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Arnold School of Public Health

Lisa Fitton brings expertise in improving educational outcomes for children from diverse backgrounds to COMD department

October 26, 2018 | Erin Bluvas,

Lisa Fitton has been passionate about fighting inequality since childhood. The Michigan native’s commitment to equity ultimately shaped her career aspirations, leading to a lifelong pursuit of understanding how we can improve educational outcomes of children from all backgrounds.

“There are a lot of differences in opportunities that have nothing to do with effort or individual ability,” Fitton says. “People’s opportunities are often contingent on their backgrounds, whether it be their culture, ethnicity, race, income, or language background; however, we know that there is a huge amount of value in diversity. We are doing our society a disservice when we treat people differently based only on their backgrounds.”

While studying communicative sciences and disorders as an undergraduate at Michigan State University, Fitton had an opportunity to conduct research with families in Detroit. Led by José Rubén Parra-Cardona, the project focused on cultural adaptations of evidence-based parenting interventions.  
“The women and families taught me a lot about resilience and how small supports can be leveraged by a community to create more opportunities,” she explains. “By the time I graduated, I knew that I wanted to do similar kinds of work. I wanted to continue learning from people who were different from me and figure out how I could help start shifting the system so that more people have opportunities to reach their full potential.”

Fitton attended Florida State University to earn a clinical master’s in communication sciences and disorders (COMD). She remained in Tallahassee to earn a Ph.D. in COMD, where she learned to work with children and families from culturally and linguistically diverse background under mentor Carla Wood.  

During her doctoral program, Fitton served as the project coordinator for an Institute of Education Sciences-funded project focused on developing a technology-enhanced instructional program to support the vocabulary development of Spanish-speaking children. She also gained experience as a speech-language pathologist, providing home-based services for Spanish-speaking families.

The first three years of Fitton’s Ph.D. program were funded through the Institute of Education Sciences’ Predoctoral Interdisciplinary Research Training program. During the final two years of her program, Fitton received funding through an Office of Special Education Programs training grant and dissertation support from both an American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation New Century Scholars Scholarship and a Council of Academic Programs in Communication Sciences and Disorders Ph.D. Scholarship.

After her graduation this past May, Fitton completed a brief postdoctoral fellowship at the Florida Center for Reading Research before moving to UofSC to join the Arnold School’s COMD department as an assistant professor. She is looking forward to contributing her background in cultural and linguistic diversity, statistics, and methodology to the department’s growing core of COMD researchers with expertise in language and literacy development. 

“I am thankful to have the opportunity to join an outstanding group of faculty through the USC COMD department within the Arnold School,” says Fitton. “It is wonderful to be able to build my research program with the support of highly experienced and knowledgeable individuals around me. We are in an excellent position to be a resource to the community and to conduct impactful research.” 

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