ComD Strategic Plan

Background

The aims of a BYU education are that it should be:

  • Spiritually Strengthening

  • Intellectually Enlarging

  • Character Building

  • Leading to Lifelong Learning and Service

Consistent with these aims, the mission of the Department of Communication Disorders is “to advance knowledge and learning in science and clinical practice through research, teaching, and clinical service.” Our learning outcomes are aligned at the course and program level with these aims and the university mission to “assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life.”

Undergraduate students develop a thorough understanding of the nature and development of language, speech, and hearing, and receive an overview of communication disorders. Graduate students achieve competence in speech and language disorders, assessment, management, evidence-based practices, ethics and respect for individuals from diverse cultures and backgrounds. The department strives to establish a foundation for continued learning and professional contribution in local, national, or international arenas through participation in clinical practice and professional conferences.

Strategic Plan

In order to progress in the years ahead, we have developed this document to formulate a strategy to guide our efforts to meet the needs of our faculty, students, the community, and the profession. Possible changes during the next 5–10 years include the effects of becoming a limited enrollment program (LEP), the expansion of knowledge needed for clinical service, increased research areas and collaborations (including the associated resource needs for up-to-date equipment), retirements, changes in staff, shifting space needs, and new teaching models and technology. Some of the priorities we foresee are in the areas of faculty recruitment and development, student diversity, space needs, and our scholarly and clinical contributions to the field of communication disorders.

This document outlines directions and initiatives for the coming decade without providing specific details about their implementation. Documents that compliment this plan and provide more detailed guidelines include those outlining Faculty Expectations and department Rank and Status standards.

Faculty Recruitment

The field of communication disorders faces a shortage of qualified doctoral faculty across the nation. As a consequence, it is essential that we expand our potential hiring pool because of the likelihood of as many as six graduate faculty retirements from our department by 2025.

Our efforts to expand the list of potential applicants for faculty openings includes seeking out LDS scholars at national conferences and establishing relationships with them, which may include inviting them to campus to make presentations or collaborate on research projects. We are also increasing our efforts to encourage our best students to seek degrees from quality doctoral programs, making it clear to them that we are interested in following their progress towards an academic doctoral degree with the intent that they will apply for future faculty vacancies at BYU.

Because our department discontinued its graduate audiology program several years ago, our strategy will be to transfer one of our PhD audiology-focused faculty positions at retirement to a speech-language pathology position. As new faculty members are hired, it will be important to secure the resources to support any lab remodeling or instrumentation setup to provide the new scholar with the infrastructure to be productive.

Faculty Development in Scholarship, Teaching, and Service

The department is committed to supporting new faculty hires to become successful at the third and sixth year reviews and for rank advancement thereafter. This will take the form of mentoring junior faculty by their senior colleagues and ensuring that the citizenship duties for department, college, and university committee work in the early years of their employment are appropriate.

As a department we seek to increase our efforts to support post-CFS faculty. In the professorial track this will include financial and logistical support for professional development leaves in order to increase the quality and quantity of scholarly productivity. Our department has made limited use of such leaves in the past and we will encourage interested faculty members in their efforts to increase the depth and breadth of their scholarly work. We will follow university and college policies in planning and supporting professional development leaves. The realization of this goal will require that we secure the necessary resources to support the leave itself, as well as the hiring of temporary instructors to teach courses while full-time faculty are away from campus.

For the professional track faculty, our department will encourage career development by supporting collaboration and networking opportunities with colleagues at other institutions. We aim to learn from colleagues at other universities and likewise share our best practices at professional meetings.

Given the mandate from the Board of Trustees that BYU be a “very large, national, academically selective, teaching oriented undergraduate university” with “selected graduate programs of real consequence,” the quality of teaching is central to the work we do. Student feedback is collected during mid-course and semester-end evaluations, graduate exit interviews, and alumni surveys. In addition to the data from student evaluations, the university administration encourages the use of peer reviews of teaching. The department will begin to develop processes to regularly evaluate the teaching of each member of the faculty in order to provide constructive feedback with the goal of improving teaching effectiveness. A further goal is to strengthen the ties between the classroom and the clinic so that graduate students can seamlessly apply the knowledge they have gained in didactic coursework to the assessment and treatment of their clients.

Pedagogical methods and technologies have evolved significantly over the last two decades. In order to provide high quality instruction that will stimulate effective student learning, it is important that our department be flexible and innovative in exploring new teaching modalities as they become available. This could include a variety of blended learning approaches that take advantage of the tools and support provided by the Center for Teaching and Learning. Our department will maintain an active dialog with our designated CTL consultant in order to foster ongoing improvement in this important aspect of our stewardship.

As a university program, we should be leading the profession in the investigation and development of alternate service delivery systems. To cite just one example, in other areas of healthcare remote service delivery or ‘'tele-health’' is becoming an increasingly available option in the treatment of individuals with medical problems. Another example would be that many disciplines include the training of paraprofessionals to work under supervision of professionals to increase the efficiency of service delivery. As graduate students leave our program it will be increasingly important to prepare them to serve in supervisory roles in their professional settings. This will include the mentoring of future graduate student interns as well as the oversight of work performed by paraprofessionals.

Student Diversity

We define diversity to include individuals with a varied background in terms of personal characteristics including age, socio-economic status, racial, cultural, linguistic, and ethnic background, gender and sexual orientation, and impairment (when reasonable accommodations can allow for academic, clinical, and professional competence).

The department plans to develop and implement a staged approach to increasing the diversity of its students. First, the department will identify and recruit undergraduate and graduate students through high school and college career fairs and professional conferences located in, or serving, diverse communities in the state. Second, the department will provide academic support for diverse students, including increasing TAs available to all students, starting in the introductory course in the major. These TAs will assist with academic study skills, time management, and a greater understanding of career opportunities in communication disorders. Third, 1-2 graduate scholarships will be offered to support diverse students using departmental and donor funds.

Space Needs

The department has transitioned to a shared laboratory space model that facilitates collaboration and maximizes productivity and resources. The department clinic was remodeled several years ago to improve clinical care and student learning. Future needs include dedicated student study spaces, increased clinical teaching space, and increased laboratory space. The department chair and clinic director are part of the Taylor Building Steering Committee, and will continue to lobby for space via this group, as well as via the McKay School as our college and the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences work together to forward our space requests to the central administration as part of the annual resource planning process.

Visiting Scholars

The department will continue to host a visiting scholar at least once annually. Funds from the Academic Vice President’'s office will be used to support these events. The faculty will identify scholars who will expand student and community exposure to new research and evidence-based treatments in communication disorders. For the benefit of students, preference will be given to those scholars who offer skills and expertise outside the department faculty research areas. These events will continue to be offered to communication disorders professionals across the state, with no-cost CEUs for professional development.

Conclusion

In the words of Danish physicist Niels Bohr, “"Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”" While it is not possible to know in detail the nature of the challenges we will face in 5 or 10 years, it is vital that we continue to innovate and develop as professionals. We are part of a thriving field, and the students entering our programs become more impressive each year. We enjoy infrastructure and financial support that would be the envy of any ComD department in a publicly funded university. The future is bright. We have much to look forward to.