Courtney E. Venker, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Lingo Lab Director

Courtney is a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist and an Assistant Professor in Michigan State University's Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders. She is interested in understanding how children with autism spectrum disorder learn language, with an emphasis on how these children integrate auditory and visual information to learn the meanings of words. Courtney is also interested in determining what types of simplified speech best support language development in young children with language delays.

Courtney is the recipient of an Early Career Research Award from the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders at the National Institutes of Health. This 3-year project examines the influence of visual perceptual salience on word processing and word learning in toddlers and preschoolers with autism spectrum disorder.

When she is not at work, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Greg, and their two children, Elliott and Miriam.

Jenny Johnson, M.S., CCC-SLP

Speech Language Pathologist

Jenny is a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist.  She joined the Lingo Lab in September 2020 with the goal of contributing to the important research that informs intervention techniques for children with communication disorders.  Before joining the Lingo Lab, Jenny worked as a school-based SLP in Madison, Wisconsin for 11 years.  Her previous experience also includes work in research labs at University of Wisconsin - Madison and University of Michigan - Ann Arbor.  She enjoys using play-based assessment and intervention to support young children and families in their communication needs.

Jenny also enjoys a few fun hobbies including painting, playing piano, camping, hiking, and spending time with her family.

Kendra Peffers, Undergraduate Student 

Research Assistant

Kendra graduated from Central Michigan University (CMU) in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in communication disorders and is now pursuing a master’s degree in speech-language pathology. She joined the Lingo Lab in 2018 while an undergrad at CMU and has enjoyed working with the lab team, being involved in the research process, and learning more about language-learning in children with autism. Kendra aims to work with individuals across the age and ability spectrum as a speech-language pathologist, and she hopes to contribute to the field through further research and practice in a medical setting.

In her free-time, Kendra also enjoys going on hikes, listening to music, and playing with her dogs.


Megan Nylund, Graduate Student

Research Assistant 

Megan originally joined the lab in 2018, and, now, as a graduate student, she has continued her partnership with the lab in deciding to pursue a thesis. Her focus is on parental attitudes toward the use of telegraphic input and grammatical input. Specifically, her research aims to analyze the characteristics and influences that lead caregivers to favor one input over another, as well analyze the reliability of their claims.

In Megan’s free-time, she enjoys painting, spending time with her dog, listening to music, and hanging out with friends.

Ellen Brooks, Undergraduate Student 

Research Assistant  

Ellen is an undergraduate student in the class of 2022 at Michigan State University. She is pursuing a major in Kinesiology and a double minor in Health Promotion and Communicative Sciences and Disorders. She aspires to attend graduate school and become a licensed speech-language pathologist. For the past 11 years, Ellen has served as a volunteer for individuals with developmental disabilities. She has also worked as a child care provider. Ellen is enthusiastic about her role as a research assistant where she can learn more about autism spectrum disorder and help find new knowledge. 

Kaylee Commet, Undergraduate Student 

Research Assistant 

Kaylee is an undergraduate student at Michigan State University. Her major is Psychology with minors in Youth and Society, Communication Sciences and Disorders, and Cognitive Science. Her work in the CSD department includes being a member of the CSD Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and being the Fundraising Chair of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association. She is the treasurer of the Asian Pacific American Student Organization and the Honors Students of Color Coalition. Her volunteer work includes helping out at the Lyle Torrant special education center and mentoring in the Big Brother Big Sister program. She plans on going to graduate school to become a speech-language pathologist and possibly pursuing a doctoral program. In her career, she hopes to work in a children's hospital or school setting. She has a special interest in children with autism and is looking forward to working in the Lingo Lab to learn about their speech behaviors.

Libby Fernau, Undergraduate Student 

Research Assistant 

Libby is an undergraduate student at Michigan State University. Her major is Psychology with a minor in Communicative Sciences and Disorders as well as Cognitive Science. Over the years, Libby has had several experiences working with children. These include helping out with her family's in-home daycare, spending her summers being a full time nanny, as well as volunteering at a school for special education in her hometown. After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school for speech-language pathology, in hopes of working in a children's hospital or school setting. Libby is most excited to work with the Lingo Lab to learn more about autism spectrum disorder and the research that is currently being done to provide a better form of therapy that she can implement in her future practice as a certified SLP. 

Ava Harding, Undergraduate Student 

Research Assistant 

Ava is an undergraduate student at Michigan State University. Her major is Communications with a minor in Communicative Sciences and Disorders. She has a passion for working with children and has gained experiences through being a nanny for various families. She has also performed volunteer work with several organizations that support mentally and physically challenged children. Ava is extremely excited to be a part of the Lingo Lab because she loves to help others and wants to gain new knowledge on Autism Spectrum Disorder. After graduation, Ava plans to continue her work by becoming a speech pathologist in a school district.

Kezen Sanchez, Undergraduate Student

Research Assistant

Kezen is an undergraduate student in the class of 2024 at Michigan State University. He is pursuing a double major in Human Biology and Psychology, with a minor in Cognitive Science. He hopes to become a physician that focuses on mental, neurological, or children’s health. His passion for helping others stems from his experience as a volunteer at an outpatient hospital, helping to raise his 7-year-old brother, and volunteering at an organization that provides services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Kezen is excited to better understand and help those with autism spectrum disorder in the Lingo Lab and use newly applied skills learned from this research in his future endeavors.