Candidate earns doctorate

Congratulations to Christine Holyfield, who successfully defended her doctoral dissertation Wednesday, June 7. She designed and implemented an intervention to teach middle school peer partners to discriminate between communicative behaviors and non-communicative behaviors performed by students with multiple disabilities. Dr. Holyfield has accepted a position as Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Disorders at the University of Arkansas.

Student passes comprehensive exams

Congratulations to Kelsey Mandak who passed her comprehensive exams. Kelsey has established a line of research to investigate family-centered services to improve results for children with complex communication needs who require augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Her comprehensive project focused on a study that investigated the perspectives of parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and minimal speech and the perspectives of speech language practitioners (SLP) who provide services to children with ASD and minimal speech.

Faculty member receives award

Communication Sciences and Disorder faculty member Sommar Ane Chilton has been chosen as a Most Valuable Professor (MVP) by Penn State Athletics. Sommar was nominated by CSD undergraduate student Jaylen Williams, a member of the Lady Lions basketball team. The award was presented at the Penn State versus American University game on December 18, 2016 at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Candidate earns doctorate

Congratulations to Michelle Therrien who passed her final doctoral dissertation defense. During her time at Penn State, she was recognized with a highly competitive graduate school fellowship, awarded to the top 6% of incoming graduate students. She also received 1 of only 3 ASH Foundation Student Research Grants ( in Early Childhood Language Development. She was actively involved in a wide range of research during her time at Penn State culminating in more than 12 peer reviewed publications or conference presentations. Most recently she presented her research at the biennial conference of the International Society on Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Her dissertation focused on intervention to enhance peer interactions for children with complex communication needs, specifically children with autism spectrum disorders. Peer interactions are so central to the lives of children and yet they are too frequently neglected in research and practice. Her dissertation will make such a valuable contribution to the field. Dr. Therrien has accepted a position of Assistant Professor at Florida State University.

Candidate passes candidacy defense

Congratulations to Kelsey Mandak who passed her candidacy defense. She designed and implemented a study to investigate the perspectives of speech language pathologists on family-centered services. Her study highlighted the gap between what should be happening and what is happening currently in the field.

Student wins award

Congratulations to Jiali Liang, doctoral student in Communication Sciences and Disorders, who has received one of eight Student Scholar Awards for the11th Annual Eleanor M. Saffran Conference to be held at Temple University in September. Dr. Eleanor Saffran will be remembered as one of the great pioneers in cognitive neuroscience who has made groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of language and cognitive disorders following brain damage. Her research established the foundation of our current understanding of and approaches to rehabilitation of aphasia. Dr. Saffran is especially remembered for her contributions to research on agrammatism, deep dyslexia, word deafness, short-term memory deficits, word production, sentence processing, semantics, and visual cognition. Her legacy of research will continue to inspire researchers in all areas of cognitive neuroscience and rehabilitation science. These awards are distributed through a competitive process.

Student paper wins award

Congratulations to Jennifer Thistle, Communication Sciences and Disorders Ph.D. graduate, and Krista Wilkinson, professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, who received the Augmentative and Alternative Communication Editor's Award for the best student paper at the biennial conference of the International Society of Augmentative and Alternative Communication for their paper: Thistle, J. & Wilkinson, K. (2015). Building evidence-based practice in AAC display design for young children: Current practices and future directions. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 31, 124–136. This paper represents the culmination of such important work that has significant implications for the field. It will impact practice in the field and the lives of many children with complex communication needs.

Poster wins award

Congratulations to Jiali Liang, Communication Sciences and Disorders Ph.D. candidate and Krista Wilkinson, Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Their 2016 ASHA Convention Poster presentation titled, "Meta-Analyses of Gaze Toward Humans in Photographs by Individuals With Autism: Implications for AAC Design", has been designated as a Meritorious Poster Submission. The Meritorious Poster Submission recognition is for proposals judged by the Convention Program Committee to show extraordinary, exceptional, and innovative work.

Faculty member receives award

Congratulations to Dr. Carol Miller, professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, who has been selected to receive the 2016 Evelyn R. Saubel Faculty Award from the College of Health and Human Development. The Evelyn R. Saubel Faculty Award honors a faculty member committed to human service who is an accessible advisor in both academic and career decisions, who demonstrates a caring, professional style and who symbolizes HHD values.

Students accepted in initiative

Congratulations to Sierra Hobbs and Marissa Zollner, undergraduate majors in Communication Sciences and Disorders, who have been accepted in the Women's Leadership Initiative for 2016–17. Selection for the WLI is competitive, and students are selected for such qualities as their commitment to leadership development, willingness to engage in deep reflection about themselves and others, and openness to change.

Department News from Penn State News

New clues may help improve speech for people with dysarthria, a type of speech disorder commonly found in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Erika Exton, daughter of Ralph Erik Exton and Debra Exton, both of Horsham, Pennsylvania, will be the Health and Human Development college marshal for the spring 2018 commencement ceremony.

While speech-language pathologists support the concept of family-centered services when working with children who cannot meet their communication needs through their own speech due to autism or other disorders, a Penn State study shows that there are barriers to meeting this goal.

Krista Wilkinson, professor of communication sciences and disorders in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State, is the 2018 recipient of the Barash Award for Human Service.

Susan Robinson, business adviser, TED Talk speaker and Penn State alumna, will present "Dis-labeled: You are not who they say you are" as part of the Health and Human Development Alumni Society Distinguished Alumni Speaker Series.

Researchers in the College of Health and Human Development find hand choice can strain the mind when using Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

A Penn State study brings researchers one step closer to better understanding and treating dysarthria, a type of motor speech disorder, in people with ALS. Dysarthria can cause slurred speech, slowed speech, abnormal pitch and rhythm, changes in voice quality and limited tongue, lip or jaw movement, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Erin Thomas, daughter of Laura Thomas-Depippo and John Thomas, both of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, will serve as the college marshal for the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State's fall 2017 commencement ceremony on Dec. 16.

At University Park and around the world, Penn State students are actively involved in research that supports health and human development.

Penn State faculty members have received a $1.25 million federal grant to address a shortage in speech-language pathologists and special educators with master’s degrees who have the knowledge and experience in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) practices, in order to improve school-based services and results for children, teens and young adults with complex communication needs.