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UM Communication Sciences and Disorders Wins Big at State Competition

By Sarah Sapp

University of Mississippi Communications

Graduate student Emily Culbertson, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, took home the 2021 MSHA University of Mississippi Graduate Student of the Year recognition at the Mississippi Speech-Language and Hearing Association’s annual honors event. Submitted photo

The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Mississippi brought home four of the nine awards given at the Mississippi Speech-Language and Hearing Association’s annual honors event Sept. 2 in Jackson.

Mallory Putnam, a graduate of the program from Hernando, won the 2021 MSHA Outstanding School Clinician honor. Emily Culbertson, a graduate student from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, took home the 2021 MSHA University of Mississippi Graduate Student of the Year recognition. Gina Keene, a speech language pathologist, received the 2021 MSHA Clinical Achievement Award. And Sue Hale, a professor emeritus from the department, received the 2021 Honors of the MSHA.

These winners draw positive attention to their programs and clinics, and to the work going on in the department, said Vishaka Rawool, UM chair of communication sciences and disorders.

“These awards reflect the high commitment and sincere efforts of our graduates, clinicians and current students towards improving the quality of life of individuals with speech, language, hearing, and feeding and swallowing disorders,” Rawool said. 

Putnam’s name will be forwarded as a nomination to the national 2022 American Speech-Language- Hearing Association’s Roland J. Van Hattum Award for Contributions in Schools.

“Mallory Putnam is a graduate of Delta State University and the University of Mississippi and has been a speech-language pathologist for 15 years” said Carolyn Higdon, an Ole Miss professor of communication sciences and disorders and chair of the MSHA committee on honors. “Mallory has worked with both adults and children, and currently works in Desoto County Schools as a speech-language pathologist at Hernando Middle School. 

The Outstanding School Clinician Award acknowledges speech-language pathologists and audiologists employed in a Mississippi school-based practice. These honorees also must be nominated by a school superintendent, a special education coordinator or a speech-language pathology/audiology supervisor.

“While at Desoto County Schools, Mallory advocates for her students and their families by sharing her ever-expanding knowledge of best practices, collaborating with other professionals and by serving as a clinical fellowship supervisor, where she continues to have a lasting impact on both her former supervisees and the populations that they serve,” Higdon said. 

“In addition, Mallory served as the Mississippi Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s State Education Advocacy Liaison for 2020.” 

Culbertson took home a certificate and check for $100 for her accomplishment. She is completing her thesis under assistant professor Hyejin Park in the field of aphasia, the loss of ability to understand or express speech, caused by brain damage. She won first place at the 2021 UM Graduate Research Symposium in the poster category and will be presenting her research along with another project at ASHA later this year. 

“Both her clinical advisers and professors have been impressed with her ability to effectively manage her busy schedule while maintaining straight A’s in coursework and clinic,” Higdon said.

“She has also gone above and beyond her graduate coursework by obtaining additional certifications. Upon graduation, she hopes to work in the geriatric population with neurogenic and swallowing disorders for a few years before getting her Ph.D. to further explore her research interests in cognition and language in adults with aphasia.” 

The Clinical Achievement Award recognizes demonstrates contributions to the advancement of knowledge in clinical practice in speech-language pathology and audiology. Keene has been a speech-language pathologist for 24 years, having graduated from the University of North Colorado in 1997 with her master’s degree in speech-language pathology.

Most recently, Keene has worked as a speech-language pathologist at the Hearing Impaired, Language and Literacy, or HILL, Preschool Lab and co-director of the William Taylor Augmentative and Alternative Communication Lab in the UM communication sciences and disorders department.

“While at the University of Mississippi, she has been instrumental in changing the lives of children and their families,” Higdon said. “Gina was the key player in making the HILL program inclusive by including typically developing children from the Oxford community and the on-campus preschool, Willie Price Lab School.”

She also has worked to collaborate with departments across campus to provide a high level of support for HILL clients and their families while also creating interprofessional practice training for graduate students.

“Gina is an expert in augmentative and alternative communication and has helped broaden the accessibility, availability and learning opportunities for clients, families, and both undergraduate and graduate students in the northern part of the state,” Higdon said. “Gina is a leader in developing effective programming and has trained public school teachers, staff, families, students and colleagues by sharing her expertise and knowledge.”

Honors of the Association is awarded to recognize distinguished contributions to the profession in Mississippi. Hale, who earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from UM, has served as a speech-language pathologist for 40 years.

After completing her graduate studies, she joined the Ole Miss faculty as a clinical supervisor before becoming director of the University Speech and Hearing Clinic. 

After 24 years of service to the university and the Oxford community, Hale joined the faculty of Vanderbilt University at the Bill Wilkerson Center for Otolaryngology and Communication Sciences as an associate professor in hearing and speech sciences.

“Sue retired from Vanderbilt in 2016, but her influence is still felt at Vanderbilt, Ole Miss and in the national field of speech-language pathology today” Higdon said. 

Hale served as president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in 2009 and was awarded the national Honors of the Association in 2016. She is an ASHA fellow and a former vice president for quality of service in speech-language pathology and a former chair of the Council for Academic Accreditation.

She continues to work, both as a lecturer and writer on the issues of clinical education, ethics and counseling. Established in 2014 at Ole Miss, the Sue T. Hale Scholarship is awarded to academically deserving students majoring in communication sciences and disorders.

“Many clinicians and students have worked with or been taught by Sue, but it would be impossible to measure the furthest reaches of Sue’s impact,” Higdon said. 

The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders educates students to serve those with speech, language, stuttering, voice, social communication, hearing or feeding and swallowing disabilities. It also hosts the UM Speech and Hearing Clinic that serves the community at large with speech, language, hearing or feeding and swallowing deficits.

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