Community Colleges: Vital Partners on the Road to Diversity Among the challenges confronting the professions of speech-language pathology and audiology is the need to recruit and retain racial and ethnic minority students. ASHA’s membership includes approximately 120,000 speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and speech and hearing scientists, of whom about 7.1% identify themselves as members of a racial minority (ASHA, 2005a). ... Academic Edge
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Academic Edge  |   April 01, 2006
Community Colleges: Vital Partners on the Road to Diversity
Author Notes
  • Shelly S. Chabon, is a professor in Rockhurst University’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and chair of the ASHA Board of Ethics. Her current research and teaching interests include multicultural issues in speech-language pathology and health ethics. Contact her at shelly.chabon@rockhurst.edu.
    Shelly S. Chabon, is a professor in Rockhurst University’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and chair of the ASHA Board of Ethics. Her current research and teaching interests include multicultural issues in speech-language pathology and health ethics. Contact her at shelly.chabon@rockhurst.edu.×
  • Ruth E. Cain, is assistant dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at Rockhurst University. Her current research interests include faculty roles and diversity issues in higher education. Contact her at ruth.cain@rockhurst.edu.
    Ruth E. Cain, is assistant dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at Rockhurst University. Her current research interests include faculty roles and diversity issues in higher education. Contact her at ruth.cain@rockhurst.edu.×
Article Information
Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Professional Issues & Training / Academic Edge
Academic Edge   |   April 01, 2006
Community Colleges: Vital Partners on the Road to Diversity
The ASHA Leader, April 2006, Vol. 11, 14-17. doi:10.1044/leader.AE1.11052006.14
The ASHA Leader, April 2006, Vol. 11, 14-17. doi:10.1044/leader.AE1.11052006.14
Among the challenges confronting the professions of speech-language pathology and audiology is the need to recruit and retain racial and ethnic minority students. ASHA’s membership includes approximately 120,000 speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and speech and hearing scientists, of whom about 7.1% identify themselves as members of a racial minority (ASHA, 2005a).
While the number of practitioners from diverse backgrounds remains small, an increasing number of individuals in the United States who need speech, language, and /or hearing services are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Efforts to attract students of diverse races and ethnicities into the professions must be directed where these students are located (ASHA, 2005b).
Data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the Community College Research Center indicate that community colleges enroll 45% of all undergraduate college students and they enroll the highest proportion of minority students. In 2002, 43% of African-American undergraduate students, 58% of Hispanic students, and 49% of American Indian students were enrolled in community colleges. Although 86% of students in community college associate degree programs expect to eventually earn either a bachelor’s or graduate degree, only 30% transferred to a four-year institution, and only 17% earned a bachelor’s degree within eight years of initial enrollment.
Community colleges may prove to be vital partners in reversing the current under-representation of individuals from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in the professions of speech-language pathology and audiology.
An increase in the number of such students in communication sciences and disorders programs will inevitably enhance the learning experience for all students and ultimately improve the quality of services provided to ethnically diverse persons with communication disorders.
Goals and Objectives
At Rockhurst University, we initiated an effort to recruit students of color into the professions of speech-language pathology and audiology by strengthening partnerships with local community colleges in which over one-third of the students are members of racial/ethnic minorities. Through these partnerships we hoped to develop awareness among faculty, staff, and students and their families of career options in the practice of speech-language pathology and audiology.
The specific objectives were:
  • to increase opportunities for racial/ethnic minority students at community colleges to learn about the professions of speech-language pathology and audiology, and

  • to recruit qualified racial/ethnic minority students to the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Rockhurst University.

