May 31, 2013

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU Offers Clinical Doctorate in Speech-Language Pathology

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University has become the third United States-based institution of higher learning to offer a Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology (SLP-D). Other colleges and universities offer the research-driven Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), as opposed to the application-driven clinical doctorate. 

“It is cutting edge, and we are being asked by many programs nationally to share our design and curriculum,” said Dr. Karla M. Hull, interim vice president of academic affairs.

The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved VSU’s request to establish a Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology within the James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education at its May meeting. The first group of students will likely be admitted into the program — which will be delivered in the new Health Sciences and Business Administration Building — during summer 2014. The objective is to prepare them as advanced practitioners and future faculty in the field.

Dr. Corine Myers-Jennings, head of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, said that several factors led the university to purse a clinical doctorate in speech-language pathology, including unanimous consensus in the academic world of the need for such a program and demand from department graduates. She added that department faculty believed the timing and the conditions were finally ideal for VSU to develop the clinical doctorate program.

The Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology program will build upon the university’s existing nationally accredited Master of Education in communication sciences and disorders program, which has graduated over 300 students in the past five years. VSU expects to enroll 20 students the first year of the program, growing to 37 by the third year, according to Board of Regents materials.

Myers-Jennings noted that the Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology is not designed to compete with the Doctor of Philosophy offered at other institutions. Rather, it will address the need of current professionals at the service, administrative, and clinical research levels. There are only two other clinical doctorate programs in the U.S., she said.   

“We have spent many man hours producing a letter of intent and the application,” explained the professor and nationally certified speech-language pathologist. “This process required input from people and programs all over campus, as well as letters of support from the public and the professional community.”

Myers-Jennings said that she and Dr. Robert G. Johnston, professor emeritus in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, initially became aware of the shortage of doctoral trained speech-language pathologists more than a decade ago. They were worried about what might happen to the VSU program after they and their coworkers retire; they wondered who would provide clinical supervision to and educate the master’s degree students in the future.  

“The community has been very supportive of the new Health Sciences and Business Administration Building, and the Doctorate in Speech-Language Pathology program will be housed there with a community clinic,” said Hull. “There will be increased interdisciplinary opportunities and collaborations with South Georgia Medical Center and community agencies. This is an applied, clinical doctoral degree for working professionals who want to continue to study new research-based therapies and learn to be an excellent supervisor of new master’s level therapists.”

The Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology program will be a mix of face-to-face and online instruction, she added. Students will be able to take two classes a semester by coming to campus on a Saturday schedule and completing course activities online.

Myers-Jennings said Hull, who worked as a speech-language pathologist for many years before entering higher education, was instrumental in helping VSU obtain the new clinical doctorate program. She said that Hull ensured the quest for the new program never lost momentum, assisted the team in writing the curriculum, course outlines, and timelines for the program, and also helped make sense of the many documents that were required in the process.

Myers-Jennings said the clinical doctorate would also not have been possible if not for the unwavering efforts of the late Dr. Philip Gunter, who served VSU as provost and vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of the College of Education, and Dr. Julia M. Lee, a professor in the Department of Early Childhood and Special Education and former interim dean of the College of Education.  

Contact Dr. Corine Myers-Jennings at (229) 219-1327, (229) 259-5097, or to learn more.

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NOTE: Approval by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia is the first step. VSU's regional accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, must also approve the new program.