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Saint Mary’s announces master of speech pathology program

| Thursday, April 24, 2014

Saint Mary’s celebrated the blessing and dedication of the Judd Leighton Speech and Language Clinic on Wednesday in Carroll Auditorium. At the event, the College announced that it will soon offer a master of science in speech pathology. 

Leighton, Photo courtesy of Gwen O'BrienPhoto courtesy of Gwen O'Brien

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC), an accreditation institution, approved the graduation program earlier this month, director of media relations Gwen O’Brien said. The program will begin in the fall of 2015, pending accreditation from the Council on Academic Accreditation in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology.

College president Carol Ann Mooney said Wednesday was a day of great celebration for the College. 

“In the spirit of the Sisters of the Holy Cross and their mission to reflect on the signs of the times, discern needs and respond to those needs, the master of science in speech pathology and the Judd Leighton Speech and Language Clinic are our response to a regionally unmet demand,” Mooney said. “We are very grateful to the foundation for this generous gift.” 

The clinic, which will serve local area clients, and the implementation of the new master’s program are both possible due to a $1 million grant from the Judd Leighton Foundation, O’Brien said. Clinic clients will include those whose speech is affected by stroke, dementia, autism and Down syndrome, among other factors.

Jim Keenan, the president of the Judd Leighton Foundation, said the organization is pleased to be able to continue this long-standing partnership with the College. 

“We are also excited by the learning opportunities that this new graduate program brings to the College and its students, and we are delighted that our community will have access to these important services,” Keenan said.

The master’s program will be the only such graduate program offered in northern Indiana and the second proposed graduate program that Saint Mary’s has announced in recent months, O’Brien said. The College has not offered master’s programs since the 1960s. 

Michael Flahive, chair of the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders and director of the master of science in speech pathology program said the profession of speech pathology resonates with the College’s core values of learning, community, faith and justice. 

“With this graduate program and majors like communicative sciences and disorders, nursing, education and social work, we are a community of helpers inclined to work with those facing life’s challenges,” Flahive said. “In northern Indiana, we face a shortage of qualified speech and language personnel in schools and healthcare facilities. It’s my hope that Saint Mary’s graduates will help meet that critical need.”

The clinic will be enlarged and moved to Madeleva Hall, thereby ensuring adequate space for the communicative sciences and disorders undergraduate program and future master’s program, senior Grace Connolly said.

Connolly, a communicative sciences and disorders major, said the completion of the master’s program will continue to allow direct access to services for individuals and families in the community whose lives are impacted by communicative challenges and differences.

“I am especially grateful to witness first-hand what a strong impact the clinic has made on both students and the local community,” Connolly said. “The clinic lets students respond to the complex needs and challenges of the world while developing their own talents.” 

The clinic and future master’s program will also enable the College to meet a regional need for professional training opportunities in speech pathology, Connolly said. 

“In other words, it will help expand the profession by allowing more students to pursue or complete their degrees,” she said. 

Senior and communicative sciences and disorders major Kristine McInerney said her graduating class is the first class to do clinical practicum in the clinic. The clinic itself began hosting clients last summer, with students utilizing the clinic beginning in fall 2013.

“Student clinicians hold one-hour speech language therapy services for clients in both group and individual settings. Students have real-life experiences in assessing and treating clients,” McInerney said. 

For McInerney, the clinic has acted as her second home this year, solidifying her desire to become a speech-language pathologist.

“The clients I work with have taught me more than I will ever be able teach them,” McInerney said. “When I graduate in a few weeks, I know that my some hardest goodbyes when I graduate will be to my clients and my clinical supervisor because of the profound impact they have had on they have had on me. 

“I am very excited that future students will have access to same opportunities that I have been given.”

McInerney said she is grateful for the current program because it gives students the opportunity to start making a difference even before they graduate.

“The program will continue to grow because it excels at preparing students for graduate school and future professions, especially with the new clinic and the masters of science,” McInerney said. “The celebration [on Wednesday] was a way to honor all of the people who have dedicated so much time and effort into making all of this possible.” 

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About Kelly Konya

Kelly Konya is an English major bred on Catcher in the Rye and Roman cornettos.

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