Degrees in speech pathology again available
Al Yonovich will lead the new
Until recently only three U.S. states – Alaska,
Rhode Island and Montana – didn’t prepare their own speech
Now the list is down to two. University officials recently announced the
creation of UM’s new Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders.
Part of the School of Education, the new program will offer an undergraduate
degree in communicative disorders and a master’s in speech pathology.
UM offered a speech pathology program in the late 1980s, but it was cut,
along with several other departments, as a cost-saving measure. Since
then, Montana schools and hospitals have experienced a shortage of qualified
speech therapists, and schools are required by law to provide language
or communication therapy for students with disabilities who need it.
“Schools across the state have very large numbers of vacancies for
speech pathologists – typically 20 to 30 a year,” said Rick
van den Pol, director of UM’s Division of Educational Research and
Service. “Last spring when the Faculty Senate reviewed the University’s
proposal to revive the program, we had a gentleman from Eastern Montana
come in, and he said his school had to spend something like $100,000 per
year for part-time services. It’s required by law, so there is just
this giant need across Montana.”
UM President George Dennison said the people of Montana have suffered
from a lack of speech and language pathologists.
“Even more tragic is that children have suffered,” Dennison
said. “Lack of services will forever follow those young people who,
if they had received professional assistance, would have been able to
correct most if not all of their delays. The citizens of Montana –
most importantly the children – will be better off with this program
back in place here at the University. Because of its critical importance,
we intend to sustain it this time.”
Van den Pol said UM tried three times previously to bring the program
back. Evidently the fourth time was the charm. State lawmaker Wanzenried
spearheaded a $700,000 appropriation from the Legislature to jumpstart
the program. UM also applied for and received a $353,000 grant from the
state Board of Regents for equipment and technology.
The department will begin teaching undergraduate students in fall 2008.
A master’s degree is required in order to be licensed as a speech-language
pathologist in Montana. “If you earn this degree, you are going
to get a job,” van den Pol said. “This is a high-demand career.”
The department will be housed in UM’s Curry Health Center and will
require six or seven new faculty hires. Al Yonovitz, an associate professor
of speech pathology at Charles Darwin University in Australia, has been
hired to lead the developing department.
“We are encouraging high school seniors, students uncertain about
their career choice and mature-age students interested in investigating
a rewarding career in speech-language pathology to consider us,”
Yonovitz said. “To meet the needs of those who already have a bachelor’s
degree, we will offer a bridging program, with courses being offered through
face-to-face classes taught during weekends and evenings, as well as incorporating
instructional television and Web-based delivery.”
Yonovitz is a licensed audiologist with an international reputation. Before
working in Australia, he was a faculty member at Conley Speech and Hearing
Center of the University of Maine at Orono and the Speech and Hearing
Institute of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
He also was the principle audiologist at the University of Maine, where
he visited American Indian communities in New England.