The Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology at the Health Science Center of the University of Tennessee and the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences at Vanderbilt University have received a grant of $2,399,454 to fund a five-year project addressing the need for diversity in highly qualified professionals in the field of speech-language pathology.
The project, named Project PAL (Preparing Academic Leaders in Speech-Language Pathology to Teach, Conduct Research, and Engage in Professional Service to Improve Outcomes for Children with High Need Communication Disorders), also aims to improve the supply of speech-language pathologists.
Led by Ilsa Schwarz, PhD, CCC-SLP, emeritus professor of the UTHSC Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, along with co-investigators Jillian McCarthy, PhD, CCC-SLP, and Erinn Finke, PhD, CCC-SLP, both associate professors at the UTHSC Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology, and Melanie Schuele, PhD, professor in the Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences at Vanderbilt University.
Dr. Schwarz stated that the project’s admissions committee is seeking six candidates, three at UTHSC and three at Vanderbilt, pursuing a doctoral degree in audiology and speech sciences and committed to promoting diversity and inclusion in the field of speech-language pathology and serving as inspiration for others.
The main goal of this project is to equip these future faculty members with specialized training that enables them to teach, conduct research, and provide culturally and linguistically responsive services to improve the language and literacy skills of children with urgent communication disorders. These disorders include a wide range of both low and high incidence disabilities, underscoring the need for high-quality and intensive language, literacy, and writing assessments and interventions to facilitate social and academic progress.“
Ilsa Schwarz, PhD, CCC-SLP, emeritus professor of the UTHSC Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology
According to Dr. Schwarz, the field of speech-language pathology is currently lacking in both cultural and linguistic diversity. She stated that encouraging previously underrepresented groups to pursue a doctoral degree should improve the language and literacy outcomes of children with urgent communication disorders and reduce educational disparities. To support applicants from diverse backgrounds, 80% of the grant funds will go to program participants, ensuring they receive the financial support they need for success.
„Children with significant communication disorders from birth through school age often require special support such as assistive technology and personalized services from professionals who understand their language, literacy, and writing development needs, as well as the needs arising from different cultural or linguistic backgrounds,“ said Dr. Schwarz. This project aims to prepare a cohort of experts capable of addressing these issues to reduce educational disparities and improve language and literacy outcomes.
Health Science Center of the University of Tennessee