CSD: Transformation In the Making

Posted on: October 3, 2013

CSD_Department-2Watching the transformation of our Communicative Sciences and Disorders (CSD) department over the past few years has been inspirational. CSD chair Rahul Shrivastav and his faculty, staff and students set high expectations for the department and they are making remarkable progress on all fronts -- despite a natural disaster this summer from a flash flood that rolled into the lower floor of the Oyer building.

While undergoing a major overhaul of the CSD curriculum to better prepare graduates for the real-life challenges they will confront in their professions, the department also continues to attract new funding for pioneering research along with outstanding researchers, graduate students and Ph.D. candidates. This year we have two Ph.D. students conducting research and three Master's students working on theses.

While I cannot cover all the fascinating research underway in the department, I would like to share a few examples. As you read at the beginning of the school year, Eric Hunter joined CSD as an Associate Professor this fall. Dr. Hunter served as the Deputy Executive Director of the National Center for Voice & Speech (NCVS) from 2008 to 2013 and will continue to serve as Director of the NCVS Archives. He has a B.S. and M.S. in Physics and a Ph.D. in Speech and Hearing Science from the University of Iowa.

Hunter has used his background in physics and acoustics to research all aspects of the voice mechanism. Most recently he has studied gender differences in vocal health, particularly in the teaching profession. He has funding from the National Institutes of Health to study how environmental factors affect men and women differently, particularly for heavy voice users in noisy places, such as classrooms and call centers. This is obviously a research topic that is of interest to all of our teaching faculty, as well as anyone in a communication profession.

Laura Dilley, Assistant Professor with CSD, has several research projects underway with funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders, and the National Institutes on Child Health and Human Development. The focus of her research is on the role of prosody, or the properties of speech associated with voice pitch, loudness and speech rate, to understanding spoken words.

Recent results from the MSU Speech Perception - Production Lab for which Dr. Dilley is the Principal Investigator, suggest that speech prosody can have significant effects on how words are understood. She is also studying how maternal speech can shape the development of speech in children, and how children's speech patterns are unique since most current models used to evaluate children's speech clinically are based on adult speech production.

Brad Rakerd is working on a U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research funded study to better understand how listeners identify the location of a sound source when they are in everyday acoustic environments such as at home or in the workplace.

That's just a sampling of the rich array of research projects in the works among CSD faculty and there are many more that I look forward to sharing in the future.

I mentioned earlier that CSD is transforming its curriculum, which will be fully in place by the fall of 2014. The curriculum will place a much greater emphasis on building experience as problem solvers, leaders, time managers and team members. More classes will be offered online during the summer so students have the opportunity for richer clinical experiences, as well as the ability to participate in the department's study abroad program.

Speaking of studying abroad, next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the CSD Study Abroad program to England, Scotland and Ireland, which was created with an endowment from retired chair Leo Deal. Clearly Dr. Deal was well ahead of many of us in recognizing the importance of opening students' minds to international experiences in their field.

To learn more about the department's graduate programs or how CSD is emerging as an innovator in this field, mark your calendar for October 25 to attend the department's Graduate Informational Session in CAS 147. I welcome the opportunity to introduce you to our outstanding faculty and graduate students.

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