Dolores E. Battle Diversity Is All of Us President's Interview
President's Interview  |   January 01, 2005
Dolores E. Battle
Author Notes
  • Ellen Uffen, is the former managing editor, features, of The ASHA Leader.
    Ellen Uffen, is the former managing editor, features, of The ASHA Leader.×
Article Information
Professional Issues & Training / ASHA News & Member Stories / President's Interview
President's Interview   |   January 01, 2005
Dolores E. Battle
The ASHA Leader, January 2005, Vol. 10, 4-14. doi:10.1044/leader.PRI.10012005.4
The ASHA Leader, January 2005, Vol. 10, 4-14. doi:10.1044/leader.PRI.10012005.4
In the ninth grade, Dolores Battle was told that “people like her” don’t go to college. Now, Battle (BA—with Honors—from the University of Massachusetts; MS, Buffalo State College; PhD, SUNY at Buffalo), is senior advisor to the president for Equity and Campus Diversity at Buffalo State College.
That’s what you call proving them wrong.
Battle’s day job is only part of the picture. She also works with the New York State Network of the American Council on Education’s Office of Women in Higher Education and serves on several community boards that aim to improve life for people with social and health care needs. She mentors undergraduate speech-language pathology students. She’s president of the International Association of Logopedics and Phoniatrics.
And she’s just taken on a new role. Here Battle tells us about her vision for ASHA and her plans as the Association’s 2005 president.
It takes a certain kind of person to lead an Association of more than 115,000 members. Why do you think you’ll be good at this job?
I think my respect for all people, for individual difference, and individual opinions will help me do a great job for ASHA and its members. Also, I have worked in schools, hospitals, universities, and private practice. I have some understanding of the needs of the professions in all practice venues.
Do you have a particular vision for the Association—a place where you’d like ASHA to be at the end of 2005? How will we get there?
I envision an ASHA that will be stronger in service to members, stronger in providing educational opportunities for members, and stronger in advocating for the needs of those who rely on our professions to improve the quality of their lives. For example, as ASHA advocates for increased autonomy for its members and increases in reimbursement for services, we not only provide a direct service to our members, but also increase access to quality service to the public.
I strongly believe that we should not only set goals for ASHA, but also that all members of ASHA should set their own personal and professional goals. When our members use ASHA resources to help them reach their goals they help ASHA become a stronger organization. ASHA is its members. As the members grow strong, so does the organization.
The position of ASHA president won’t be your first experience with ASHA governance. You’ve been involved with the Legislative Council in various capacities since 1984 and served on many other ASHA boards and committees. Has what you learned from this extensive administrative involvement prepared you for your role on the Executive Board?
Actually, it was in 1980 when I had my first ASHA committee assignment—on the Committee on the Status of Racial Minorities, which developed the ASHA Position Paper on Social Dialects that became policy in 1983.
My ASHA committee work has taught me that it is important to base decisions on fact and evidence. People say that I’m a data freak and that I ask too many questions. I need to know the basis for decisions and the long-term impact of the decision. Evidence-based decision making in an administrative setting is as important as evidence-based research and practice in professional settings—an issue, it might be noted here, that will be of continuing importance to ASHA members and to the Association in the years to come.
While it is true that I have given many years of service to ASHA, what I have received from the Association in terms of personal and professional growth has far outweighed the time I’ve contributed and has prepared me for this very important—and humbling—position.
You begin your new term as president with a new ASHA strategic plan in place. Please talk about the plan—what exactly is it, and how do you perceive its importance to the future of the Association? How will it affect the individual member?
A strategic plan is a statement of the path that an organization will take in its initiatives and directions over a specified period of time. It is important to get all the policies and programs of ASHA moving in the same direction and to make sure that we are putting our fiscal resources and energies in the right places.
The strategic plan identifies a number of areas and issues that are important to the professions and the Association: evidence-based practice, the shortage of doctoral faculty, new fields of practice, the rapidly increasing knowledge and skills set needed to provide quality professional services, international concerns, and cultural and linguistic diversity. These are all issues that have a major impact on the professions and need to be the focus of our attention for the next few years and perhaps beyond. These issues affect the core of who we are and what we do. The strategic plan is a guidepost, a beacon that keeps us on the right path.
Audiology is an important ASHA initiative. As an SLP yourself, how do you plan to communicate to audiologists that they have an important part in the Association? Do you have an audiology agenda for your presidency?
