Katie VanEnkevort


Katie VanEnkevort
Major: Liberal Arts
Hometown: Escanaba, MI

Since 2019, Bay College graduate and speech-language pathologist Katie VanEnkevort has owned Speak U.P. Speech Therapy P.L.L.C., her Gladstone-based private practice. Though Katie did not choose to enter her current field while she was a Bay student, the lessons she learned at Bay helped her get to where she is today.

Katie graduated from Escanaba Senior High School in 1999. She began studying at Bay that August, primarily because of the college’s affordable tuition and small class sizes.

She also appreciated the fact that taking classes at Bay gave her a chance to stay in the area.

“I’m very much a homebody, so that was a definite advantage for me,” Katie said.

According to Katie, things went smoothly for her while she took classes at Bay.

“It was close enough to what I was used to in high school in terms of class sizes and campus size that I was comfortable with that transition,” she said, adding that her instructors were “helpful and very encouraging.”

In addition to her studies, Katie received tutoring from TRIO and participated in Phi Theta Kappa as a Bay student.

While she was at Bay, Katie majored in liberal arts. Though she did have a long-term plan at the time, this plan ended up changing after she left Bay.

“I had honestly not even heard of speech therapy while I was at Bay. I was planning to be an elementary education major, and I didn’t change that major until halfway through my junior year,” she said.

In 2001, Katie earned a liberal arts degree at Bay and continued her studies at Northern Michigan University in Marquette. However, she ran into unexpected difficulties there.

“I was very discouraged after my first semester at Northern between the culture shock, being away from home for the first time, and having a couple of classes I did not do well in. I really wanted to take a couple semesters off and figure out what I wanted to do, but my parents and fiancé were very much against that. They were afraid that if I left college, I would never go back,” she said.

Fortunately, things began turning around for her when she started learning about speech therapy.

“I was flipping through the course catalog (which, at that time, was an actual catalog of course listings), and I found a class called Intro to Communication Disorders. I figured that would work as an elective—about two or three weeks into the semester, I changed my major,” Katie said.

Katie graduated from NMU with a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders in May 2004. She planned to continue her education by pursuing her master’s degree, but Northern dropped its graduate program in the field a year before she graduated.

After getting waitlisted for a few years, Katie was finally able to start working on her master’s degree at Nova Southeastern University in 2008. She earned that degree in May 2011 and went on to find work in her field.

“I started out working for MJ Care in Marinette in skilled nursing. Then, I got hired at UP Rehab Services and worked at Doctors Park and nursing homes in Escanaba from November 2011 until February 2015,” she said.

After that, Katie worked for Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital in Manistique until March 2020. In 2018, she began pursuing a speech-language pathology doctorate, which she eventually earned at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in 2021.

Though she had not been a Bay student for over 15 years at this point in her life, Katie said the college played a surprisingly important role in her doctorate studies.

“When I was pursuing my doctorate degree, part of that involved participating in research—but because of COVID, I could not conduct my research project the way I wanted to. I contacted Bay, and they let me use a room for the project; one of their nursing instructors participated in my study, as well. That support meant a lot,” she said.

Around the time she began working on her doctorate, Katie started considering the possibility of taking her career in a new direction.

“I was tired of insurance companies dictating who I could see, how long I could see that person for, and what kind of therapy to provide to that person. I just wanted to provide high-quality, ethical patient care without having somebody tell me, “No, you can’t do that—you need to do this instead.” There’s a lot of that in corporate medicine, and I did not feel like I was able to help people in the way they needed help while working in that environment,” she said.

As a result, Katie opted to establish a private practice. Speak U.P. opened its doors in July 2019, and Katie has been working there ever since.

“It’s been going very well. I’ve had extremely positive responses from the people that I’ve worked with, as well as physicians who sent their referrals to me,” she said.

At Speak U.P., Katie provides her services to people across all populations and age groups—from one month to 104 years old. The services she offers include speech therapy, language therapy, swallowing therapy, voice therapy, and cognitive linguistic therapy.

Though she did not study speech therapy at Bay, Katie said the study skills she learned there have served her well throughout her career.

“I didn’t struggle much in high school, so I didn’t develop good study habits then. Bay taught me that, and I used those study skills in my bachelor’s program, my master’s program, my doctorate program, the continuing education courses I’ve taken—all of that. Study skills are so incredibly important,” she said.

Katie said she looks forward to continuing her work at Speak U.P. for the foreseeable future.

“I really, really love what I do, and I love it that much more because I’m able to help clients in the capacity that I want to and the capacity that is best for them. My only goal with this was to help people, and that has worked out quite well,” she said.