Chris Zwolfer '99

Chris Zwolfer graduated from CU in 1999 with a MA in Speech-Language Pathology. She received a Business degree in her undergraduate work at the University of Miami, Oxford, Ohio. She explains how her journey evolved toward our field; “I worked in the corporate world for about five years and then realized that I wanted to work in a profession that felt more rewarding. I found SLP after volunteering at Children's Hospital in Denver and watched a SLP work with a boy who had brain surgery and needed to recover his speech after the surgery. Once I made up my mind, I quit my job and went back as a ‘three year/leveler’ at CU without even knowing if I would be accepted. I still remember meeting with Susan Moore back in 1996, trying to convince her that I had to get in." 

During her graduate studies, Chris relates that she “focused on Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Augmentative Communication along with interests in language and literacy. "Annie Whitney was my clinical supervisor when she first started working with the Language! Program. I became the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) specialist in my position at the Mapleton Center at Boulder Community Hospital. This became my passion and focus during my time at BCH.  

The ironic part of my focus area with Deaf and Hard of Hearing was that my first son was born with a hearing loss! So all that I learned during the graduate program helped me get through those initial years and be able to support my son to the fullest.  Based on early identification and speech therapy, he is at the top of his class in reading, spelling, and math. He even participated in the deaf/hard of hearing research project at CU for the first three years of his life. The experience I gained as a parent of a child with a disability will be instrumental in the way I work with my clients and families in the future.”   

Chris loves working with young children. “Probably because my own are now elementary age kids. I am excited about helping children and their families get through these formative years and develop as far as they are capable of before they enter school.  This opens so many doors for them if they can enter the school age years at an appropriate developmental level.  It allows for increased confidence, social interactions, and success academically.  I believe strongly that therapy is a team effort and multidisciplinary approach between the child, family, therapist(s), and caregivers.  I enjoy the training aspect of the family and caregivers as well as the work directly with the child.” 

Chris also currently supervises graduate students at an offsite practicum for CU. "I have thoroughly enjoyed this new way of utilizing my SLP experience. I especially enjoy watching the first year students get through their "jitters" and display huge gains during their first semester hands on practicums. I feel successful when I see these students walk into a classroom of preschoolers with confidence; lead the class and small groups; and receive hugs from their kids at the end. This is why we do what we do." 

When asked about memories from her time in grad school Chris told us, “Graduate school is tough, but I thoroughly enjoyed going back to school after a business career. I found learning again fascinating and I really loved learning about the different aspects of this field.  My first year was Brenda Schick's first year and I found her class challenging in a way that was inspiring and cerebral. My CLC Toddler class experience was also a fabulous memory based on the team aspect and the interaction with the families.  Both of my boys ended up going through the CLC Toddler program because I found it such an amazing environment for children.  Where else can your child get such amazing one-on-one attention and experiential learning opportunities?” Chris mantains regular relationships with her fellow alumni. “Luckily since I still live in the Boulder area I run into classmates quite a bit. I met Krista Ingle, who is one of my closest friends, during graduate school.  She was a bridesmaid in my wedding and we had babies around the same time.  We have breakfast with Carli Varga and Jennifer Spielman (see alumni bio) a few times a year. It's really fun to hear how everyone is doing and what they are up to. Did you know Jennifer is becoming a famous chocolatier? I always love running into Laura Baer at our son's baseball games and catching up on her work she's doing in the Boulder Valley School District preschools.” 

It's obvious that Chris stays fully immersed in life outside of her work also; “As a mom of two energetic boys, my life is filled with watching them at their sporting events and filling their time with a variety of experiences. As a family we spend our time hiking, biking, playing sports outside, and traveling when we can. I served as the PTO President at their school and committed a few years of supporting their school needs and getting to know their academic environment first hand. For fun on my own, I enjoy playing tennis, running, and doing as much outside that I can fit in.” Chris’ boys are 17 months apart at the ages of 7 and 9, making her life busy. “They play as many sports as they can including lacrosse, football, basketball, soccer, and swimming. They also play the piano, love to read, and still have not grown out of Lego building. As a family we look forward to going back to my home state of Michigan every summer for two weeks to relax by the lake. It has become a very important, memory building tradition for our family. We are also diehard CU Buffs fans (see photo) and hope for a winning football season soon!”

Chris’ career aspirations are to “continue to supervise graduate students and build my private practice. In the business world, I performed a lot of public speaking and I wouldn't mind doing more speaking on topics that I feel passionate about to colleagues.”

You can find out more about Chris’ work on her WEBSITE. Brava to another SLHS Alumni representing her Alma Mater so well. Thank you Chris!