As I look at the issues that are important to audiologists and hearing scientists, I find that many are the same as those that concern SLPs and speech-language scientists. Health care reimbursement, personnel shortages, professional autonomy, doctoral shortages, are issues common to both. As ASHA president, it is my responsibility to represent the entire Association. That means every individual in every profession. I strongly believe that audiologists should be given the opportunity to be represented in all venues and in all issues that affect them and the profession. Although there are fewer audiologists than there are SLPs who are members of ASHA, there are times when it is not fair for the majority to rule. My agenda is to address the needs of audiologists and SLPs individually and collectively, each according to their needs. I believe that we are strongest as an organization when we stand together to advocate for the individual needs of the professions.
Do you have special professional issues that you plan to address during your tenure as president of ASHA? Anything new whose time has come to be put on ASHA’s agenda?
Being president of ASHA is a very peculiar position. You have one year to serve as the official representative of the professions and the Association to a number of constituent groups. One year to make a statement about what you believe is important and what you want to leave as your legacy.
The one issue of personal importance I want to address during my year is the power and importance of “one.” If each of the 115,000 members of ASHA identifies just one issue to support, if each one of us responds to just one call for peer review or just one request for volunteer activity, or mentors just one student—imagine the result.
My year as president will also be a year in which newly elected members of the House of Representatives and the Senate will take office. If each one of us contacts just one congressional representative about just one issue—imagine the power.
If each one of us gives one dollar to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation in support of the research and scholarships so important to our knowledge base—imagine the power.
What’s on the horizon? With new representatives in place in Washington and in the state houses across the country, ASHA has to be doubly on guard so that the progress we have made in past years is not eroded under the guise of fiscal belt-tightening. We have to watch to make sure that the campaign promises that have been made to fully fund education and special education and to improve access to health care are not forgotten now that the votes have been counted.
Speaking of new things on the horizon, ASHA has recently announced plans to sell the current National Office building in Rockville, MD, and construct a new, bigger building not far from the present site. How will this benefit the membership?
The building in which the National Office is presently housed was constructed in 1976 and a new addition was added about 15 years ago. Since then the membership has more than doubled. The services ASHA provides to its members have quadrupled. The original building and its addition were not designed for our new high tech world and the way we currently do business in the National Office. Not only will members benefit by having a new environmentally friendly and technologically capable building, but they will benefit by having a modern, cost-efficient building.
What about issues that are ongoing and still of significant concern? For example, ASHA has long been committed to maintaining the concept of diversity in the professions and the Association. It’s also been one of your major personal and academic issues. Please clarify how you define diversity and how you believe that its present level of acceptance may be broadened even further. In 2005, are there still challenges to maintaining diversity either at the Association level or in the professions?
For too many years “diversity” was a race issue in general and a black-white issue in particular. Now the nation and ASHA have recognized that “diversity” is more than race and ethnicity. It includes national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, age, and a number of dimensions that make each one of us unique. We have policies and laws that ensure nondiscrimination. However, we have much to do to remove practices that negatively affect people because of their membership in a particular group.
Are there still challenges in 2005? Yes, of course. The challenge is for all members to recognize that “diversity” is not their issue, but is our issue. We all have a culture and are all culturally diverse, not just the other guy. Diversity is not just them. It is all of us.
How do you personally intend to meet this challenge?
Being president of ASHA gives me the pulpit to sing the song that I have sung so long. For a long time, it was like singing a solo or a quartet with a few who were the pioneers in cultural and linguistic diversity in our professions. But now the voices are strong; the choir is singing. However, even the choir members need more information and the powerful sense that they can provide effective services for their clients whose culture and language are different from their own. I intend to use my year as ASHA president to continue to advocate for effective service for culturally and linguistically diverse populations. As I meet with members directly and communicate with them indirectly through my president’s columns in The ASHA Leader, my goal will be to increase the understanding of the needs of all of our clients regardless of their culture, regardless of their linguistic background.
You experienced professional life before diversity became a significant concern—did your own experiences influence your current commitment to the issue?
All of our life experiences influence every decision we make and influence who we are. If you are really asking if I had any experiences that influenced my commitment to the removal of externally imposed barriers in life, the answer is, of course, “yes.”
There were a lot of people who influenced me whether they recognized it or not. My ninth-grade guidance counselor who told me that “people like you don’t go to college” had as much influence on my life work as my advisor at the University of Massachusetts, Inez Hagerty, who encouraged me to go to graduate school and get a master’s degree, or my mentors Roland Van Hattum and Eleanor Burgess. In retrospect, it may have been true that low-income, minority “people like me” did not go to college. But I believed in myself and set about to prove that counselor wrong.
The words of my ninth-grade guidance counselor still ring in my ears and are permanently etched in my heart. The words may have been different, but many students from minority groups have had similar experiences. It takes a lot of encouragement and mentoring, a lot of commitment to erase the damage of even a single word of discouragement. It takes a lot to wipe out one hurt or that one negative attitude or that one comment that makes one question one’s ability to succeed. I go back to the power of one. It can be positive as well as negative. I remain committed to making that power be positive.
