The Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders (CSD) has long recognized the advantages gained through international educational experiences and continues to offer the longest-running study abroad program in communication disorders in the United States.
“There are very few programs like this in the country and we’ve been there the longest and are the most in-depth,” said Paul Cooke, Faculty Emeritus and Director of the CSD study abroad program.
Since the program’s inception 30 years ago, 578 CSD students have had the opportunity to learn and live in another country.
“From world-renowned hospitals and facilities in London to the rolling hills in Dublin, I was exposed to innovative and interesting experiences that I was able to contribute in the classroom upon my return,” said Meredith Dwyer, who participated in the program in 2012.
Established in 1984 by Leo Deal, then Chair of the Department of Audiology and Speech Sciences (now the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders), the first group of CSD study abroad students traveled to London in 1985. Named “Communication Disorders in the British Isles,” it was one of the first-ever study abroad programs in communication disorders.
Those first few years, it was only held in London and MSU faculty taught all the classes. Now the program travels to England, Ireland and Scotland and all academic material is presented by local scholars and clinicians.
“Why travel all that way to hear me speak when students can learn from local scholars and clinicians,” Cooke said. “The cultural nuances are more readily apparent when exposed to local experts.”
Another change since the program first began is that it is now open to non-MSU students studying communication disorders.
“I’ve always wanted non-MSU students in the program,” Cooke said. “It just enriches it and exposes our students to what’s going on at other universities.”
The program runs more than four weeks. Students stay in London at the University College London (UCL) for two and a half weeks, then spend a week each in Dublin, Ireland, at the University College Dublin (UCD) and Edinburgh, Scotland, at Queen Margaret University (QMU).
The trip is a balance between academic and scholarly presentations, visits with clinicians, and opportunities to explore each country.
“We have about three and a half days of academic/clinical and then another three and a half days where they can enjoy the culture,” Cooke said.
During the academic/clinical days, there are morning presentations from the host department faculty and in the afternoon they visit clinicians in their work environment. Each summer, the program visits about 10-12 clinical sites, which includes schools, hospitals, rehab centers and nursing homes.
“It’s just so diverse. You get hospital visits, elementary school visits, stuttering clinic visits, in addition to studying at some of the best universities in the United Kingdom,” said Bridget Molnar, CSD graduate student who participated with the program in 2012. “It was an amazing experience gaining the perspective I did.”
The trip exposes students to a multicultural and multilingual population.
“For many of the students, this is their first time in a different country, and London is such a melting pot of integration of societies,” Cooke said. “Our field is working with more people who are from other countries – for example, immigrants, refugees, a lot of people from Hispanic backgrounds. We could read a chapter in a book about it. I could lecture about it, but to actually talk to a workforce who work with a multicultural and multilingual population on a daily basis, you get more out of it.”
Students also are exposed to a different health care system than the model of care used in the United States.
“England has had socialized medicine since the end of World War II,” Cooke said. “It’s good for our students to interact with speech pathologists and administrators who’ve been in a socialized medicine environment all of their professional life.
“I want them to be exposed to a different delivery of service model, because during their career, they’re going to experience different ways of delivering what we deliver and that’s going to be influx. The way we’ve been doing things in my 40 years in the field, it’s not going to be like that during their 40 years in the field.”
Students learn that there is more than one way to approach a problem and are exposed to a different approach to therapy.
“Their approach to diagnoses and treatment is different,” Cooke said. “They’re more into empowerment and do a lot of self discovery. They get that we are not with the clients for very long. Again, I can lecture about this here in East Lansing, but why not let the students hear about it from the people where that’s their work world.”
The CSD study abroad program is for both undergraduate and graduate students studying communication disorders, with undergraduates needing at least junior status to apply.
“This is one of the few programs where there are undergraduate and grad students and that is one of the reasons why I love it,” Cooke said. “There is so much learning that takes place across the classes and so much inter-student learning with the older people helping the younger people.”
About 15 to 20 students participate each year. The smallest group was in 1986, which was a key year for the program. In April that year, the United States bombed Libya and the number of students planning to go dropped down to four.
“I had to have 12 students to make a budget go, maybe I could make it on 10,” Cooke said. “Chuck Leoso, I give him lots of credit. He was the Director of Study Abroad at the time. I told him we have to cancel and he looked at me and said ‘if you cancel this year, how are you going to convince students next year that the program is going to go.’”
To make it work, the college, study abroad office and Dr. Deal, who was the department chair at the time, each pitched in money and the students each paid an extra $100. The study abroad office cut some of their expenses and Cooke, who served as program director that year, also took a cut in his salary, per diem and housing.
Since then, the program has gone on to thrive and is now celebrating its 30th year.
“The students have these outstanding experiences that they will remember the rest of their life,” Cooke said. “My hope is that they grow both personally and professionally and are stimulated by their experiences for years to come.”
Cooke retired as an Associate Professor in May 2014, but continues to serve as the program’s director.
“Students ask if I am still going to do this,” Cooke said. “I tell them, you are just starting in your career. You will not get many opportunities where you are involved with something that is really excellent, which in my opinion this program is.
“With this program, you come in with such high expectations because you’ve heard all these great things. And most times in life when you have high expectations, you are let down. This is the only thing in my life where people leave and it exceeds their expectations. And if you ever get something like that, hang on to it as long as you can.”
The Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders celebrated the 30th anniversary of its study abroad program during a reception at the Annual Convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) in Orlando, Fla., in November 2014, at which Leo Deal, founder of the program, was honored as well as all those who have been part of the program through the years. Attending the celebration were past program directors as well as several CSD faculty, students, alumni and friends, and some of the clinicians who have served as guest lecturers in England and Ireland.
Leo Deal, Faculty Emeritus and former Chair of the Department of Audiology and Speech Sciences (now the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders), understood the importance of opening students’ minds to international experiences in their field and created the CSD study abroad program in 1984 – now the oldest program of its kind in the country.
Ten years later, Deal, who served as department chair from 1972 to 1984, made a generous gift to the college in 1994 to support international enrichment of students and faculty in CSD. This gift created an endowment – the Leo Deal International Enrichment Fund – that supports a number of international initiatives including CSD students participating in the study abroad program.
Deal’s work and generosity has left a lasting impact on students and faculty seeking professional and educational opportunities to broaden their international understanding and to share ideas with colleagues from around the world.
Often, the only thing holding a student back from studying abroad is the funding to do so. The Leo Deal International Enrichment Fund has helped hundreds of students participate in the CSD study abroad. This past year, eight students received awards ranging from $500 to $750.
Thanks to Deal’s vision and generosity, and the generosity of other donors like him, so many of our students have benefited from scholarships and have enjoyed life-changing study abroad experiences that otherwise would not have been possible.
To contribute to the
Leo Deal International Enrichment Fund, contact the Office of Advancement at
(517) 432-6514 or firstname.lastname@example.org