Pediatric organization creates graduate scholarship in speech-language pathology

Tom Joudrey
January 18, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Amidst a national reckoning over racial justice, the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development is advancing its commitment to diversity and inclusion by establishing a scholarship at Penn State that will benefit graduate students from underrepresented backgrounds in the College of Health and Human Development.

The new scholarship will channel support to master’s-level graduate students who have distinguished themselves through academic excellence in the field of speech-language pathology in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. The center’s gift of $275,000 will be matched by Penn State’s recently concluded Educational Equity Matching Program, yielding an endowment of $550,000 that will generate financial resources in perpetuity.

As an extension of the award, recipients will be granted the option of undertaking an externship within the Schreiber Center, creating a bridge to experiential learning in an outpatient-care setting.

The new endowment is an outgrowth of the Schreiber Center’s longstanding commitment to serving vulnerable populations. It was founded in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County in 1936 by community leaders in response to the polio epidemic. Since then, the organization has evolved into an independent, nationally recognized pediatric rehabilitation facility — one of only six in the country — that provides outpatient physical, occupational, speech and behavioral therapy to children and young adults. It now serves more the 4,000 clients annually from 10 counties across central Pennsylvania.

Recently, the organization redoubled its commitment to mitigating disparities in care and fostering an organization that better reflects the diverse populations it serves. Its new initiatives include connecting with national associations representing professionals of color to expand its hiring pool; conducting outreach in local school districts to affirm the professional aspirations of young people; strengthening clinical affiliations with historically black colleges and universities; and drawing on job training programs that are equipped to attract people of color into every department and its management team.

James DeBord, who has served as president of the center since 2012, prioritized the initiatives as new data revealed inequities in the field of speech therapy. For instance, as of 2019, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association reported that only 8.3% of its more than 200,000 members identified as racial minorities, indicating a discrepancy between patients and practitioners that has the potential to impact quality of care.

DeBord was already keyed into Penn State’s status as an educational leader in training the next generation of speech-language pathologists, as the largest proportion of the Schreiber Center’s practitioners held degrees from Penn State’s program. He saw an opportunity to bolster the resources that the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders had at its disposal to recruit and train aspiring speech-language pathologists from underrepresented backgrounds.

“Throughout our history, Schreiber has always tried to provide services to some of the most vulnerable children in our community,” DeBord said. “Our mantra is we will serve every family who needs us, and we want every child we see to reach their fullest potential. But in the past — and even still today — we have not achieved the diversity in our field that would best benefit our clients. By endowing this graduate scholarship at Penn State, we are taking a long-overdue step to advance equitable access to training in outpatient pediatric therapy services, with the long-term goal of creating a pool of speech-language pathology experts that reflect the communities they serve.”

Though DeBord is keenly aware that scholarships in higher education are no panacea for the systemic injustices that have obstructed the professional advancement of minoritized populations, he saw that creating a permanent pipeline for diversity would deliver immediate progress that would have a cumulative downstream effect.

“The college’s speech-language pathology program continues to pioneer interventions that are having a transformative effect on augmenting communication,” said Craig J. Newschaffer, Raymond E. and Erin Stuart Schultz Dean of the College of Health and Human Development. “However, assembling the resources that are needed to recruit and retain top-level graduate applicants from diverse backgrounds is always a challenge. The Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development Educational Equity Graduate Scholarship represents a major expansion in our capacity to secure talented applicants from across the full spectrum of candidates. The fact that the scholarship comes with a build-in externship opportunity only magnifies the impact this gift will have. We are deeply grateful to the Schreiber Center for its generosity and leadership in making all these advances possible.”

The Schreiber Center’s gift will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more, visit the “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence” website.

 

  • Schreiber Center

    Schreiber President James DeBord said an endowed scholarship for speech-language pathology students at Penn State is a significant step in making Schreiber’s staff more reflective of the community it serves.

    IMAGE: Courtesy of the Schreiber Center
  • Schreiber Center

    A speech-language pathologist meets with her young client at the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development in Lancaster, PA.  

    IMAGE: Courtesy of the Schreiber Center
  • Schreiber Center

    A speech-language pathologist meets with her young client at the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development in Lancaster, PA. 

    IMAGE: Courtesy of the Schreiber Center
  • Schreiber Center

    A speech-language pathologist meets with her young client at the Schreiber Center for Pediatric Development in Lancaster, PA. 

    IMAGE: Courtesy of the Schreiber Center
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Last Updated April 15, 2021