Talk a bit about your other academic and administrative interests. What work are you currently involved in?
In my current position, I am senior advisor to the president for Equity and Campus Diversity at Buffalo State College. As a member of the president’s cabinet I provide guidance for all segments of the college to reflect the core value of “respect for diversity and individual difference” and the college mission statement which is “to empower a diverse population of students to succeed as citizens of a diverse and challenging world.” In essence, what I do on my job is exactly what I am committed to in the Association and the profession.
I work with the New York State Network of the American Council on Education’s Office of Women in Higher Education to advance women into leadership positions in the academy. I mentor undergraduate speech-language pathology students. All of those I mentor have gone on to graduate schools around the country and have become successful SLPs.
In addition to my work at Buffalo State, I serve on several community boards, all of which have as their goal to improve the quality of life for girls, women, and adults with social and health care needs. While it may seem that there is a lot on my plate, it is all connected and all fulfilling.
What challenges do you see facing ASHA’s professionals and ASHA as an Association in the years to come?
We are in an interesting time. When I was just starting in this profession, there were few professions that were available to women—particularly first generation, low-income, minority women. Nursing, social work, and teaching were all that seemed possible. Now there are more women in college than men. Nearly half of the persons in medical schools, law schools, and first professional degree programs are women. One of our greatest challenges is to be able to attract the best and the brightest scholars, both men and women, to careers in speech-language pathology and audiology and to provide them with the very best academic and clinical education so that they will be able to provide high-quality clinical service to all clients in our ever-expanding scopes of practice.
Related to this is the challenge for us to develop a cadre of researcher-teacher-scholars to further the research base and fill the personnel needs of the professions, in general and faculty in the academic programs, in particular. Only half of doctoral graduates seek academicÿresearch careers. I strongly believe we need to push down interest in research to undergraduate programs, develop research skills in the first graduate degree programs, and provide mentoring and financial support to support a cadre of men and women through the completion of the doctoral degree and provide mentoring support for them toward academic careers.
Are we prepared to confront these challenges?
I believe we are on the right track. ASHA has identified the doctoral shortage to be an area of particular need in the strategic plan. The special support through the focused initiatives allows ASHA to address the issues with vigor and commitment now so there can be solutions to the challenges in the foreseeable future.
Now, let’s be completely positive. What are we doing well?
ASHA does well in many areas. Health care reimbursement for one. The effort put into increasing the number of codes for reimbursement has had a major impact on the service we are able to provide and has improved our stature in the medical community.
The work that ASHA has put forward on school initiatives, especially on No Child Left Behind, is almost legendary not only for children with disabilities but also for all children through work on the relationship between language and literacy.
We are using technology well to improve service to the membership and to the public. Technology was a focused initiative a few years ago. The online journals and e-zines are more recent innovations.
ASHA is doing very well in addressing the needs of audiology. The profession has grown quickly with technological advancements, enhancements of its educational programs and standards, and expanding scope of practice. In spite of many challenges, ASHA works diligently to support the needs of audiology and audiologists.
ASHA does very well in using its members to inform the membership and the public through journals, practice documents, professional development activities, conferences, goods, and services.
In 10 years or so, when members remember Dolores Battle’s presidency of ASHA, what accomplishments would you like to stand out?
I would like members to think I had some role in helping them to value diversity, especially since, in 10 years, if the population projections are correct, there will be no majority racial or ethnic group here.
I hope that the membership will remember my presidency as a period in which our recognition of the importance of diversity included international issues as well as national ones. You know, I am also president of the International Association of Logopedics and Phoniatrics that has over 55 professional organizations around the world as affiliated societies, including ASHA. The recognition of diversity on a larger scale on the part of our members would be an important mark for me.
What do you do when you’re not working? Hobbies? Extra-professional interests?
I love the theater. Buffalo has great theater and we are only 90 minutes from world-class theater in Toronto. I love to travel to get to know other people in their places and spaces. In the summer I play golf and garden. In the winter I read mystery novels whenever I can.
Really, how bad is the snow in Buffalo?
Buffalo and western New York are so much more than snow that we don’t have time to worry about weather.
We are only 15 miles from Niagara Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. We have perfect weather for New York state’s many fine wineries. Lake Erie supports sailing and sport fishing in the summer and, yes, ice fishing in the winter. We are home to two major league sports teams (Go Bills!) and professional soccer, lacrosse, and baseball. We are an active arts community, and have the country’s second largest outdoor art festival and the second largest county fair. We have a world-class orchestra. We have 18 institutions of higher education including a major research center and several major health care facilities.
And the funny thing about snow is that it melts and we just keep on going.
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January 2005
Volume 10, Issue 1