Five States Introduce Students to Grassroots Advocacy Students from the four accredited communication sciences and disorders graduate programs in Kansas joined with Lt. Gov. Jeff Coyler (center) and State Sen. Jean Schodorf (third from right) at the Hill Day for students sponsored by the Kansas Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Students in communication sciences and disorders (CSD) are having ... Grassroots 101
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Grassroots 101  |   October 01, 2011
Five States Introduce Students to Grassroots Advocacy
Author Notes
  • Carol Polovoy, assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader , can be reached at cpolovoy@asha.org.
    Carol Polovoy, assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader , can be reached at cpolovoy@asha.org.×
Article Information
Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Grassroots 101
Grassroots 101   |   October 01, 2011
Five States Introduce Students to Grassroots Advocacy
The ASHA Leader, October 2011, Vol. 16, 28-29. doi:10.1044/leader.GR.16122011.28
The ASHA Leader, October 2011, Vol. 16, 28-29. doi:10.1044/leader.GR.16122011.28
Students from the four accredited communication sciences and disorders graduate programs in Kansas joined with Lt. Gov. Jeff Coyler (center) and State Sen. Jean Schodorf (third from right) at the Hill Day for students sponsored by the Kansas Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Students in communication sciences and disorders (CSD) are having lunch with elected representatives, visiting legislators’ offices, and contacting lawmakers regularly in grassroots advocacy efforts funded by a unique ASHA grant program.
Recognizing that students who take part in grassroots advocacy efforts are more likely to stay involved throughout their professional careers, ASHA grants fund state speech-language-hearing associations’ efforts to involve CSD students in the associations’ local advocacy activities (see The ASHA Leader, Sept. 22, 2009).
Many state associations and the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA) encourage CSD students to learn about, participate in, and assist in government relations activities now and as professionals. NSSLHA, in fact, requires participation in state or federal advocacy efforts in all levels of its Chapter Recognition Program.
Five state associations—in Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, and Tennessee—received 2011 student advocacy grants. To help the state associations and NSSLHA chapters get started, ASHA has prepared an advocacy day toolbox with timelines, CEU information, letters, flyers, briefing plans, scripts for role-playing, tips, sample talking points, and other how-tos.
Kansas
The Kansas Speech-Language-Hearing Association (KHSA) brought students from the state’s four accredited master’s programs (Fort Hays State University, University of Kansas, Kansas State University, and Wichita State University) to Topeka in March. The students had been nominated for the program by the chairs of their respective graduate programs.
The KSHA lobbyists briefed the students on legislative issues, a parent advocate provided information on autism legislation, and students had lunch with representatives and senators invited to attend, where they discussed pending legislation on autism coverage and hearing aid reimbursement.
Several students also attended a Senate Education Committee meeting, where they were acknowledged by Sen. Jean Schodorf, a speech-language pathologist who chairs the committee. Photos with the lieutenant governor rounded out the day.
“We formally surveyed the students who attended, and their overall impression of the event was positive,” said Douglas F. Parham, KSHA president-elect. “Many of the students stated that they would attend a similar event in the future. More importantly, they expressed an increased interest in legislative issues as a result of their experiences.”
Michigan
The Michigan Speech-Language-Hearing Association (MSHA) invited students to participate in its annual Capitol Hill Day in May. The successful effort (which included an award to the NSSLHA chapter—Grand Valley State University—with the most participants) included visits with elected officials to discuss MSHA priorities. High on the priority list are Medicaid coverage issues, the importance of services to individuals with autism or traumatic brain injury, and the roles and responsibilities of SLPs.
Although the event was successful, MSHA cautions other states about the event’s timing, which coincided with the end of the academic year and did not mesh well with students’ schedules. MSHA also advises state associations to involve professors—who set exam schedules—in planning the activities.
“The students who participated were very enthusiastic and learned quite a bit about effective advocacy,” said Elaine Ledwon-Robinson, MSHA president. “The event is important in preparing students to assume a role as leaders and advocates for our professions.”
Tennessee
The Tennessee Association of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (TAASLP) has been working to strengthen student participation in its annual “Day on the Hill” for a number of years. With funds from the ASHA grant, TAASLP members visited CSD students at five universities, providing information on the legislative process and current issues of concern. In Tennessee, these issues include insurance coverage for children’s hearing aids and telemedicine, hearing aid dispensing by universities, and formation of a separate licensing board by hearing aid dispensers.
Almost 50 graduate and undergraduate students then participated in the annual “Day on the Hill” in late March with members of TAASLP’s Legislative Committee. Armed with talking points and a legislative briefing from the TAASLP lobbyist, students were matched with experienced TAASLP members and visited more than 40 legislators in one day. Students are enthusiastic about returning next year.
Illinois
The Illinois Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ISHA) expanded on its student education program, in which ISHA representatives provide information on grassroots advocacy and the state legislative process to students at four Chicago-area universities: undergraduates at Elmhurst University and graduate students at Northern Illinois, Rush, and St. Xavier universities. ISHA representatives also invited students to participate in its unique Legislative Pairing Project, in which participants make contact at least twice a year with a designated state legislator from the participant’s home district. More than 150 students attended the information sessions, and 89 joined the Pairing Project; ISHA is conducting a survey to measure the success of the program and to guide future initiatives. Students also are being incorporated into advocacy activities at ISHA’s annual conference, and a student representative will be added to the ISHA Legislative and Regulatory Affairs Committee.
“We were very pleased with the number of students at each college or university presentation, and also with the willingness of each program to educate its students about legislative advocacy,” said Sharon Brown-Sweeney, ISHA vice president of legislative and regulatory affairs. “We hope to include more university programs next year.”
Minnesota
The Minnesota Speech-Language Hearing Association (MSHA) is taking the small-group approach to training. MSHA leadership will continue meeting with faculty and students at the state’s five graduate CSD programs. MSHA also brings students to state government offices, where the students receive legislative training and then join with MSHA members for visits with legislators. Thorough and ongoing communications will be key to continuing the new initiatives, and participants will share their experiences at the MSHA annual meeting.
Through the combined initiatives, at least 232 students received grassroots advocacy training so far this year. State associations with creative, innovative ideas for engaging CSD students in advocacy are encouraged to apply for 2012 grants. Information and applications are available on ASHA’s State Leaders advocacy webpage.
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October 2011
Volume 16, Issue 12