Advocacy & Outreach: Student Work on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Issues in CSD

by Shelley Ardonne

In 2019, 28.6% of Americans identified as a member of a racial minority group, and 18.1% identified as Hispanic or Latino (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020). In contrast, only 8.5% of members of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) identify as racial minorities and 6.5% as Hispanic or Latino (ASHA, 2020). This is troubling, as there is a lack of education on multicultural issues in the speech and hearing field. To address this, Dean Linda Jarmulowicz created the Diversity Taskforce within the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders. “The Diversity Taskforce was created in an effort to share the fields of audiology and speech language pathology with underrepresented students in undergraduate programs,” Dr. Banks, the Task Force chair, shared. “Our incentive is the lack of African American, Hispanic, and Asian professionals in our field when compared to the percentage of minority patients/clients receiving our services.” Since the group’s creation, student members of the task force have been working to provide support for students currently in the program, and raise awareness of issues related to diversity in the field of CSD.

Alise Holloway is a first-year audiology student and a member of the Diversity Taskforce. She shared, “I am a recipient of the first CSD diversity scholarship, so I am a product of the task force's diligent work. I am working with the task force because I want to be a part of another student’s journey. Whether they choose to attend the University of Memphis or not, I would love to get CSD professions more well known in diverse populations.” Alise contributes to the work of the task force in her role as a student liaison. She provides a student perspective at all meetings and helps with any directives targeted to the students in the program.

The taskforce presented their work at the TN Academy of Audiology and Speech Language Pathology’s annual conference. Members of the taskforce discussed the importance (and lack) of diversity in CSD and the barriers often encountered by minority students. The talk also highlighted changes made by national organizations such as ASHA and AAA. The recipients of the first CSD Diversity Scholarship, Ebony Berry and Alise Holloway shared their perspectives on applying to graduate programs and the importance of the task force to minority students. The task force then presented the results of their student support survey which was sent to students and professionals in the CSD field. The survey showed that both students and professionals believed that the key factor in support and retention of students is faculty support and mentorship. Graduate assistantships, health resources, and peer support also ranked highly among priorities for students. 

“As chair of the taskforce, my experiences have ranged from excitement at the idea of taking on such a tremendous project to feeling quite overwhelmed by all that needs to be done. However, the relationships that we have formed with each other have made the experience incredible,” said Dr. Banks of her time with the Diversity Taskforce. “I think the diversity of our task force itself shows that different people putting the effort into working together to bring about change to this field and to our school speaks volumes!”

Diversity Taskforce

Members of the Diversity Taskforce presented remotely at TAASLP about their work. From L to R, they are: Dr. Sarah Warren, Ebony Berry, Alise Holloway, Dr. Deborah Moncrieff, Clinical Prof. Julie Marshall, Dr. Sandy Banks, Kajuanda Reynolds, Lori Davis and Morgan Rogers.

Thank you to Dr. Banks, Morgan Rogers, Alise Holloway, and Lori Davis for providing information and photographs for this article. 

Additional Sources:

American Community Survey. (2020). ACS Demographic and Housing Estimates. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?q=United+States&tid=ACSDP1Y2017.DP05&vintage=2017&layer=state&cid=DP05_0001E

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2020). 2020 Member & Affiliate Profile. Annual Demographic & Employment Data. Retrieved October 19, 2021, from https://www.asha.org/siteassets/surveys/2020-member-and-affiliate-profile.pdf.