Interview with Dr. Terry Baggs of Abilene Christian University

Dr. Terry Baggs is Associate Professor and Co-Chair of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Abilene Christian University. He teaches in the area of neurogenic disorders and research methodology and has practiced speech-language pathology for over 30 years in both acute-care and rehabilitation facilities. Dr. Baggs has numerous national and international publications and presentations that focus primarily on neurogenic and clinical issues related to speech-language pathology. His most recent research interests has been on the predictive value of variables for graduate school admissions and how personality relates to the provision of clinical services.

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 Dr. Baggs and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

What got you interested in researching graduate speech-language pathology (SLP) student personality?

One of my colleagues at a different university many years ago assessed her undergraduate students’ personality in one of her classes. It didn’t take me long to consider the potential importance of understanding yourself, your patient, and your colleagues in clinical service provision.  

How have SLP graduate students changed?

Anyone who works with students will agree that students have changed considerably in the past two or three decades. Competitive admission to graduate school creates a cohort of students who are clearly ready for intense graduate work and a future career. The most significant personality change for SLP students in the past three decades is the first and second predominant temperaments have switched. Previously, a majority of students possessed a N-F (intuiting-feeling) temperament, and the second most common temperament was S-J (sensing-judging). My recent research (Baggs, 2013) shows that these have now switched. In fact, SLP students possess S-J temperaments at a rate that is double that of the general population. (In case you’re unfamiliar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, persons who have a sensing-judging temperament tend to be orderly, dependable, traditional, and realistic. Persons with an intuiting-feeling temperament are idealists and get along well with others, even to a fault.)    

What are some of the causes or potential causes of the change in personality types that enter the field?

This is an interesting question. Speech-language pathology as a profession has changed in the midst of a changing healthcare environment. We continue to be a helping profession that certainly attracts the altruistic temperament of the N-F individuals. Yet, our expanding scope of practice with the SLP facing quite complicated caseloads appeals to the S-J individual who thrives on structured complexity.

How do these differences affect clinical success?

There are no good or bad temperaments. Even though the profession tends to attract people with a S-J temperament and to a lesser extent, N-F, all personality types are represented and needed! Different personalities provide needed balance within an organization. Clinical success doesn’t relate to your personality type as much as it relates to your understanding of the clinical context related to personality (therapists, patients, and staff) and how you react. This clinical success isn’t simply about patient outcomes but also organizational environment and outcomes. Our success as a clinician is dependent on how well we understand those around us and how we are able to consider others’ personality in the quest for the common good�EUR”patient and organization. It truly takes a village for success.

How can personality assessment drive successful supervision during clinical hours and clinical fellowship year?

Why do people behave the way they do? There are multiple reasons but one is their personality. The best supervisors understand their clinicians and strive to utilize the clinician’s unique traits to serve the patient and the organization. Each person has a unique contribution based on their personality. For example, we know that persons with judging temperaments tend to appreciate order and protocol, whereas those with perceiving temperaments are creative and may find structure too restricting. Knowledge of these two very different people may demonstrate that one person may need assistance with creativity whereas the other may require assistance maintaining certain boundaries. Every organization needs people who can create order from chaos and others who easily think outside the box.

What part of your research are you most proud of?

I am most proud when people tell me at a conference that they have read my research and use the findings in their class discussions at their university.

What is your advice for future graduate speech-language pathology students?

My advice for future graduate students is to get to know your peers, instructors, supervisors, and patients. Understand that the people in your circles of influence are likely different than you, and that is okay. Success is had when you understand and consider these differences. This reduces cognitive dissonance that stifles relationships and stymies goal attainment.  

Baggs, T.  (2013). Has speech-language pathology changed?  Personality types of contemporary students. Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice, 11(1), 1-7.

Baggs, T.  (2012). Understanding personality:  A key to supervisory success. Perspectives in Administration and Supervision, 22(1) 4-11.

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