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UNI partners with Xavier University to increase diversity of speech-language pathologists<br>

September 24, 2002

John Somervill, dean, UNI Graduate College, (319) 273-2748
Gwenne Culpepper, University Marketing & Public Relations, (319) 273-2761

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- The University of Northern Iowa has formed a partnership with Xavier University of Louisiana to increase the number of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) who will serve underrepresented and urban youths.

Project Affirm, which was created by Nancy Martino of Xavier, is funded by a renewable $186,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Through the project, graduates of Xavier, a historically black college, will come to UNI for graduate-level training in the field. They will pay in-state tuition, work with mentors, and complete their externships in New Orleans public schools. Martino is the principal investigator and author of the grant, as well.

'In our profession, there is a scarcity of speech-language pathologists from minority groups, and we are always searching for ways that we can attract bright individuals from this talent pool,' said John Somervill, dean of UNI's Graduate College.

Somervill said only 8.5 percent of the SLPs certified by the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association are members of underrepresented groups. At the same time, there is a growing number of culturally and racially diverse students who could need assistance. The population of New Orleans' Orleans Parish School System, for instance, had a 95.7 percent non-white enrollment for the 1998-99 school year.

'We know in our profession that there is a lack of understanding related to the linguistic and cultural aspects of children from underrepresented groups and those from urban areas,' said Clifford Highnam, head of UNI's Department of Communicative Studies. 'That's why Project Affirm is so important.'

The Project Affirm goal is to have awarded master's degrees to 18 students, have another six completing the first year of graduate school, and still another six newly enrolled by 2006.