Mission, Goals, and Outcomes, 2022
Emerson College’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders calls upon our community to join us in support of anti-racist, culturally-sustaining, socially-just, identity-promoting, and inclusive academic and clinical practices. We stand with minoritized friends, family members, colleagues, and neighbors, and commit to social justice and equity across our nation and within our field. We also commit to actively engage in strengthening anti-racist and identity-affirming processes by challenging long-standing processes that perpetuate systemic injustices and violence, as well as barriers to inclusion in our learning spaces and communities.
Much of the work we need to do as a department and as a profession centers on how to affect change. How not to be bystanders. How to use our values of reflective, humble, and selfless listening to better understand existing needs. After all, person-to-person communication is the core of our profession and – for most of us – the fundamental motivation for what we do. So we are committed to keeping the channels of communication open, to reaching out to others and sharing our stories, our emotions, our reactions. To not allow physical or societal barriers to become barriers to human interaction. We believe in the power of conversation among open-minded individuals as a true catalyst for change and will continue to work collaboratively with stakeholders and allies to reshape our communities to be more inclusive, welcoming, and supportive.
However, conversation is not enough. Relying on our core values of reflective and evidence-based practice, we commit to continuous and collaborative learning. Some actions and strategies will take time to plan and implement. It is therefore even more important that we start now.
Below are concrete steps we have already taken, are currently working on, and are planning to pursue.
We have updated these action steps in Fall 2022. You can see the previous years’ action steps here.
Goals and Outcomes
Speech-Language Pathology was ranked by The Atlantic as the 4th whitest profession in the USA in 2013. That stands in stark contrast to the population we serve. We are committed to disrupting pipelines of access that have led to this demographic inequity within our profession. Our goal is to recruit and educate a new generation of SLPs who better reflect the population we serve in clinical practice.
- We have formalized our practice of not requiring the GREs and have committed to not considering them as part of the application process now or in the future.
- Among students who enrolled In our Speech@Emerson online master’s program during 2021 and 2022, roughly 50% self-identify as white/non-Hispanic, over 44% self-identify as BIPOC and/or Hispanic, and the rest did not specify. This distribution has remained relatively consistent since the inception of Speech@Emerson in 2018.
- The cohort of on-campus students enrolled in Fall 2022 includes 33% individuals who self-identify as BIPOC and/or Hispanic. This is a similar distribution to 2021, when 36% of students self-identify as BIPOC and/or Hispanic and remains a significant increase over the 16-17% representation of BIPOC and/or Hispanic students in 2020 or before. We hope that this represents an ongoing trend of increased diversity in the residential student population and that we can continue to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students across programs and modalities.
- We continue to review our admissions practices and data across all phases of the admissions process - application, admission, enrollment - to determine whether BIPOC and/or Hispanic representation changes during any phase. Analysis of our most recent on-campus graduate student cohort shows that 25% of applicants and 30% of admitted applicants self-identified as BIPOC and/or Hispanic, with a final representation of 33% BIPOC and/or Hispanic students in our enrolled cohort. We will continue our thoughtful outreach and community building to ensure that applicants from all cultural-linguistic, racial, or ethnic backgrounds feel that Emerson College is a place where they are welcome, included, and have a voice.
- We are actively recruiting undergraduate students from Roxbury Community College (RCC) via our articulation agreement. RCC has a student population that is 62.4% Black or African American, 21.3% Hispanic or Latino, and 6.51% White. The articulation agreement (Emerson’s first with RCC) will allow students who complete the two-year degree program in Health Professions at RCC to transfer all of their credits into Emerson College’s CSD undergraduate program and continue their studies with Junior standing. This is the first year we are actively engaging with RCC students who are in their first or second year of study at RCC to raise their awareness of speech-language pathology as a potential career opportunity. Through a series of lunch-n-learn events at RCC, as well as online recruiting efforts, we hope to welcome the first RCC students to Emerson in Fall 2023.
