Graduate speech-language pathology program re-accredited

The Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA) recently re-accredited Western Carolina University’s graduate program in speech-language pathology, housed under the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, for another eight years.

The re-accreditation came after a two-day visit by four members of the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), two academic professors and two field practitioners that are certified for accrediting.

Department Head Dr. Bill Ogletree said, “[Re-accreditation] is a good learning process. It keeps the program as tight as it can be. It helps to make your program better.”

The CAA, under ASHA’s authority, conducts these program re-accreditations to make sure every university that has a graduate program in speech-language pathology is providing an education that meets its standards.

Ogletree said that it is up to each program to meet those standards, which can change from year to year.

WCU’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders works endlessly on an annual self report to ASHA to show what improvements the programs has made to better meet the standards.

After the length of the program’s re-accreditation is up and a site visit is near, the program must conduct a large report detailing and encompassing everything from each annual report. Often programs will invite in an industry professional or academic to participate and contribute in assembling this large report.

During the two-day site visit with academics and professionals trained by ASHA, they read and evaluate the report, pull student files, evaluate curriculum and syllabi, and also interview students and faculty.

If the site visit team feels that the program has improved then they recommend to the CAA that the program receive re-accreditation.

In WCU’s graduate program in speech-language pathology, the maximum eight-year re-accreditation was granted. Since the program received its initial five-year accreditation in 1992, it has received the maximum eight years ever since.

“Having that maximum eight years really helps to show what a great program we have and also helps with things like recruiting. If you don’t get re-accredited, then you are placed on probation, which is not a good thing,” said Ogletree.

The re-accreditation comes for a two-year graduate program that boasts a 100 percent employment rate upon graduation and houses about 65 students currently. Out of 300 program applicants last year, only 30 students were accepted.

While trained to be speech-language pathologists, students enter a wide range of fields from hospitals and rehabilitation facilities to schools and private practices.

Ogletree called speech-language pathology a “lifespan profession,” meaning that a professional will be able to work with young children on speech or swallowing therapy as well as mid-life and elderly people who might have had a stroke or a head injury.

Ogletree is proud of his department faculty and staff as well as his students, who have combined their skills and determination to make sure that WCU’s graduate program in speech-language pathology remains accredited for another eight years.