MISSOULA – It is a brand-new day for the provision of services to Native American and rural populations in Montana. The University of Montana’s Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, in partnership with the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities, has been awarded a $1.2 million grant to provide training to professionals seeking to become competent, certified speech-language pathologists and contribute to the speech, language and literacy needs in their respective rural communities. The grant is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
The innovative project, titled “UM Online University Training for Rural and Equitable Accessibility in Communication Habilitation” and known as UM-OUTREACH, is one of eight proposals selected for funding from a nationwide pool of 30 applicants. Through the provision of unique, accessible and equitable training opportunities, UM-OUTREACH will prepare numerous professionals as they complete graduate training to become certified speech-language pathologists.
Roughly two-thirds of funding from this grant will directly support scholars to attend school and include a generous living stipend, course materials, travel expense and tuition package. In addition, the grant will allow for the technological expansion of the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders graduate program to accommodate UM-OUTREACH scholars. Finally, this funding will aid in the implementation of a unique mentored clinical supervision model to support academic and clinical success at distance locations across the Montana.
The UM-OUTREACH grant will expand graduate programming to include an emphasis on specific knowledge and skills important for successful clinical intervention in rural areas. Training will include sensitivity to cultural and linguistic diversity, as well as tele-health intervention and implementation. For rural and Native American populations in particular, this method of health care delivery can dramatically reduce costs and increase the quality of care provided.
Under the direction of Julie Wolter, associate professor and associate chair of UM’s Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, UM-OUTREACH will be a collaborative project between UM faculty and Martin Blair, executive director of UM’s Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities, which serves as a resource in education, research and service as it relates to the needs of people with disabilities in rural communities.
“This is an incredible opportunity to address the acute shortages of speech-language pathologists throughout Montana,” Wolter said. “With this funding we can provide the necessary clinical services to the disproportionate number of individuals who require these speech, language and literacy services in rural and remote areas.”
This type of funding also has significant implications for an academic department like Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, as well as the University as a whole. Through the collaborative efforts of Wolter, Blair and their team, a unique set of opportunities will be developed and a wealth of expertise can be offered across the state. As such, a larger and more diverse group of qualified, dedicated graduate students will be drawn to UM.
“This grant not only provides unparalleled educational opportunities for students in rural communities with a passion for helping those with communication disorders, but will also lead to filling job positions and addressing rural disparity in speech-language pathology services for Montanans,” said Amy Glaspey, professor and chair of the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders. “It will connect education, employment and rehabilitation and those coordinated efforts will benefit all individuals in rural communities.”
Approximately 30 students graduate every year from UM’s Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders with a Master of Science degree in speech-language pathology, and during the next five years, 16 scholars from rural and American Indian communities will graduate from the UM-OUTREACH program. It is expected that these 16 graduates will become certified speech-language pathologists to serve the communication, speech, language and literacy needs in their respective rural communities within Montana and the West.
For more information on UM-OUTREACH, the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders within the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences at UM, call Wolter at 406-243-2605 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.