College of Education and Human Services produces educators beyond the classroom

By Claire Layne | Apr 1, 2024

Alexander Hall with sign

The Center for Communication Disorders (CDI) Program is an excellent example as they train their graduate students to become speech language pathologists (SLP).

MURRAY, Ky. – The College of Education and Human Services at Murray State University produces a wide variety of educators beyond the classroom. The Center for Communication Disorders (CDI) Program is an excellent example as they train their graduate students to become speech language pathologists (SLP).

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), SLPs “ to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive-communication, and swallowing disorders in children and adults.”

“Our field offers students a world of opportunities across healthcare and educational settings,” said CDI Program Director and Clinical Supervisor Dr. Stephanie Schaaf. “SLPs are in high demand and are expected to be in high demand over the next 10 years. Our graduates can work in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), outpatient facilities, schools, start their own private practice, home health and so much more. An SLP will never be without multiple job opportunities and they have the flexibility to change their work setting at any point in their career which keeps things interesting.”

Applications for the graduate program are received in January, and 24 accepted applicants begin studies in August. They are assigned to a 12-person cohort, two in each year. CDI always has 24 graduate students in their first year of programming who complete coursework and clinicals on campus under faculty supervision. They also have 24 second-year students who complete full time placements including a school-based externship and two medical rotations at diverse facilities.

Graduate Assistant and SLP student Olivia Ricks, of Cadiz, Kentucky, shared her experience with the program and her motivation for applying. Her goal is to become a traveling SLP for children in public schools. As a child, she attended the Speech and Hearing Therapy at school and recalled her own positive experience attending with fellow classmates. She described how they conducted vocal and hearing training through word games and activities designed by the SLP of her school. The Speech and Hearing Clinic and the Voice and Swallowing Clinic located in Murray State’s Alexander Hall serves a wide variety of neurological disorders and assists individuals of all ages and backgrounds.

“We have a code of ethics for our programs,” explains Ricks. “We do not turn away anyone who needs our help, regardless of their personal background, circumstances or ailment. Once you are trained and certified as an SLP, then you have an obligation to assist the person who’s approaching you for help with their therapy.”

Murray State’s Speech-Language Pathology graduate program spans five semesters, incorporating traditional lectures, seminars and clinical practicum. Studying on the Murray State campus is mandatory in the initial four semesters. Clinical placements in diverse locations may be arranged for the final spring semester. Students interested in placements outside the region collaborate with the clinic director for identification and arrangements.

Each aspect of the graduate study is pivotal to students attaining the knowledge required in professional settings. Graduate students participate in a wide variety of assessment and treatment experiences in the Murray State Speech and Hearing Clinic, hospitals, schools, rehabilitation, skilled nursing and other facilities holding affiliation agreements with the program. Graduate students may choose to complete a thesis track or non-thesis track. Students on the non-thesis track are required to complete comprehensive exams during their second year.

The program emphasizes independent learning, critical thinking and problem-solving skills at the graduate level. Compliance with standards from the Council on Academic Accreditation of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association is ensured through outcome assessments. Ethical principles from the Code of Ethics of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association are integral, demanding the highest standards of integrity in client responsibilities.

“I want to remove the judgment tied to receiving speech language therapy,” says Ricks. “Nobody should be made to feel guilty for attending, whether it’s now or having gone in their childhood. If you broke your arm, you’d attend physical therapy afterwards, and nobody would tease you for that. So why should speech and hearing therapy be any different? It heals, after all.”

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