Lauren Calandruccio, associate professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), recently received a grant from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association to create the Innovative Mentoring and Professional Advancement through Cultural Training (IMPACT) program.
IMPACT is a one-year program, initiated in 2020, that provides formal mentoring to undergraduates in communication sciences from underrepresented backgrounds. Its goal is to diversify the professions of speech-language pathology and audiology by supporting students through the process of applying to graduate programs and preparing them for success in their future endeavours. The program provides students with access to diverse professionals in speech, language, and hearing science; speech-language pathology and audiology; research training; graduate school preparation; and participation in a cultural empathy book club.
The program is a collaboration between Calandruccio and Jessica Sullivan of Hampton University, an historically Black university in Virginia, which also participates in the program. It supports 10 IMPACT Fellows, five from CWRU and five from Hampton University. The students from both universities are paired into “empowerment teams,” which Calandruccio and Sullivan hope will facilitate learning, teamwork, confidence and friendship.
According to Calandruccio, the IMPACT program will prepare students for acceptance into top speech-language pathology and audiology graduate programs and build future leaders who understand and embody inclusion, diversity and compassion.
“It is our hope to secure additional funding so that we can continue the IMPACT program long into the future,” said Calandruccio. “Our students are hungry for these types of opportunities. We had a tremendous amount of interest from students to participate in this program, and not enough funding to include them all. These students need mentors that they can identify with and that have lived similar experiences. Through our collaboration with Hampton, we can provide such opportunities.”
Boy Town National Research Hospital, the premiere research facility for pediatric audiology in the United States, and the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders will provide virtual tours of their institutions to students in the program.
According to Ryan McCreery, director of research and Lori Leibold, director of hearing research at Boys Town National Research Hospital, “The IMPACT program will help bring more diversity among our own hearing and language professionals by supporting training for the next generation of researchers and clinicians. We are proud to be a part of this effort and hope to develop similar local programs in the future with the support of the IMPACT program team.”