Why You Should Join Your State Speech Association as a Student

Lisa Moran, MS, CCC-SLP is an instructor and the Assistant Coordinator of External Clinical Education at MGH Institute of Health Professions in the department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. She co-teaches Outplacement seminar, Dysphagia in Adults and Children, and IMPACT II.

Lisa graduated from Ithaca College with a Bachelor’s degree in Teaching for the Speech and Hearing Handicapped in 2003 and a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology in 2005. She worked for 10 years as a full-time SLP in skilled nursing facilities. Her area of expertise is dysphagia specifically in the geriatric population.

Lisa has been an active member of the Massachusetts Speech-Language Hearing Association for 10 years. She has served on the MSHA Executive Council as the VP of Membership, VP of Administration, President, and Past President. Lisa is currently the VP of Advocacy. She co-organizes and co-presents at the Annual MSHA Student Event: Making the Transition from Student to Clinician, and lead the first MSHA Student Advocacy Day to support provisional licensure of clinical fellows.

“Do you want to be a speech-language pathologist in ten years? You need to advocate for your profession, because no one else is going to do it for you.” It has been slightly over a decade since I graduated, and these are the words I remember the Clinical Director from my program at Ithaca College saying to us. This statement has had a profound impact on my career. It is the reason I became a member of the Massachusetts Speech-Language Hearing Association (MSHA) when I moved to Massachusetts and became involved in MSHA’s Executive Council. It is also the reason I am a supporter of increasing student involvement in our state association.

As a student you may ask what is a state association? Is that part of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA)? I’m already a member of the National Student Speech-Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA) so am I already a member of my state association? Why is it important to be a member? Do not feel bad if you don’t know the answer to these questions. You are not alone, and hopefully faculty members will answer these questions as you start your graduate program.

What is a State Speech Association?

State associations are organizations founded by individuals in the fields of communication sciences and disorders with goals of providing opportunities to advocate for the profession and the individuals we serve, and opportunities to collaborate with other professionals to solve problems and concerns that arise in practice. State associations also work to support members and the field through education. They are volunteer based organizations supported by their membership. State association are recognized professional associations for audiologists and speech-language pathologists by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), however they are a separate entity from ASHA and NSSLHA.

What do State Speech Associations do?

A major role that state associations play is as an advocacy organization. Associations monitor proposed legislation, identify bills that may have a positive or negative impact on the field of communication sciences and disorders and the individuals we serve, and develop advocacy agendas to address those bills. A large unified voice such as a state association can be key to successful advocacy. Members may be enlisted to contact their Senators and Representatives, to participate in organized advocacy days at the State House, attend or testify at hearings held by legislative committees to express support or concerns regarding proposed bills, and to educate others on important topics regarding the state association’s advocacy agenda. Many state associations also give professionals opportunities to participate in continuing education opportunities such as conferences or conventions. If a member has a question, they can bring it to the association who will help direct them to the appropriate answer or resources. Associations may have ad-hoc committees comprised of members who are looking to work together to resolve common concerns, problems, or projects.

How Can Students Get Involved in Their State Speech Association?

MSHA recognizes students as the future of our profession. We want students to become members while they are in school, learn the benefits of membership, and continue their involvement with their state association after graduation. As a result, MSHA has started several student focused initiatives over the years to grow our student membership and is always working on ways to improve or add to these opportunities. Student members can participate in the MSHA Annual Student Event: Making the Transition from Student to Clinician at no cost to them. We have included student liaisons as appointed positions to our Executive Council, and hope to have at least one student from every program in the state participate each year. The role of the student liaisons is to share information with other students in their programs on important initiatives and advocacy efforts. Recently students participated in the first Student Advocacy Day to support passing of a provisional licensure bill for clinical fellows in Massachusetts. In the past, we have awarded student members scholarships and hosted networking events with students and professionals. Student members have also participated in ad-hoc committees on a variety of topics.

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What Opportunities do State Speech Associations Offer Students?

Becoming a member of a state association in graduate school gives students a variety of opportunities. Most importantly to learn what a state association does first hand. They can participate in networking opportunities to make connections with other students and professionals in the field. Students can stay informed on current issues arising in the State House that could positively or negatively impact the profession, as well as learn how to become a successful advocate for these issues. These are great learning opportunities, especially as we see a growing passion for advocacy among incoming students. Students who volunteer and actively participate in the associations have opportunities to build leadership skills and make lasting relationships with other members.

One great example of how student membership is beneficial to students can be seen in MSHA’s advocacy efforts regarding lack of provisional licensure for clinical fellows in Massachusetts. A legislative bill was introduced approximately six years ago that would allow for clinical fellows in speech-language pathology to obtain provisional licensure as they completed their supervised practice plan in Massachusetts. Provisional licensure would resolve barriers to billing of services provided by clinical fellows who are not currently afforded licensure in Massachusetts, and in turn barriers to accessing open employment positions. This is an issue that directly impacts students. At the time MSHA’s student and faculty membership was low. This made it difficult to ensure that education was reaching the correct people who could help disseminate it. Students were confused as to what the implications were and how it would impact them. As we began to focus on building faculty and student membership, our organization could provide quicker education that reached a larger pool of stakeholders. Students gained knowledge on how this directly impacted them. They now have an organization in which to direct their questions, who can provide them with accurate and up to date information regarding this issue. Students most importantly have been able to participate in opportunities to advocate for this bill and gain support from legislators while learning the process of trying to turn a bill into law.

Consider joining your state association as a student to take part in amazing growth and leadership opportunities. I hope your early foray into these organizations will lead to lifelong participation and as many positive memories as I have experienced.

Published: June 26, 2018

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 Lisa Moran and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeechPathologyMastersPrograms.com