IMPACT Reveals the Importance of DEI in Speech Pathology and Audiology
Thursday, December 2, 2021
As Boys Town presents more Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) opportunities to our associates, it becomes more apparent that there are always additional avenues to be explored. That's why faculty at the Boys Town Center for Perception and Communication in Children joined forces last year with a new program created by Jessica Sullivan, Ph.D., of Hampton University and Lauren Calandruccio, Ph.D., of Case Western Reserve University called IMPACT (Innovative Mentoring and Professional Advancement through Cultural Training).
Realizing that the fields of Audiology and Speech Pathology are populated by 92% white and 96% female personnel, Drs. Sullivan and Calandruccio decided to create a program that would support diversity in the Communication Sciences and Disorder (CSD) field.
With this in mind, the professors founded IMPACT, an innovative new mentoring program run jointly between Hampton and Case Western Reserve Universities and external collaborations and mentorships with other colleges and research facilities like Boys Town. It aims to engage and support students from underrepresented minority groups interested in CSD as a career path. IMPACT provides a supportive environment for students to explore graduate programs and navigate the graduate school application process. Students also work on building their professional networks and communication skills. In combination, the IMPACT program activities strive to help students feel confident and prepared for success in graduate school and beyond.
IMPACT at Boys Town
Boys Town researchers met the IMPACT program's inaugural class over virtual 'Family Dinners' and provided virtual tours of the laboratories. Students connected with researchers they could identify with and gained exposure to exciting career paths and CSD-related research initiatives through these activities.
Lori Leibold, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Hearing Research and the Human Auditory Development Laboratory, noted that programs like this help train the next generation of scientists and clinicians. “It was a great learning opportunity for all," stated Dr. Leibold. “ Boys Town Researchers were able to support students of color who are pursuing careers in audiology, speech-language pathology, and research. In turn, the students provided our researchers with insight into some of the difficulties they encounter in reaching their professional goals, such as racism, feeling isolated, poverty, opportunities to gain experience, and advocacy. “
Dr. Sullivan pointed out that the virtual tour of Boys Town's research facilities made a lasting impression on the students who attended. “They're working on a presentation for ASHA, and they specifically named some of the Boys Town labs that stuck with them. A year later, they are still talking about Chris Stecker's lab and Karla McGregor's mobile van to do language assessment. It's important to understand how participating in activities like these can spark and change the future of research," said Dr. Sullivan.
Boys Town looks forward to furthering Diversity, Equity and Inclusion within our own Boys Town community and with further virtual and in-person activities with IMPACT scholars. Both Boys Town and Drs. Sullivan and Calandruccio hope that by spotlighting this program, other universities will explore having an IMPACT program of their own for CSD students or similar programs for other career paths and graduate school programs that have under-represented populations.