|Cindy Doyen, MS, CCP-SLP|
Communication Sciences and Disorders: The Summers-Only Track
"I am able to apply what I've learned through the summer
to hands-on experience at my job and then apply
my job experiences to the curriculum."
Northern Arizona University offers a unique opportunity to become a speech-language pathologist to individuals currently working as speech-language pathology assistants. It is called the Summers-Only Track in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD). This track allows students to continue working during the academic year while completing their master’s degree.
Speech-language pathologists work with clients across the lifespan who have communication disorders. They work in a variety of settings: schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, agencies, and private practices. Issues they deal with include articulation/phonology, child language and literacy, aphasia, traumatic brain injury, cognition, fluency, motor speech, accent reduction, swallowing, voice, hearing loss, and auditory processing.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association issues the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC) to individuals who have successfully completed a master’s degree in communication disorders from an accredited university, a supervised postgraduate fellowship year, and a national competitive examination in the field.
While CSD's Full-Time Track is a two-year program; the Summers-Only program is a "three years plus one summer" program. The Summers-Only students all work as speech-language pathology assistants or other support personnel in their own particular state, and program acceptance places a strong emphasis on performance in the work setting and prerequisite course grades.
The Summers-Only Track currently has 160 enrolled students ranging in age from 20+ to 60. These students have a special determination, as evidenced by their intense studying during the months of June and July when they are on the Flagstaff campus. The knowledge that they bring from their employment sites is crucial to their success in such a concentrated program format. There are unexpected social benefits: students frequently form strong bonds of friendship that continue after they graduate. Most of the students live in the same complex on campus and enjoy studying and socializing together.
Assistants are allowed to treat clients only under the supervision of a certified speech-language pathologist. They are not allowed to evaluate or consult. Upon graduation, Summers-Only students usually continue working in the school setting, but now they have the skills to evaluate, treat, and consult. They are also eligible to choose a hospital or other medical site for employment.
The employment rate for our students is 100 percent, and employers appreciate the strong clinical emphasis of the NAU program. Site supervisor Marsha Brand of the Gadsden School District in Sunland Park, New Mexico said, “I cannot say enough good things about NAU. I say to everyone who inquires about a degree, 'NAU is my first choice!'” The completion rate of the program and the percentage of students passing the national exam on the first attempt are extremely high.
Currently, the majority of Summers-Only students are from Arizona and intend to remain in Arizona. Given the speech-language pathology shortages that exist in this state, this program not only provides a unique opportunity for an individual to earn a master’s degree, but also provides the state of Arizona with highly qualified speech-language pathologists. Other states are well represented, too: the Summers-Only Track hosts students from across the nation.
Lauryn L. Waits, Class of 2014, said, "What I like best about the Summers-Only program at NAU is the opportunity to focus on school during the summer, and then my job as an ASLP during the fall and spring. I am able to apply what I've learned through the summer to hands-on experience at my job and then apply my job experiences to the curriculum. Both allow me to better serve my clients and be more successful as a student and a professional. I also enjoy the intensity of the four-week courses—this structure is very conducive to learning, retaining, and applying."
The success of this track validates the premise that the most important ingredients for success are the individual's willful determination to reach a goal and the dedication of our professors to helping the student reach that goal.
See the CSD website for more information.