- Results from our first comprehensive Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Community survey sent to all enrolled students in our graduate program in 2021 revealed that 83.5% of students across modalities feel well supported in the program. Between 75% (Speech@Emerson) and 100% (residential) students feel that students in their cohort are an important part of their community. In response to the question: “Given my cultural-linguistic background, I saw myself at Emerson when I applied,” 78% of Speech@Emerson students and 87% of residential students indicated agreement or strong agreement. 66% of Speech@Emerson students endorsed feeling heard and seen in the program and 78% of residential students said the same. A high percentage of students in both modalities expressed having an inclusive experience at Emerson (85% of Speech@Emerson students and 89% of residential students), which is wonderful to hear.
- The survey also identified areas of growth. The vast majority of students across both modalities endorsed feeling comfortable providing honest feedback to clinical supervisors within Emerson or in external placements (70%-85%), as well as to faculty/facilitators in mid-term surveys (75%), and end-of-term feedback forms (91%). However, fewer students indicated that they were comfortable providing honest feedback about a bias incident (55%) and a significant percentage indicated being uncomfortable doing so (25%), which is a pattern we did not see in the other feedback categories. Follow-up questions made it clear that students were not sure about how to report bias incidents or that they are protected from retaliation if they do report. Emerson College recently improved and streamlined the process for online reporting via the restructured Office of Equal Opportunity and we will work to make sure that all students, staff, and faculty are aware of this new process and the supports and protections in place for them. We will also continue to provide open forums for students to provide feedback to faculty, staff, and department leadership at various points during the graduate program. We hope this will encourage students to see department faculty and staff as partners in this process. We are grateful for the gift of our students’ trust and pledge to continue listening, reflecting, and refining our practices, so that we can persist in earning this trust.
- In collaboration with faculty and staff across disciplines and departments, we have launched a new major in Health and Social Change. The major is designed for students who want to tackle head-on issues related to how societal and cultural issues affect health, health care, and access. The faculty team working on this new major under leadership of Dr. Robin Danzak received an award via the Inclusive Excellence category of Emerson’s Presidential Fund for Curricular Innovation to develop the core curriculum of this new, interdisciplinary major. We are actively recruiting students and are excited to enroll our first cohort in Fall 2023.
- Dr. Valerie Johnson also received an Inclusive Excellence award from Emerson’s Presidential Fund for Curricular Innovation for her proposal to reframe the First-Year course in our department, called CD193: Introduction To Communication Disorders: Diversity and Differences. The revised course will bring a culturally responsive framework to this intro-level course. Dr. Johnson is also working on aligning the framework and content of the online version of this course, which is taught as a prerequisite via Speech@Emerson. The revised on-campus course is currently being taught and the online version will be taught for the first time in January 2023.
- We have created a working group to develop new coursework on culturally responsive frameworks and practices in our graduate program. The group has identified curricular structures for new coursework in culturally responsive foundations, counseling, and clinical application and we are in the process of developing course content. We aim to roll out the new courses to our residential graduate students in Fall 2023 and the distance education students shortly thereafter. Our goal is to not only meet the requirements of the ASHA/CAA revised accreditation standards regarding DEI and counseling, but to exceed them, so that our students are trained in culturally responsive frameworks for all aspects of clinical practice now and in the future.
- We will continue to integrate culturally relevant resources identified by students, staff, and faculty into our curriculum as appropriate. This resource list includes children’s books featuring protagonists of color in stories that are not primarily focused on the race or ethnicity aspect of their identity. We have also included course content on how to work with interpreters so that our students are better prepared for working individuals and families who come from a different language background.
- Critical review of clinical materials used in our on-campus Robbins Center has continued. All new purchases of materials are made with representation front of mind. We have opted out of business-to-university partnership programs that offer free materials to universities when those materials are counter to our mission. . Similarly, we have updated materials for Dialogic Reading activities to better represent racial and ethnic diversity, and ensured that discussions of dialectical variations are part of clinical experiences.
