Alumna Gives a Voice to Kids and Gives Back to CSUN

  • Alumna Stacy Payne has impacted numerous children and families as a speech-language pathologist.

There are times, California State University, Northridge alumna and speech-language pathologist Stacy Payne said, when her work gets extremely emotional. That’s what comes when you witness breakthroughs with young children on a regular basis.

“You truly pour your heart and soul, and you give everything you have to your little client,” Payne said. “You kind of deposit a piece of you in every session with your client.”

Payne ’91, M.S. ’94 (Communication Disorders and Sciences), with one pocket full of experience and the other full of ambition, in 2007 opened her own practice in Los Angeles called Bright Beginnings Pediatric Services. With all the impact she has made in her years of work, she also has continuously kept CSUN a part of her life and business.

Payne has a long history of hiring Matadors at Bright Beginnings. She also serves on the CSUN College of Health and Human Development’s Language, Speech and Hearing Center’s Advisory Board, and she delivered a guest lecture as professor for a day last year.

This giving back, she said, is her way of expressing gratitude for what CSUN did for her. Payne said she built up a lot of confidence through real-world training in the speech-language pathology program.

“By the time I graduated, I felt more than capable to handle the jobs in my fellowship year,” she said.

Payne pointed to former CSUN lecturer Ruth Harris, who was the first full-time coordinator of the Language, Speech and Hearing Center, as a major influence.

“She was just very genuine and authentic, and very strong clinically,” Payne said. “That compassion and humanity would show when she worked with a child. That’s what I modeled my clinical style after.”

Harris returned the compliments.

“From the beginning, she had a special way with young and very young children,” Harris said of Payne. “A keen observer, she would follow their lead, engaging them at their level of interest and then expanding and extending their repertoires of communication and play behaviors. Efficient, kind and an excellent clinician would be a good way to describe her, someone we were very proud to say was a graduate of our program.”

After working at large medical centers, including The Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters in Norfolk, Va., and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Payne decided it was time to take the next step in her career and open her own practice. Since she opened her doors, Payne said, she has had fellow Matadors working for her.

“I’m just drawn to CSUN clinicians,” she said. “I have clinicians from other parts of the country who are very good, but this is [true for me]: The students from CSUN, I believe, are the most well-rounded and the most prepared clinically. And I have a small practice, so this is by no means a big, sweeping statement. But in my little environment, there’s a noticeable difference in confidence because of their training and clinical practicum. And you don’t find that everywhere, and I didn’t realize that until I became an employer looking to hire a staff.”

It’s very rewarding for Payne to have a successful business, but she doesn’t measure rewards in days she has been open or her number of clients. Her measurement is different.

“There are times you come home and say, ‘I’ve really made a difference,’” she said. “There’s nothing like the feeling when a child starts talking or eating and the family says, ‘Thank God for you.’”