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EMU College of Education speech-language pathology student receives national research award

By Linda Hass | Published December 2, 2014

Mardee Kohlmann and her client use a topic sheet to hold a conversation

Mardee Kohlmann and her client use a topic sheet to hold a conversation

Mardee Kohlmann listens with her heart as well as her ears. It's an ability that enables Kohlmann, an Eastern Michigan University speech-language pathology student, to bring out the best—and often the voice—in others. It's also an ability that EMU has fine tuned to a nationally recognized level.

"Mardee is a passionate, dedicated student with an amazing ability to listen to others and understand what matters most to them. She's also a talented researcher," says speech-language pathology professor Sarah Ginsberg. "Those are among reasons Kohlmann received the prestigious 2014 Students Preparing for Academic Research Careers (SPARC) Award in August," adds Ginsberg, Kohlmann's primary mentor for the highly competitive national award.

Kohlmann is just as complimentary about Ginsberg and Eastern's speech-language pathology program, in the College of Education. "Dr. Ginsberg helped me throughout the process of creating a research study. She put me in touch with other faculty who supported me and helped me realize I'm capable of achieving more than I could have imagined," says the second-year graduate student on track to receive a master's degree in speech-language pathology (SLP) in 2016. "The College of Education pushed me to raise my expectations, creating an amazing educational experience."

This is the fourth SPARC Award that an EMU SLP student has received since 2006. "It's an honor that reflects the caliber of our students, our program, and the College of Education," says Ginsberg, adding that only 10 students across the country are granted the SPARC Awards annually. Award recipients receive up to $1,000 for teaching and research activities.

That track record, and the general caliber of EMU's program, has attracted students far and wide. In fact, Kohlmann, an Ohio native who worked in New York as a special education teacher from 2007-2013, moved to Ypsilanti with her husband in the fall of 2013 when she learned she was admitted to Eastern's program.

"I was thrilled," says the 29-year-old. "Eastern's program has a reputation for challenging coursework, an accessible and supportive faculty, and a system that accommodates non-traditional students—just what I was looking for. The fact that Ypsilanti and the surrounding areas also provided good job prospects was an added perk," says Kohlmann, adding that her husband, a social worker, found employment at an area agency.

Mardee Kohlmann employs the use of phoneme-to- grapheme (sound-to-letter) conversion with her client

Mardee Kohlmann employs the use of phoneme-to-grapheme (sound-to-letter) conversion with her client

Eastern's SLP bachelor of science degree, with optional elementary or secondary teacher certification, and master of arts degree, required for professional practice in the field, prepares students to work clinically in a wide variety of settings.

The master's degree education program in speech-language pathology is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

The Speech and Hearing Clinic, in the John W. Porter building on EMU's campus, provides graduate students with two semesters of clinical practicum before doing two internships at various off campus sites.

"I've already had several hours of hands-on experience at the clinic," says Kohlmann. "My most memorable experience occurred in early October when a father shared his joy at hearing his young son verbally express his feelings for the first time." Kohlmann worked with the 6-year-old, who has cognitive, expressive and receptive impairments, for a semester to strengthen his jaw and lip muscles, contributing to his increased coordination for clearer speech.

She also expects to benefit from off-site internships that will enable her to work with adults and children in different areas of the field. "This will provide me with a full spectrum of experiences. I feel well prepared for my career," says Kohlmann, who plans to pursue a career in healthcare and continue research after graduation.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Kohlmann's prospects—and those of SLP graduates—are very good. The Bureau projects that employment for speech-language pathologists will grow 19% from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations, to accommodate the aging population. The median annual wage for speech-language pathologists, who often find jobs in the healthcare and education industries, was $69,970 in May 2012.[1]

"Eastern's College of Education has lived up to its reputation," says Kohlmann. "I couldn't ask for more."

For more information, visit the Speech-Language Pathology Program's website or contact Janet Fisher, Interim Department Head, Special Education, at jfisher3@emich.edu.

To make a difference in the lives of future SLP Program students, donate to the Speech-Language Program Fund, or contact Rae Anne Yuskowatz, director of development for the College of Education at raeanne.yuskowatz@emich.edu.

  1.  For these U.S. Bureau stats, see: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/speech-language-pathologists.htm