Step by Step, ASHA Begins Governance Change In the association world, ASHA occupies a unique position—a large organization that represents a broad discipline encompassing two distinct but related professions. There is diversity, too, within audiology and speech-language pathology—a broad array of settings including hospitals, schools, universities, research laboratories, private practices, clinics, rehabilitation facilities, skilled nursing facilities, early ... ASHA News
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ASHA News  |   July 01, 2007
Step by Step, ASHA Begins Governance Change
Author Notes
  • Marat Moore, managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be contacted at mmoore@asha.org.
    Marat Moore, managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be contacted at mmoore@asha.org.×
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Professional Issues & Training / ASHA News & Member Stories / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   July 01, 2007
Step by Step, ASHA Begins Governance Change
The ASHA Leader, July 2007, Vol. 12, 16-30. doi:10.1044/leader.AN4.12092007.16
The ASHA Leader, July 2007, Vol. 12, 16-30. doi:10.1044/leader.AN4.12092007.16
In the association world, ASHA occupies a unique position—a large organization that represents a broad discipline encompassing two distinct but related professions. There is diversity, too, within audiology and speech-language pathology—a broad array of settings including hospitals, schools, universities, research laboratories, private practices, clinics, rehabilitation facilities, skilled nursing facilities, early intervention centers, and more.
Given this diversity and size—currently more than 127,000 members—what is the best way to govern ASHA and make effective decisions to meet the distinct and differing needs of members, while representing the discipline as an integrated whole?
That question faced ASHA’s leadership in 2005 as it considered changes in ASHA’s governance structure, which has been in place in its basic form since 1969, when the membership was about one-tenth of its current size. After reviewing 23 governance models, a Committee on Governance Structure and Process comprising veteran ASHA volunteer leaders chose a model that addresses the needs of each profession while preserving the integrity of ASHA’s focus on the integrated discipline of communication sciences and disorders.
“We didn’t feel that our current governance model is broken,” said ASHA President Noma Anderson. “Instead, we were looking to the future of ASHA and the professions, and wanted to find ways to improve our governance system so that we could work more efficiently and make effective decisions.”
“Association governance presents many challenges,” added Ray Kent, chair of the governance committee. “No system is perfect, but associations must strive to find a governance model that is satisfying to volunteers and that addresses the ever-changing issues our members face. ASHA’s new model of governance was developed in that spirit.”
Why Change?
A little history comes in handy here. Since 1969, ASHA has divided its governance between a 13-member Executive Board (EB) and a 150-member Legislative Council (LC). Ten years ago, ASHA moved in the direction of greater “shared governance” by creating separate profession-specific assemblies within the LC.
The system worked well enough, but it was large and complex, slowing decision-making. At the same time, external changes were affecting communication sciences and disorders (CSD) and by extension, ASHA. Technology began to transform the way ASHA’s volunteer leaders communicated and made decisions. Scopes of practice broadened, the knowledge base of the discipline deepened, and evidence-based practice grew in importance in CSD.
The committee explored the implications of these changes for ASHA, and identified best-practices governance models in the nonprofit world; the vast majority, the committee found, relied on a single governing board. Following its extensive review, the committee recommended a change from a bicameral to a unicameral governance structure—a larger and more representative Board of Directors (BOD) to replace the current EB and two smaller, profession-specific advisory councils with voting representation on the BOD to replace the current LC. The LC adopted the new model in March 2007.
Julie Noel, speaker of the LC, is one of many councilors who supported the change. “In March 2007 the Legislative Council took a leap of faith and voted itself out of existence,” she said. “That historic move affirmed the LC’s recognition of the need for—and more importantly, the value of—committing to a model that would help ASHA be more flexible in its decision-making, more response to member needs and external opportunities or threats, and more strategic in its future planning for the professions.”
“The LC’s support for the new governance model is the beginning of the future for ASHA.”
Why did ASHA change from a bicameral structure—with the larger Legislative Council and the smaller Executive Board—to a unicameral structure with a BOD as the governing arm aided by profession-specific advisory councils? The short answer: efficiency and effectiveness. In a survey, volunteer leaders and members said that ASHA’s shared governance—a rarity in the nonprofit world—posed difficult challenges. With two governing bodies, for example, determining which body has decision-making authority can get complicated.
The move to one governing body streamlines decision-making and allows the new BOD more time to gather member input and respond more quickly to member needs. With more time, the board can engage in extended consideration of high-priority issues and gain deeper understanding, which more likely will result in effective decisions. There will also be greater accountability for decisions—an important factor in this era of heightened scrutiny and transparency. A strong emphasis also will be placed on ensuring that qualified members are nominated and elected to the BOD.
“The new model will allow audiologists and speech-language pathologists to have their professional needs addressed and their perspectives heard,” Anderson said. “One of the most important benefits to members will be their direct lines of communication with the decision-makers on the Board of Directors.”
Two Professions, One Discipline
The expanded BOD will have representation from both professions and yet be freer to focus on the larger issues facing the discipline; specifically, the BOD will have four audiology-related positions, four positions related to speech-language pathology, and seven positions that could be filled by a member from either profession. BOD members in the profession-specific positions will be elected by members of that profession.
The chairs of the Audiology Advisory Council and the Speech-Language Pathology Advisory Council—elected by colleagues in their respective councils—will be voting members of the BOD. Members of the advisory councils will represent their states and other constituencies and will identify, discuss, and rank members’ issues of concern and make recommendations on those issues to the BOD.
The BOD will include a president; president-elect; past president; 10 vice presidents with portfolios; chair of the Audiology Advisory Council; chair of the Speech-Language Pathology Advisory Council; and ASHA’s executive director as ex officio.
The 10 vice president portfolios are academic affairs in audiology; academic affairs in speech-language pathology; audiology practice; speech-language pathology practice; standards and ethics in audiology; standards and ethics in speech-language pathology; finance; planning; government relations and public policy; and science and research.
The changes reflect a division of some of the current portfolios. For example, ASHA now has one vice president for academic affairs; the new model will divide that elected office by profession so that full attention is given to academic issues for both professions, given the differences in the entry-degree programs.
Also, under the current governance system, one vice president has the joint portfolio of administration and planning, with a focus on the ASHA budget and the work of the Financial Planning Board. The planning area, however, has grown in size and complexity with strategic planning activities, environmental scans to identify emerging professional trends, and member data analysis; the new model divides that office into two portfolios, one for planning and one for finance.
To ensure that vice presidents’ titles reflect their areas of major responsibility, the names of the current vice presidents for quality of service, professional practices, research and technology, and government relations have been changed in the new model.
The desired outcomes from the new governance model, as stated in the report prepared for the LC by the Ad Hoc Committee on Governance Structure and Process, are:
  • Increased autonomy for the two professions

