Diversity Taskforce Spring Update

by: Katherine Miller

Task force members ;CSD Diversity Taskforce has a mission to increase the number of underrepresented minority students in audiology and speech-language pathology; to increase awareness among students and faculty about the need fordiversity in the CSD professions; and to provide information to faculty, students, and staff about the importance of minority student support during their programs. Lori Davis, 2nd year SLP student, is delighted with the collaborative environment within the group, stating that every member is respectful of others’ views and comfortable contributing their opinions. “I believe it speaks to how seriously our department is taking the call for change that we have several clinical supervisors as well as members of the alumni chapter on this taskforce,” Lori shared.

2nd year SLP student Lori Davis interacts with a young client.Throughout the fall 2020 semester, the taskforce focused on recruitment and sharing information about CSD programs with minority students ahead of the 2021 admission cycle. Two Zoom-based information sessions were held with underrepresented students. Lori discovered that while many students were aware of deadlines and application requirements, the biggest feature they were seeking was personal support. “I want to build support systems that will make it easier for them to stay in and complete the degree, once accepted into this program,” Lori emphasized. The taskforce plans to continue building relationships and recruiting students from HBCU’s and the UofM’s undergraduate programs.

Fundraising for a CSD Diversity scholarship began in fall 2020 and will continue into May (Better Hearing and Speech Month). The scholarship will be offered to one SLP and one Audiology graduate student from an underrepresented population. Dean Jarmulowicz is also working with Development to locate a corporate sponsor for the scholarship.  

The CSD Diversity Taskforce plans to become more active in the Memphis area so that underrepresented elementary and high school students can gain exposure to professionals in the field who look like them. Relationships are being developed with local middle and high schools to arrange for CSD programs to participate in career day activities. The task force also plans to have virtual information sessions in the summer and fall to share information on CSD graduate programs with prospective students.

Lori says that her biggest takeaway from her involvement with the task force is that she is not alone. “The Black alumni, whose shoulders I now stand on, never forget and are more than willing to give up their time to make things better.” Dr. Banks believes the task force is truly committed to making changes that will attract more students of color, positively affect graduate education in the CSD program, and help diversify the field.