University of North Dakota senior Carly Flaagan was just looking for a little feedback from judges when she applied for the E. Thayer Gaston Research Writing Award.
"And then I ended up winning it," she said.
Flaagan received her award at the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) conference Thursday, Nov. 21 in Jacksonville, Fla. It's considered the most prestigious student award given by the association.
She may have been surprised by the result, but she was confident in her effort.
"I've done a lot of research, and I put a lot of work into it," Flaagan said.
The East Grand Forks native is the first Gaston Award winner from UND. Flaagan was awarded a certificate, a $500 stipend and the opportunity to have her paper reviewed by the Journal of Music Therapy.
During the 2013 spring semester, as part of her music class, Flaagan wrote a paper based on experiences she had during her practicum. She facilitated music therapy sessions at Toddler Language Circle, a partnership with UND speech-language pathology students. Her data from the sessions created the inspiration for the research.
Flaagan incorporated music into speech and language goals with toddlers with language impairment.
Her award-winning paper is titled "A Survey of Music Therapy and Speech-language Pathology Collaboration." She created a survey that gathered opinions towards music therapists and speech language pathologists collaboration from professional music therapists and speech language pathologists.
Flaagan's paper "explains how important this work is from a research perspective," said UND Assistant Professor of Music Therapy Andrew Knight.
"I'm most proud of her willingness to reach out to her peers in music therapy who supported her and the speech-language pathology students," Knight added.
Flaagan, too, commended the support she received from Knight and UND Assistant Professor of Music Therapy Meganne Masko, as well as family, friend and members of the UND Music Department.
Flaagan has always been interested in music. She plays the piano, sings, directs children's theater and runs a nonprofit, Summer arts Safari, a summertime performing arts program.
Flaagan says that music therapy is a perfect combination of two of her primary interests ― music and psychology. She says, music therapy "is a helping profession, and I wanted to go into something where I could help people."
Music therapy is defined as the use of music to address emotional, cognitive, physical and social needs to an individual or a group, according to AMTA. A music therapist treats clients through singing, creating and listening to music. Music therapy also can help those who find it difficult to express themselves.
North Dakota became one of the first states with a music therapy licensing program in 2011, and includes music therapy under its Board of Integrative Health.
Flaagan plans to complete her classes in December 2014, and then start a six-month internship. Lastly, she will have to take an exam to become a board certified music therapist.
"I feel lucky to say that there are many exciting possibilities ahead," Flaagan said.
Kallie Van De Venter University & Public Affairs student writer