Faculty and Staff
We understand the importance of increasing the presence of BIPOC faculty and staff in CSD departments to provide diverse perspectives on teaching and learning, as well as positive role models for BIPOC students. We are committed to establishing recruiting processes to increase racial, ethnic, and gender diversity across all positions in our department.
- We are excited that we were awarded a new faculty line in the Presidential Faculty Inclusive Excellence Program and were able to bring Dr. Mili Mathew to Emerson College. Dr. Mathew brings with her a wealth of experience in higher education and an exciting research program focused on linguistic and cultural factors in the production of communicative gestures.
- Our current search to fill a new faculty position to support the newly created major in Health and Social Change, is in the final stages. We are excited by the diversity of backgrounds and professional experiences represented among the finalists from a strong pool of applicants.
- We have revised the language for staff job ads, in order to better align them with our values and the existing language for faculty positions. Our goal is to work diligently to increase representation of underrepresented groups across all staff and faculty positions in our department through iterative revisions of language in job postings, thoughtful recruiting outreach in multiple modalities and forums, as well as leaving postings open longer, in order to provide more opportunities to qualified candidates from underrepresented backgrounds to apply.
Training and Support
We continue to collectively reflect on established policies, processes, and behaviors for students, staff, and faculty and revise them, so that they better reflect our anti-racism values and mission.
Faculty and staff resources and supports
- We are continuing to provide and require additional training on inclusive pedagogy from an anti-racism perspective for all faculty and staff, including those who teach part-time in our on-campus or online modalities.
- We are also planning diversity and inclusion-focused continuing education opportunities in spring 2023 for clinical supervisors who work with our graduate students in community placements.
- We are continuing to take advantage of training opportunities to maximize accessibility of content and discussions during class and meetings. That includes learning how to use tools for captioning during discussions, strategically providing access to recordings, and enhancing accessibility of documents.
- We will continue to make space for following up on these conversations in our regular department meetings at least once every semester to ensure that our conversations and actions on the topic of racial equity become part of our everyday practice.
Student resources and supports
- We have adjusted our orientation programs for both the on-campus and distance-education modalities to focus on open communication, equity, and social justice and to better represent the diversity of our student populations.
- We will continue to create ongoing fora for graduate students to follow up on the information of these orientations. Establishing a system of regular meetings is intended to keep the channels of communication open and provide organic opportunities for students to connect with each other and with department faculty/staff in order to foster an inclusive learning community.
- We have increased the opportunities for students to engage in self-reflection and wellness activities throughout the program, integrated with classroom and clinical teaching. We have also adjusted the reflection prompts for students during their regular meetings with the advising team as part of the portfolio process so that it includes not only reflection on past experiences, but also a clear articulation of how those past experiences will impact prospective goal setting.
- Our students continue to benefit from collaborations and community engagement via Emerson’s chapter of the Bilingual Language and Literacy Investigative and Networking Group (BLLING). We have also continued outreach for students and alumni to register with the CSD-specific mentorship and networking group via Emerson Emerge, which also provides a list of outside resources via ASHA, SLPs of Color, and other organizations that can help provide mentorship, community building, and support for BIPOC students, alumni, and clinicians.
- A group of students have recently come together to re-invigorate a previously defunct Graduate Student Organization, now called the CSD Student Advocacy Board. The purpose of the CSD SAB is to provide another path for students to have their voice heard by the CSD faculty and staff (including both on-campus and Speech@Emerson modalities) through student representatives. It also aims to serve as a social hub for students to network, bond, and support each other. This group is designed to raise awareness of student concerns, ask questions on behalf of students, and provide positive feedback regarding the CSD programs to CSD faculty and staff as well as foster a sense of community among students.
These are not goals, but action steps. The word “goal” implies that there is a way to “arrive” at a final destination. “Steps” imply an ongoing journey. We commit to taking step after step after step toward a more just and racially equitable future. We commit to changing culture, starting with ourselves. We also commit to updating these goals annually to remain accountable for our progress.