From 2019 the Speech-Language Pathology Program has been going through a planned phase of growth, aligned with the program and College mission, and keeping up with accreditation standards. This process has facilitated the achievement of student learning outcomes. We have been successfully following our strategic plan since 2019 and making progress on all programmatic areas including curriculum development, faculty recruitment, retention, and development, research, and excellent student outcomes among others. Emerson College has been providing continuous support in terms of faculty hiring, financial backing, and strategic planning, allowing a healthy operation of our programs in on ground and distance learning modalities.
At the end of the previous strategic planning cycle we engaged in the process of reviewing our strategic goals and our future direction, in part driven by the rapid growth of our distance education program. We established a plan of how we wanted to grow as a department, what resources we need in terms of human, infrastructure, and financial resources to accomplish our goals. We have employed a backward design in establishing our goals and plans, starting with a primary focus on student learning outcomes and maintaining the highest standards in the preparation of SLPs.
Aiming for academic excellence, we identified key staffing needs to successfully support our growing student body and maintain the highest educational standards. To that end, we mapped out a revised organizational chart, emphasizing positions that can span programs and modalities, as well as providing opportunities for employees at different levels and areas of expertise. We have added several department members, including administrative staff, faculty, and clinical instructors to support the clinical, academic, and operational components of the Speech@Emerson program, as well as ensure that it remains fully integrated and aligned within the department. The College has been consistently supportive of our program and approved new positions, despite an ongoing hiring “hold” due to financial concerns related to COVID-19. We expect to conclude this phase of hiring by the end of the Spring 2021 semester. Moving forward we aim to revisit the processes and compensation for the role of convenors, align hiring practices across full-time and part-time staff and faculty to increase diversity, as well as identify administrative tasks within Speech@Emerson that can be shared by department members for appropriate compensation.
We recognize that as trends within the profession change, we need to review and revise the way we train and prepare students to become certified and licensed SLPs. Therefore, one of our core strategic goals is to increase diversity of the profession and provide reflective, equitable, and culturally humble education to all qualified students. This is articulated in our Departmental Statement on Racial Equity. To support the process of ensuring equitable admissions practices for all of our programs, we hired a faculty liaison for graduate admission in 2020 to focus on reviewing and revising admissions processes. This liaison has been working in conjunction with both Graduate Program Directors (GPDs) in identifying factors that may contribute to enhance diversity within the department and help us build a diverse student body. Roughly 50% of students enrolled in Speech@Emerson identify as white/non-Hispanic, which stands in stark contrast to the population of SLPs across the nation, which is >90% white. We aim to expand that level of outreach and enrollment of BISOC in the on-campus graduate and undergraduate programs, too. We are working on processes to recruit students from underrepresented groups into the undergraduate program via community colleges and high school programs in areas with larger BISOC populations in order to establish a reliable process to successful graduation and careers in SLP for individuals from underrepresented groups. We are also developing a mentorship program that will support all students while they are enrolled at Emerson, as well as maintain connections with our alumni in a “community of mentors” model created by Dr. Tuesda Roberts, Emerson’s Director for Faculty Development and Diversity. Spring 2021 marks the first time that formal faculty training on teaching a diverse group of students is available to Speech@Emerson facilitators, which will help align all instructors within our programs to our central mission of inclusive and reflective pedagogy.
To better align our academic and clinical educational activities with the multi-cultural, multi-linguistic professional world our graduates will encounter, we have been reviewing our syllabi and teaching approaches through the lens of inclusive and anti-racist pedagogy. We have also developed interprofessional education opportunities. Through these, our students have been able to engage with faculty and students from other allied health professions for discussions of clinical cases. We have also strengthened our support for faculty and student-led research, including establishing annual cohorts of thesis students, creating processes for students to access funds for conference attendance/presentations, and developing summer research opportunities for undergraduate students via a paid summer program for students from underrepresented groups to model pathways to research careers in CSD and increase diversity in this area.