Former speech therapist finds passion working in the special education department at Cal State Fullerton

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(Maria Ong / Daily Titan)

Feeling unfulfilled in her job as a speech therapist, a phone call from an old colleague gave Lisa Alexander the job opportunity she was looking for.

“It was super rewarding and I enjoyed it, but it was very stressful because I did not feel I was trained and well-prepared in the field,” Alexander said.

Alexander had 40 1- to 3-year-olds on her caseload, she said. Working with children proved exhausting. She felt her purpose was with college-aged people, where she could help them achieve their goals.

“I learned a lot. I just felt that I wasn’t finding my true passion,” Alexander said.

Now, Alexander is an administrative assistant in the special education department at Cal State Fullerton. Her friend Anne Shanahan was the one on the phone that day. She held the position Alexander has now, told her she was leaving for Ireland and said she should apply for the job.

“I originally started in this office as a student assistant, and when I worked in the field of speech therapy, I always thought about coming back in the back of my mind. I enjoyed it, working with students and the interaction between faculty and students,” Alexander said.

Alexander, who was born in Yorba Linda but grew up and resides in Corona, graduated from CSUF with a bachelor’s in communicative disorders, hoping to become a fully certified speech therapist. Since high school, her mother advised her to pursue a career path that gives back and helps other people.

It was bittersweet leaving her speech-therapy patients because of the progress and connections she made with them, Alexander said.

“I’ve always known I’ve wanted to do something with helping people,” Alexander said. “I thought that speech would be a great field.”

CSUF was the closest CSU that offered that program. She also earned a minor in health science. Now, she’s been working at CSUF since 2013.

“She does her job very well. She’s very meticulous in the information she gives to the students to the point where the students come down to me and they rave about her,” said Alaidrian Clark, department coordinator for the Department of Special Education.

Clark works with Alexander on a daily basis. Their collaboration includes helping students register for courses and updating and maintaining the department’s website.

“I would not do anything differently, as far as what I experienced, because all the schooling, all the job experience, all has helped me in where I’m at today,” Alexander said.

Aimee Nelson, director of the Center for Careers in teaching in the College of Education, said Alexander has an incredible work ethic.

“She is probably one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet, first of all. She bends over backwards to get her job done and she truly loves it,” Nelson said “She brings a positive attitude to everything that she does.”

For Alexander, education was key in her family.

“Even from the time I was little, I was like two weeks old and my dad started looking at elementary schools in the area, you know where it’s the best schools to send his kids,” Alexander said. “He’s always, always been a huge advocate for education.”

In the long run, Alexander sees herself continuing at Cal State Fullerton or going somewhere else in the CSU system to work. She plans to further her education by getting a master’s degree.

“After working here three years and knowing this is what I want to do, I love this, I love coming to work. Because I’ve been to jobs where I do not want to get up and go to work today, I’m dreading it. But working here to me, I love it,” Alexander said.

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