I-LABS' Lindsay Klarman Takes Executive Director Job at Seattle Non-Profit

After 12 years at I-LABS, Lindsay Klarman will become the new executive director of the Hearing, Speech & Deafness Center.

Klarman arrived at the University of Washington in 2001. A native of San Diego, she had just finished her bachelor's in cognitive science from the University of California, San Diego and was moving to UW for graduate school.

Newly-wedded, Klarman and her husband drove a U-Haul up to Seattle, moved into a 500-square foot apartment in Wallingford, and soon after she started work as a speech and hearing sciences student in Patricia Kuhl's lab.

Her career plan? Keep doing research while working on her degree and then become a clinician working with Deaf and hard of hearing communities.

But then, like many other great life plans, something else happened.

"I got a passion for research," Klarman said. "Once you start to dig deep in research, you keep coming up with more questions. It's addictive. I was fascinated by the idea that I could be part of something new and innovative."

She also realized that with a research career, she could make an impact even if she wasn't going to be a clinician.

Klarman put her clinical plans on hiatus and dove into the research, using behavioral testing and ERPs to measure brain responses to sign language versus spoken speech.

This shift in career goals was one of the first of several "ah ha" moments that have guided Klarman's career while at I-LABS.

Now she's making an even greater shift: in September she will become the executive director of the Hearing, Speech & Deafness Center (HSDC) in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood.

"This organization will bring all my passions together: outreach, fundraising, mentoring, program development and of course my knowledge about the Deaf and hard of hearing community," Klarman wrote in an email announcing her new job to her I-LABS colleagues.

"It is hard to believe that I arrived at the UW 13 years ago as a young student and I am now leaving as a skilled scientist and moving on to be an executive," Klarman continued in the email message. "I cannot tell you how honored I feel to have worked here; I know what I have learned will be implemented in my daily work in this new leadership position."

How did she get there from here? After work in Kuhl's lab ignited Klarman's passion for research, she developed an interest in mentoring the next generation of scientists – planting the seed for what later would become I-LABS' internships for undergraduates under the yet-to-be formed Outreach & Education Division.

Surrounded by "strong women scientists," Klarman pointed out Denise Padden, research coordinator with Kuhl's lab, as one example of a mentor. "She's unflappable," Klarman said of Padden's ease of balancing everything from looming grant deadlines to soothing babies in I-LABS experiments.

In another "ah ha" moment came in 2004 when Klarman decided not to finish her doctorate. "I wanted to be in the community more," she said. She kept her hand in research studies in Kuhl's lab, while working on a Masters in NonProfit Leadership from Seattle University.

Her business training helped her realize the importance of listening to a community. "You have to know what are the current questions that parents are asking? And how can we back those questions up with science," she said.

To improve her ability to work with Deaf and hard of hearing communities, Klarman earned a certificate in American Sign Language (ASL) and became a nationally certified interpreter in 2010. Since she earned the credential, she's become a go-to interpreter in the Seattle community, providing communication services in a variety of settings, including those involving politicians such as President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, Governor Jay Inslee and others.

"Language is culture, it's more than words," she said. "No matter how much you know about a language, you'll always learn something new because you're interacting with people, not machines."

Her outreach to the community continued to flourish. In 2011, I-LABS established its outreach division, which Klarman joined the next year.

"I really grew as a scientist, as a public speaker and as someone who could translate the science and give evidence-based practice to people working with young children," she said.

People in the Deaf and hard of hearing community started approaching her more and more for her expertise. And then the Hearing, Speech and Deaf Center, looking for new leadership, sought her out. The organization began in 1929 as the Seattle Lip Reading Club and has since grown to be a Western Washington hub for services for the hard of hearing and Deaf communities.

"They pursued me because they needed someone who had credentials as a scientist in the early learning and development field, which I wouldn't have gotten if I hadn't been at I-LABS," she said.

Klarman hadn't planned to leave I-LABS, but the opportunity was too good to pass by. "It's such a great fit for all my skills. I'll be able to work in the community and then partner with groups like I-LABS," she said.

Klarman joined I-LABS before it became I-LABS. Her departure sparks many memories of the past and thoughts of the future.

"Lindsay is Nature's gift to joy. She is unfailingly energetic, smiling, and has a 'Yes, can do attitude,'" said Andrew Meltzoff, co-director of I-LABS. "We will deeply miss her. At the same time, we gain her as a partner in her new role as executive director of a fine organization in the Seattle community. So we look forward to working with her in the future."

Padden had similar sentiments. "From the day she arrived in the lab Lindsay has been passionate about all aspects of our work and committed to excellence, willing to take on any task and 'make it work,'" she said. "I am delighted that Lindsay has found a new challenge that will merge her existing skills with her long-standing interest and commitment to the Deaf community in Seattle. We will miss her in the lab, but will find a way to make it work."