Interview With Professor Sherry Foldvary of CSU Northridge

Sherry Foldvary attended Loma Linda University, where she received a B.S. in speech pathology and audiology. She received her M.A. in communication disorders from California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and completed an MBA at La Sierra University. She worked as a medical speech-language pathologist throughout most of her career.  As director of rehabilitation and diabetes services at White Memorial Medical Center, a 350-bed medical center located in East Los Angeles, she managed operations for inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services, occupational medicine services, the neurodiagnostic (EEG) department, and the East Los Angeles Center for Diabetes. She was responsible for 15 programs/cost centers and a staff of 100 therapists, therapy assistants, nurses, technicians and support personnel.

Ms. Foldvary began her career at Glendale Adventist Medical Center as a staff therapist and manager for the Communication Disorders Department. Her clinical expertise is in the area of pediatric and adult brain injury, stroke and dysphagia. She has supervised the beginning and advanced diagnostic clinics on the CSUN campus and is fluent in English and Spanish.

Ms. Foldvary has lectured and presented at conferences and seminars over the years in the areas of brain injury, pediatric dysphagia and administrative issues in rehabilitation. She served on the Governing Board of the California Rehabilitation Association/Western Alliance for Rehabilitation and was the Vice Chair for the California Hospital Association, Center for Medical Rehabilitation Services Advisory Board. Ms. Foldvary is the coordinator of the CSUN Communication Disorders and Sciences, Distance Learning Program.

Note: You should consult with your doctor or speech pathologist for recommendations on treatment. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Professor Foldvary and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

What inspired you to become a professor?

I was looking for a change from being an administrator and when this opportunity came up, it was a chance for me to get back to the field and work with students in helping shape the future generation of clinicians.

How has your clinical experience influenced your approach to teaching?

My clinical background is in medical speech-language pathology and throughout my career, clinical thinking and reasoning were vastly important in determining the client’s diagnosis and approach to treatment. This is something that I would like to instill in my students, how to use critical thinking skills to determine the best course of treatment for their patients.

You coordinate CSUN’s distance learning program- what are the benefits to the online program?

Many of the students in our program are changing careers and would not be able to attend an on-campus program that has classes during the day. The online program allows students to continue to work while also completing the requirements for the degree. We have also found that the cohort model creates a cohesive group as the students spend 3 years together going through the program, supporting and helping one another along the way and forming close bonds that last long after the program is finished.

Is there anything challenging about getting a master’s in speech pathology online?

Students in the program must be very organized and diligent in following the schedule that they set out for studying and completing coursework. It’s easy to get off track when you don’t have to show up to class 1-2 times per week and end up putting off your studying until later.

What kind of student might benefit from an online program?

Those that are changing careers and need to keep working while going to school. Those that live in areas that are not close to a university, or that would have long commutes to class.

What is it like taking an online speech pathology class at CSUN? How is the course delivered?

The courses are delivered through our educational platform, which is Canvas. Most instructors set up their course in a weekly format, so that on Monday of each week, the module for the week opens and students see what they are required to complete that week in terms of lectures, readings, assignments, quizzes/tests, etc.

Faculty set up their courses in different ways; some use narrated powerpoint slides for their lectures, other use more of a podcast approach, while other use more written lectures. Each class has a regularly scheduled live chat session that the students can attend where the faculty will be available to answer questions or expand on the information for that week’s lecture. Chat sessions are always recorded so that if students are not available at the scheduled time, they can listen to the session later.

How do you work with students to find their clinical practicum sites?

There are 5 clinical practicum experiences scheduled during the program. The first 3 focus on working with the pediatric population and students are mostly responsible for securing a site in their community. We are available to assist and answer questions that a potential site or supervisor may have about the program and the clinical practicum requirements. The last summer of the program is the adult externship and we take a more active role in securing the placements. Students provide information regarding potential sites and we make the contacts and arrange for the externship. The last clinical practicum experience is a “catch-all” for students to finish up any remaining clinical requirements to meet the program and ASHA requirements.

What is your advice to students considering an online speech pathology master’s?

Consider your learning style; do you learn better in a classroom with the instructor there? Are you comfortable in an environment where the onus is on you to keep up? For students who have never taken an online course, it can be daunting. It’s important to have an idea of possible clinical practicum sites in their area. If possible, get to know a speech pathologist or volunteer at a site. The more they know the student, the more likely they are to agree to supervise them for a clinical practicum experience. It’s important to respond to requests in a timely manner and to meet deadlines. Again, even though we follow-up with students, the onus is on them to meet deadlines. Organization is the key to being successful in an online program.

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