  • Increased ability of members to identify and discuss issues

  • Greater membership input into governing actions

  • More efficient decision-making

  • Fewer bureaucratic barriers

  • Greater responsiveness

2008: The Transition Year
The governance model will be phased in gradually, with the new structure fully in place by Jan. 1, 2009. This summer, the LC will elect interim chairs and vice chairs of the Advisory Councils, and the two council chairs will join the new BOD in January 2008, along with the EB members elected this fall. As part of the transition, all LC members elected this fall for the 2008 term will serve as members of the Advisory Councils next year.
In 2008 the governance transition will move to center stage, with the current Legislative Council being dissolved on Jan. 1, 2008, and nominations and elections scheduled in 2008 for positions on the new 16-member BOD and the new advisory councils, each of which has 53 members (see sidebars on pages 16 and 17 for the list of leadership positions and the transition timeline). The members of the advisory councils will be geographically diverse, one from each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, NSSLHA, and an international representative.
The new governance model represents a fresh start, rather than an attempt to reshape ASHA’s current governance model.
As Anderson noted, “There will be no incumbents in our first elections next year. We hope that members will nominate themselves or their colleagues as our elections process moves forward through next year.”
Governance: Current and Future
Current Governance Model

In effect through Dec. 31, 2007

Executive Board: 13 members
  • President

  • President-Elect

  • Past President

  • Vice President (VP) for Academic Affairs

  • VP for Administration and Planning

  • VP for Governmental and Social Policies

  • VP for Professional Practices in Audiology

  • VP for Professional Practices in Speech-Language Pathology

  • VP for Quality of Service in Audiology

  • VP for Quality of Service in Speech-Language Pathology

  • VP for Research and Technology

  • Speaker of the Legislative Council

  • Executive Director (ex officio)

Legislative Council
  • 150 members with representatives elected by members in each state (based upon number of ASHA members) and international representatives

  • LC members from each profession make up the Audiology/Hearing Science Assembly and the Speech and Language/Speech Science Assembly

New Governance Model

Fully Implemented by Jan. 1, 2009

Board of Directors: 16 members
  • President

  • President-Elect

  • Past President

  • Vice President (VP) for Academic Affairs in Audiology

  • VP for Academic Affairs in Speech-Language Pathology

  • VP for Audiology Practice

  • VP for Speech-Language Pathology Practice

  • VP for Standards and Ethics in Audiology

  • VP for Standards and Ethics in Speech-Language Pathology

  • VP for Finance

  • VP for Planning

  • VP for Government Relations and Public Policy

  • VP for Science and Research

  • Chair of the Audiology Advisory Council

  • Chair of the Speech-Language Pathology Advisory Council

  • Executive Director (Ex Officio)

Advisory Councils

Each Advisory Council has 53 members: one for each state and one for DC, NSSLHA, and international members. The councils are:

  • Audiology Advisory Council

  • Speech-Language Pathology Advisory Council

New Governance Model: Timeline

Spring 2007: Governance Transition Committee established

September 2007: LC holds elections for the interim chairs and vice chairs of the Advisory Councils.

December 31, 2007: The current LC and associated LC-specific working groups will cease to exist.

>January 1, 2008:

  • The interim Advisory Councils begin their work. All 2008 LC members will serve as members of the 2008 Advisory Councils.

  • The new BOD begins to conduct its business. The interim Advisory Council chairs will serve as full voting members of the Board of Directors.

  • Nominations will be solicited for members to serve staggered terms on the Advisory Councils.

  • Nominations will be solicited for the new vice president for academic affairs in audiology, and either a new VP for finance or a new VP for planning (depending on the preference of the vice president for administration and planning elected during the current election cycle).

January–June 2008: Interim Advisory Councils will identify issues of concern to members and make recommendations for the 2009 ASHA budget.

August 2008: Elections for the new Advisory Councils and BOD.

January 2009:

  • New Advisory Councils begin their work.

  • New members of the BOD take office.

A Governance Vision for ASHA

“To create a governance structure and process that is responsive to ASHA member wants, needs, and trends; serves members and the professions efficiently and effectively; meets current and future governance challenges; and is satisfying to those members who are involved in ASHA governance activities.”

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July 2007
Volume 12, Issue 9