Lauren Robichaud ’20: From Brain Injury to Valedictorian

May 17, 2021

When Lauren Robichaud ’20, G’21 delivered the valedictorian address to her fellow graduates on Saturday, May 15, it was a day that seemed impossible five years earlier. Robichaud sustained a traumatic brain injury the summer going into her senior year of high school from a sports-related accident, leaving her with a number of challenges to overcome, including post-concussion syndrome and a wide array of other symptoms, such as sensitivity to light and sound, migraine headaches, difficulty concentrating, convergence issues in her eyes, loss of hearing, disorder of her jaw muscles and cervical spondylosis. 

“When I was named valedictorian, it was a surreal feeling,” said Robichaud. “During my time at Assumption I faced numerous challenges with balancing college life while experiencing lingering symptoms from a traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome. There were times during my four years where I felt completely discouraged trying to juggle the two.” 

Robichaud said that to be successful at Assumption, she had to adapt the way she studies and lived before her injury. “I often got frustrated when things did not come as easily to me as they did before,” she said. “Some days I was highly motivated, and some days my frustrations with not feeling myself got the best of me. However, being named valedictorian proved to me that it was all worth it, and that I am capable of doing anything I set my mind to if I just believe in myself and my own ability to succeed and overcome challenges which are thrown my way.”

The recovery process, while still ongoing, has been a long one for Robichaud. She missed the majority of her senior year of high school, as well as her first semester of college. As time passed and her symptoms reduced, she began her studies in the spring of 2017 on a reduced schedule and commuting for the first two years at Assumption to effectively manage her symptoms. Robichaud had to take courses during the summer months to stay on track to graduate with her class. 

“Taking a reduced schedule in addition to taking a semester off of college made Lauren very nervous that she would not be able to graduate in four years, which was a goal of hers,” said Staci Robichaud ’86. “The Student Accessibility Services office worked with her to plan out her schedule for all four years and to help her achieve her goal of graduating in four years.”

When it came time for Robichaud to choose a college, Staci and her husband, Jim ’84, G’94, also an Assumption alumnus, knew their daughter would thrive at a small college with professors who would get to know her, understand her disability, and accommodate her needs. “My husband and I encouraged Lauren to attend Assumption because we knew firsthand the intimate nature of the college and that Lauren would be given the personal attention that she needed,” Staci added. 

On campus, Staci said her daughter was greatly supported by Student Accessibility Services, who were diligent about arranging accommodations, and her professors “were always very proactive in wanting to understand what Lauren needed to succeed in their courses and in wanting to set up a plan to put her accommodations in place.” 

“My professors would always immediately reach out to me and want to set up time to discuss my injury and how they could be of help to me in achieving successes in their class,” Robichaud said. “Through having these conversations with professors, I immediately became more relaxed, because I realized that my professors were there to support me in any way, despite the new challenges I faced in addition to simply adjusting to college life. It was through these discussions that I began to form lasting relationships with many of my professors, who were always interested in staying in the know about how I was managing and how my recovery process was going, and if there was anything else I needed. I am very proud that some of the professors who knew me from the very beginning of my injury have been able to see how far I have come, and I could not have done it without the small intimate nature of Assumption and the small class sizes which allow for you to be able to form these relationships with professors which will last a lifetime.”

After completing her undergraduate degree, Robichaud enrolled in Assumption’s accelerated MBA program and earned her MBA in accounting in May 2021. She is currently studying to obtain her certified managerial accounting (CMA) license.

“There were many days over the last five years where Lauren could have given up, and sometimes wanted to, however she persevered and being selected as valedictorian is just proof that all of the challenges and hard work were entirely worth it,” Staci said. 

“The greatest lesson I have learned from all of this is to always ask for help and inform people if you are struggling,” said Robichaud. “At Assumption, everyone who I asked for help was always more than willing to help me, and I would not be where I am today without all of the help and support I received from those on campus.”

Robichaud and the Class of 2020 celebrated their commencement on Saturday, May 15, a year after their scheduled commencement exercises due to the pandemic.