UM News Service
MISSOULA – Dr. Julie Wolter, a University of Montana professor and chair of the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, recently was named a Fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association during the national organization’s annual convention in Boston with 18,000 attendees.
The fellowship recognizes Wolter for her years of research in language and literacy, as well as for service to ASHA and the field of speech-language pathology.
ASHA is made up of more than 198,000 members who are speech-language pathologists and audiologists working in settings such as schools, hospitals and universities throughout the United States.
A highlight of the convention was the annual ASHA Awards Ceremony, where select individuals are bestowed with the association’s highest honors.
“It is deeply humbling and truly an honor to be recognized by my peers and be part of a ceremony where individuals whom I admire are recognized for their efforts and the hours they have dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with spoken and written communication disabilities,” Wolter said after the awards ceremony.
Wolter has focused her research career on how children with speech and language challenges – such as those with developmental language disorders – go on to develop improved reading and writing abilities.
She recently received a multimillion dollar National Institutes of Health grant to study the development of reading and writing in children with speech and language challenges. She works with local school districts to implement and develop screening practices to identify children who present language and/or literacy challenges as early as kindergarten.
Wolter is the daughter of Richard and Elaine Wesnick of Billings and graduated from Billings Central High School. She moved back to Montana in 2015 after living out of state for more than 20 years.
She was recruited to help establish and grow UM’s Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, which was not available in the 1990s when Wolter wanted to study to become a speech language pathologist in her home state. She instead earned her master’s degree at Western Washington University and later earned her doctorate at Wichita State University in Kansas. Those degrees are now available through UM’s Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences program, including the newly implemented Ph.D. program that Wolter developed. Prior to joining the faculty at UM, Wolter was on the faculty at Utah State University for 10 years.
“I am committed to this incredibly innovative program in Montana to help train individuals to become speech-language pathologists, regardless of where they live and whether they can move to Missoula,” Wolter said.
In the ASHA Fellow nomination letter, which was written by her UM faculty colleagues, students and peers throughout the U.S., Wolter was called “a champion who is committed to ending rural disparities in education and health care, which is reflective of U.S. Department of Education funding that she has secured for students who train in rural areas through the distance graduate program that is part of her department.”
In the nomination letter, a UM graduate student wrote, “I write this from my home in Baker, Montana, 568 miles away. I have never taken an on-campus class from UM, but I assure you, thanks to the leadership, vision and true grit of Dr. Wolter, I will graduate in 2019 as a speech-language pathologist and be able to offer services to the frontier and rural schools of southeastern Montana as a local provider. This would have been impossible only a few short years ago, but thanks to her willingness to pursue the grant funding, I am able to attend class with my classmates and receive an excellent education.”