May 2024 Purdue grad reflects on her giant leaps toward making a difference

Written By: Rebecca Hoffa,

Emily Deldar stands in front of a "Purdue University" arch in her graduation gown.

Emily Deldar will graduate May 10 from the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences.(Photo provided)

As final grades are submitted and students pack for their summer plans, a new class of Purdue University College of Health and Human Sciences (HHS) students prepares to cross the stage in Elliott Hall of Music on May 10 and leave campus as alumni.

Growing up bilingual, Emily Deldar, an undergraduate in the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences (SLHS), has always had an interest in language. She got the opportunity to serve as a translator for a new student in sixth grade, and after that experience, she began working toward learning Spanish, interested in expanding her skills to a third language. When she discovered the speech-language pathology career path, she knew it was the right fit for her.

Emily Deldar stands in front of a research poster.

Deldar presents a research poster from her work in the Child Phonology Lab.(Photo provided)

Early into her undergraduate education, she quickly became involved in SLHS research, joining associate professor Françoise Brosseau-Lapré’s Child Phonology Lab, which has allowed her to work on the Standardized Patients Project — a project that involves training Indiana University School of Medicine students to interact with patients who are bilingual, have a communication disorder or have a first language other than English.

“It’s allowed me to approach speech pathology in a different way,” Deldar said. “I’ve realized there’s a lot of disparities that exist for people with communication disorders. The communication disorder itself is obviously a struggle, but when there aren’t resources to support them in other facets of life, it’s even more difficult and puts them at an even greater disadvantage. I think this helps me want to be more of an advocate for my patients and helps me get ahead on what kinds of evidence we find to improve their quality of life.”

When she was a junior, Deldar also joined assistant professor Kwang Kim’s SKILL Lab, where she learned more about speech coding and stuttering. Beyond research, Deldar has been involved in the Loud Crowd, a weekly Parkinson’s disease voice support group clinic, under the direction of clinical assistant professor Lydia Kruse.

Beyond the department, Deldar participated in a study abroad opportunity in Spain, allowing her to explore the real-world applications of her Spanish minor. She has also been an Indianapolis 500 Festival princess; president of her sorority, Chi Omega; and president of her very own nonprofit, the World Smiles Mission. Deldar started the nonprofit when she was in high school and has used her speech, language and hearing sciences education to expand its scope while at Purdue.

Emily Deldar poses in a crown and dress in front of a sign that reads "Back Home Again" with Indy 500 cars on it.

Deldar was an Indianapolis 500 Festival princess in 2022.(Photo provided)

“I saw that at that time, half of the world’s population didn’t have stable and consistent access to a toothbrush, and I just thought, ‘That’s so fixable. There’s toothbrushes everywhere — why don’t we just distribute them the right way?’” Deldar said. “I googled how to start a nonprofit, and I went through all the processes of getting the accreditation and had some amazing mentors, and it just kind of took off from there. It started as an oral health care delivery type organization, and now we’ve expanded to education and realms within speech pathology, such as head and neck cancer.”

As Deldar plans to begin her master’s degree in speech-language pathology at Vanderbilt University in August, she noted her mentors in SLHS have played a big role in her journey leading up to this point.

“Finding mentors within the department was the biggest thing for me and the most rewarding experience,” Deldar said. “I was able to learn so much from them, and they have definitely shaped my undergraduate experience.”