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BW first in NEO with combined BS, master's program in speech-language pathology

Baldwin Wallace is introducing an innovative speech-language pathology program that provides students with a seamless track to earn both bachelor's and master's degrees in five years. The program enables students to accelerate their studies and begin their career as a speech therapist a full year earlier than a traditional format and with a potential tuition savings of thousands of dollars.

Photo of Speech ClinicThe first of its kind in Northeast Ohio, the integrated program offers a pathway for students in BW's undergraduate communication sciences & disorders major to easily segue into BW's master of science in speech-language pathology (SLP) program.

For Dr. Colleen Visconti, program director of the Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology, and professor Christie Needham, chair of the communication sciences and disorders department, the new program is the next step in a series of strategic initiatives that have made BW a leader in speech therapy in Northeast Ohio.

"Some students like the traditional format that requires four years of undergraduate studies followed by two or more years of graduate school," explained Needham. "But other individuals, particularly high-achieving students, like to expedite their studies so they can graduate early. We created this new program especially for them."

Seamless Transition from Undergrad to Grad Studies

"The five-year integrated SLP program is a track within our communication sciences & disorders major," noted Needham. "Interested students meeting certain requirements can apply to the program during the summer between their second and third year.

"If accepted into the program, they'll take graduate coursework beginning their fourth year and then transition directly into the graduate program. They'll graduate from BW with both a bachelor of science and a master of science degree," she added.

Clinical Experiences in Speech, Language, Hearing

Experiential learning is central to the program. BW students, under the supervision of a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist, provide therapy to clients who have speech, language and communication disorders related to autism, articulation, voice, reading, traumatic brain injury, Down's Syndrome, Parkinson's Disease, stroke and concussion through BW's Speech Clinic.

photo ot Baldwin Wallace Speech Clinic student with client"Our Speech Clinic is a pride point for the university," emphasized Needham. "Students in our undergraduate and graduate programs provide free therapy to 500 clients annually. The types of learning experiences our students have in the Clinic are invaluable to their career preparation.

"We supplement this on-campus clinical learning with internships, research and volunteer service with community organizations to give our students a broad range of knowledge, skills and networking contacts," explained Needham.

"Before individuals can become employed as speech therapists, they have to take a Praxis exam as part of licensure. Since the inception of BW's SLP master's program five years ago, 100% of our graduating cohorts have passed the Praxis exam in speech-language pathology prior to graduation," Needham said affirmatively.

Growing Need for Speech-Language Pathologists

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 27% from 2018-2028 - much faster than the average for all occupations.

Visconti believes this career potential makes it an outstanding field of study. "Being a speech-language pathologist is a great mix of the sciences, teaching, technology and helping others. It is a field that has a great deal of opportunity and flexibility. SLPs work in schools, rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, private practices, centers for children with autism and much more. They make a difference across the lifespan and in so many different settings."

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