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Students giving voices

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On the list of impressive aspects to note about Augustana is the hilly campus embroidered with academic buildings old and new, the amount of varsity athletes, and the availability of study abroad. Dr. Jakielski, head of the CSD department, would argue that it isn’t strictly the cosmetic, or even the academic, characteristics about this small liberal arts school that make it special; rather, it’s the students themselves.

“I was at the University of Texas and I had a student assistant working with me and she was from Wisconsin. I thought she was incredible. When i took this job here, I realized I had an entire class of students like her,” said Dr. Jakielski. “It the midwest. It’s this Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa area that really has students who work hard. College students here are different and it’s refreshing and I love it.”

This suspicion of midwest students doesn’t go without one piece of strong supporting evidence in particular: the Communication Sciences and Disorders department. Augustana’s department originated at the University of Iowa. Fortunate proximity to the university allowed Dr. John Davis and Dr. Martin Holcomb to bring CSD to the Quad Cities.

For many, the appeal of CSD is the opportunity for a creative approach to therapy; it is crucial, of course, to know the science behind habilitation and rehabilitation, but also to get to know your clients. Junior Paul Samatas was interested in Speech Language Pathology for this very reason; one goal for a disorder can be met in seemingly thousands of ways. “Even if you have six clients with autism working on language or speech goals, they could be completely different from one another, but have the same diagnosis,” said Samatas. What works with one client may fail with another.

Of course, many other schools, large and small, offer a CSD major for students, but it is extremely rare for the major to be accompanied by an on campus clinic with student clinician opportunities. Augustana has the only CSD program in Illinois devoted to undergraduate education. “The average Augustana student is 18 to 22 years old and they are dealing with and helping real people who pay for their services. You’re dealing with faculty members children, faculty members spouses, faculty with hearing loss, as well as community members and other college students,” said Dr. Jakielski. “They have to operate under a serious code of ethics and hipaa. There are things you want to go home and tell your roommates and you just can’t.”

With a full service clinic, Augustana student Clinicians help roughly 85 families a term. The Augustana CSD clinic doesn’t require insurance; families can pay out of pocket for session prices which are significantly lower than other clinics.

With graduation ominously lurking just around the corner, CSD majors will graduate with significantly more clinic hours than competing students from larger research one institutions. The opportunity to begin clinical practice junior and senior year provides students with utter preparedness and sets them apart from the masses. Augustana students working toward graduate school have already made a difference in the lives of their clients without even entering the workforce. CSD assistant Dori Garro’s son, Griffin, has recieved speech and language services at the Augustana clinic for several years. “We have seen tremendous progress in his speech and language with the speech program here in addition to the speech therapy he receives from the school district,” said Garro. “He has drastically improved pronunciation, putting words together in a sentence and understanding of language. I don’t think he realizes he is working when he is here.”

For the benefit of the community and CSD majors, the department has plans to develop a masters program. While traditionally masters programs in this field last two years, Augustana’s attention to undergrad education allows for only one year of additional schooling. “We have lived in the limelight of really strong undergraduate programs around the country. When we become a graduate program, we aren’t going to have that notoriety.  Our goal really is to graduate students to enter the work force as soon as they can,” said Dr. Jakielski. “Because our students get such a good undergraduate education, we can hit the graduate year really hard and get the them the course work and external placements that they need. This way we can get these critical thinking, problem solving, and personable students out into communities as soon as possible.”

Currently, the Betsey Brodahl Building includes classrooms and student-clinician workroom, seven assessment-intervention rooms, an audiology suite, two research labs, a conference room as well as faculty offices. The transition to a masters program will have to include reconfiguration of curriculum and the building itself. With the architecture plans drawn out, Brodahl should tentatively double in size.

Despite popular conversation, Augustana will not become a University. Construction of Brodahl and the introduction of the masters program will, hopefully, be finished in time for the switch to semesters in 2019. While many changes are on the agenda, the CSD faculty is intent on preserving the aspects of the major that have made it so impressive and successful. “we were asked six or seven years ago by a previous dean to start a masters program. It would have been the traditional four year bachelors and two year masters. And we explored it and looked into it, but the bottom line was that it would be at the sacrifice of our undergraduate students— we wouldn’t be able to offer undergrad clinic. Now we can keep the best of what we have.”

The CSD major has given a few students more than they could have ever asked for. Growing up alongside a brother with Autism,  Nick Winter was able to take everything he learned and give back to other children who, as Winter stresses, are different but not less. “Finding your passion means finding something you’re naturally good at,” said Winter. “The great thing is that there is no template. As long as you are targeting the goal, you are completely fine. It could be the craziest things, like, one time we played bags with speech targets. Whatever makes it fun. I say to myself, ‘is it developmentally appropriate, is the kid going to like this, and make it as playful as possible’.”

Students work hard to find topics, games, and activities that will ignite their clients’ curiosity. Being able to read, predict, and connect with their clients is another crucial skill required in the CSD field. As the head of the department, seeing this fall into place with students is the ultimate reward: “We watch nineteen year olds enter the major who see the world as black and white grow into people living in a world that is gray and embrace it. Watching students realize their full potential is really, really exciting,” said Dr. Jakielski.

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