We were motivated to launch this project because of our history of limited success in attracting students from local two-year public colleges, our recognition of the risk of continued inaction, and our appreciation of the value to our faculty and current students of diversifying our student body.
Prior to the inception of this project, there was little interaction between members of Rockhurst’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and individuals at local community colleges.
Project Development
In the fall of 2005, with support from the ASHA Office of Multicultural Affairs and with the assistance and approval of Rockhurst’s director of transfer admissions, we approached six local two- and four-year colleges, all of which enrolled a higher percentage of students from diverse backgrounds than our own university, about establishing a partnership.
After conveying information about the project goals, we conducted meetings on four of the campuses, with one or several faculty or staff members of each college.
As the project began, it quickly became apparent that many faculty and staff on the community college campuses were not familiar with the discipline of communication sciences and disorders, the nature of the work, or the academic requirements for professional practice. They were also unaware of the educational opportunities that existed for study in the Kansas City area.
We tailored discussions to specific groups, but a consistent theme was to determine priorities for and methods by which community college staff could promote career opportunities in speech-language pathology and audiology, as well as assist the students in making choices about their academic majors and determining how they might pursue them.
We also sought to identify key personnel to implement project activities and guide actions at the partnering institutions. This was critical to the implementation of the program because of earlier reports that students from racial and ethnic minority groups emphasized the importance of school counselors’ recommendations on their career decisions (Saenz, Wyatt, & Reinard, 1998).
Given the large numbers of Hispanic students enrolled at the community colleges, we anticipated a request for general career materials in both Spanish and English. Interestingly, however, although community college personnel welcomed the materials, they did not view them as necessary. Instead, they expressed the need for a combination of paper and electronic information designed specifically for these institutions and their students (e.g., course equivalency forms), as well as direct interaction with individual students through participation in existing community college courses.
A Multi-Step Partnership
The key features of the multi-step partnership that emerged include the following:
  • initiation of ongoing contacts with key staff to review goals and outline program activities

  • appointment of student mentors from Rockhurst to meet with community college students

  • participation in community college courses in which the professions could be promoted (e.g., pre-nursing, education, psychology, introduction to rehabilitation professions, and sign language)

  • establishment and maintenance of a schedule of communication (calls, letters, e-mails) with students from these classes who expressed an interest in the professions

  • dedication of a Web site for students enrolled in community colleges. (this may include information about ASHA and the professions, department events, faculty and staff contacts, admissions requirements and dates)

  • development of course equivalency forms to facilitate a smooth transfer between and among institutions

  • preparation of materials in the primary language of students enrolled at the community college and their families

Recommendations
Approximately 360 community college students participated in project activities, and we have received approximately 70 requests from community college students for additional information about the communication sciences and disorders (CSD) program and 27 formal inquiries regarding transferring to the university from students interested in CSD. Seven CSD pre-majors have been admitted to the university. Although these numbers may appear relatively low, they represent a significant increase from past years.
This has not been an easy journey. Issues related to varying levels of personal and time commitments, working within institutional arrangements for program articulation, securing financial assistance for students, and wavering administrative support are realities that need to be addressed. HIPAA regulations posed delays in and, occasionally, barriers to instituting career shadowing, which was part of our original plan.
Future progress may be facilitated and consistent communication and collaboration enhanced if incentives (e.g., course releases, faculty stipends) are available to community college personnel. Courses may be offered for credit at the home campuses that may be used toward the major at the lead university. If feasible, it may be helpful to designate an advisor from the lead institution to work with staff from the two-year colleges.
Classroom-based contacts, video samples, and other professional interactions may compensate for limitations created by HIPAA regulations. A steering committee or advisory board comprising representatives from the state Department of Education and campus administrators may provide focus and direction in establishing and monitoring responsibilities of each program. These strategies give added stimulation and encourage cooperation and collaboration between and among institutions.
Although we have taken steps toward the recruitment of historically underrepresented minority students, we have not reached our destination of diversity. We have made much progress in advancing our support for other community institutions and for reaffirming our commitment to multicultural outreach.
In this way, we are creating an academic unit that serves the educational needs of the community and encourages the inclusion of students from ethnically and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
References
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2005a). Highlights and trends: ASHA member counts. http://www.asha.org/research/memberdata/
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2005a). Highlights and trends: ASHA member counts. http://www.asha.org/research/memberdata/×
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2005b). Minority student recruitment, retention and career transition practices: A review of the literature. Retrieved Jan. 10, 2006, from www.asha.org/about/leadership-projects/multicultural/recruit/litreview.htm
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2005b). Minority student recruitment, retention and career transition practices: A review of the literature. Retrieved Jan. 10, 2006, from www.asha.org/about/leadership-projects/multicultural/recruit/litreview.htm×
Saenz, T., Wyatt, T., & Reinard, J. (1998). Increasing the recruitment and retention of historically underrepresented minority students in higher education: A case study. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 7(3), 39–48. [Article]
Saenz, T., Wyatt, T., & Reinard, J. (1998). Increasing the recruitment and retention of historically underrepresented minority students in higher education: A case study. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 7(3), 39–48. [Article] ×
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April 2006
Volume 11, Issue 5