When people think of Speech-Language Pathology, what comes to mind? Students around campus are quick to answer: speech therapy in schools, often involving someone helping a younger child with a speech impediment.
At Pacific University in the College of Education there are two schools: the School of Learning and Teaching, and the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders. One program in the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders is Speech-Language Pathology that deals with a wide array of communication and swallowing disorders.
The masters program began in 2012. Last May, the first class of speech-language pathologists graduate, and this year marks the beginning of the program’s third cohort.
“Our program last year had 300 applicants for 35 spots,” Assistant Professor and Director of Clinical Education Ellen Reuler said. “We look at every applicant as a whole as we evaluate students to get in.”
The program provides students with job opportunities upon graduation because the demands for speech-language pathologists are high. Last year, the hire rate upon graduation was 100 percent, and everyone received a career in the profession. Yet in order to actually practice speech-language pathology, being accepted to the two-year masters program is required.
Sophomore Taylor Baker finds herself utilizing the undergraduate minor in Communication Sciences and Disorders, and preparing ahead of time to apply to the masters program; the competitive aspect of the graduate program is her driving factor.
Once accepted to the Speech-Language Pathology program, the student has to participate in required clinical practicum. Students will receive experiences, from preschool to the elderly, which will subject them to many speech disorders.
Speech-Language Pathologists are able to work with a wide variety of people. Some conditions may involve people who have had strokes, traumatic brain injuries, voice disorders due to clef lip and neck cancer, memory, swallowing, language, and speech problems. Speech-Language Pathologists are not only qualified to work in educational settings such as schools, but medical facilities and private practices as well.
Jennifer Ross, a 2014 graduate from the Speech-Language Pathology program has been working with preschool students in Vancouver, Wash. since last May. She works with young students who have communication delays. This can range from speech sound disorders to autism.
“I gained so much from not only the coursework [at Pacific], but the variety of backgrounds of the professors in my program,” Ross said. “Another factor was the opportunity to have practicum in a variety of settings as opposed to an on-campus clinic. This allowed me to try out different settings and build professional connections, which eventually led to my current position.”
As for the future of the program, Dean of the College of Education Leif Gustavson is excited about the possibility of getting an online post back program in speech-language pathology. This would provide students who may have not completed the pre-requisites to get into the program, a chance to catch up and do the requirements for the school.
“What’s exciting about the [post back] program is the international potential,” Gustavson said. “Students from all over the world would be able to take the program if we move it online.”
Although the Speech-Language Pathology program contains a diverse group of students now, the education department wants it to become more recognized worldwide. And as the program continues to develop and grow, the College of Education wants to spread awareness about the benefits of joining the Speech-Language Pathology program.
“There have been programs that come up that offer students some loan forgiveness and some incentives if they work in that district for two years,” Rueler says. “This varies around the country and what’s available at that time. The great thing about speech-language pathology is that you know you will get a job in your field.”