Coor Hall) computer commons study rooms, wearing 18 sweaters, three pairs of socks and putting our computer cases over the vents so we didn’t freeze.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’m going home (to Israel) for some much-needed rest. Probably a lot of sun and beach and hanging out with friends and family. I will start grad school at Purdue University in the fall which I’m really looking forward to.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I think education is the key to a lot of issues we are facing right now as a society.

I think many of us want to believe that we know everything, and we won't hear differently. We do not want to think that someone might know better than we do, that someone is more experienced than we are. Understanding that people are the same is a realization I hope we all come to one day. As an Israeli I have personally experienced how a lack of this ability can ruin human interaction. Knowing more about the world and each other, being educated in a way that helps us shape our ideas rather than have them dictated to us has immense value. Lack of education divides us, and I think education can bridge these divides.

There is a word in Hebrew: savlanut. Google says it means “toleration” in English. It means to treat a person or a group with respect, without prejudice, even if they are different than you, regardless of their social, cultural or religious beliefs. As a soon-to-be speech-language pathologist, I also note the importance of advocating this for our clients and their families. I would use $40 million dollars so that every person in the world could have savlanut in their lives.