Celebrating SLP: 50 Years of Green and Gold

The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders will celebrate 50 years of the speech-language pathology program at this year's Alumni Weekend on September 21

Amy Knezevich - 13 September 2019

"A career in speech-language pathology challenges you to use your intellect (the talents of your mind) in combination with your humanity (the gifts in your heart) to do meaningful work that feeds your soul. I am proud to be a member of what I consider to be the best profession on earth."

For Megan Hodge, professor emerita of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD), that quote, from an award acceptance speech she made 10 years ago, sums up how she still feels about the profession after 50 years. She was part of the very first University of Alberta speech-language pathology class intake in 1969, and spent most of her academic career working in the same program.

"For me, one of the greatest joys of working in the CSD department was getting to know some incredibly passionate, intelligent, creative and dedicated students who continued on to become stellar, caring professionals making life-changing differences in the lives of their clients and mentoring their colleagues to do the same. Another joy was working with the ever-helpful support staff-a team of superstars who seemed to have magical powers in solving problems, often on very short notice," said Hodge (BSc SPA '73).

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the speech-language pathology (SLP) program at the U of A.

The Bachelor of Science in Speech Pathology and Audiology (BSc SPA) program launched in 1969. Since then, the program has grown and changed. The official Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology was established at the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine in 1976, and was renamed the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in 2013.

In 1986, the department initiated the Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology program (thesis-based), with the first MSc SLP graduates completing in 1988. The BSc SPA program transitioned to a Master of Speech-Language Pathology in 1992, and then to a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology (course-based, as the thesis-based program was discontinued) in 2005. The SLP program has achieved a form of accreditation four times, first in 1998 and most recently in 2017.

The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders' MSc SLP program is now one of the largest in Canada, and is housed within the only free-standing Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine in North America. The program has a quota of 56 students admitted per year, and has a strong in-house clinic serving both adult and child clients.

"The UAlberta speech-language pathology program has been the mainspring of clinical practice and research in speech-language pathology in western Canada. The CSD department has trained SLPs who are innovative, thoughtful and patient-centred, and have served communities in Alberta and across Canada. CSD has also fostered important research that has contributed to best practices in the field and continues to be a leader in the field," said Andrea MacLeod, chair, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

The department proudly features state-of-the-art lab facilities, the Corbett Hall Speech-Language Clinic where students have led assessment and treatment for clients of all ages since it opened in 1973, and the Corbett Hall Early Education Program (CHEEP) that provides exceptional preschool programming to children diagnosed with developmental delays.

The department and its SLP program trains the next generation of rehabilitation professionals, providing the best clinical experience thanks to partnerships with clinics, institutes and hospitals in Alberta, with many of the clinical placements hosted by alumni of the program.

Lu-Anne McFarlane, associate chair, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, is another graduate of the program who found herself returning to it as an academic staff member.

"The CSD department is a place that has supported my growth in all areas, professionally and personally. There is support in managing challenges and recognition for the importance of the work we do," said McFarlane (BSc SPA '84, MSc SLP '92).

"The department has been a second home to me for most of my adult life. I entered as a student in 1981 and have been working in the program since 1989. This program has provided me with the opportunity to learn alongside dedicated, talented and compassionate students, and staff. It has been a privilege to keep in contact with so many graduates through my role in the Department; they have become important clinical resources, respected colleagues and treasured friends," said McFarlane.

There is a lot to celebrate on this milestone anniversary of the program, with more than 1,300 alumni of the department going on to impact the lives of Albertans and beyond.

"There is no way to overestimate the contributions our program, staff and students have made in the lives of children, adults and their families and their communities. Communication is central to human connection and our program emphasizes research and scholarship without ever losing sight of supporting quality of life for our clients," said McFarlane.

Please view the timeline graphic for all of the major department highlights.

Celebrate SLP and win!

Let's celebrate the 50th anniversary of the University of Alberta's speech-language pathology program together with the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders!

Share our SLP milestones infographic (links below) on Facebook or Twitter and comment with your favourite University of Alberta memory and you will be instantly entered to win 1 of 5 prizes:



Winners will be announced on the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine's Facebook and Twitter accounts after Alumni Weekend. Contest open to all University of Alberta students, alumni and staff/faculty.