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Arnold School of Public Health

Faculty establish fellowship to recruit, support underrepresented students studying speech-language pathology

April 9, 2021 

In an effort to address the field’s lack of diversity, the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (COMD) has established a fellowship to recruit and support students from underrepresented backgrounds in communication sciences and disorders. Fellowship recipients will receive financial support towards a master’s degree in speech-language pathology and be paired with mentors from the field.

The faculty in COMD have a shared goal of increasing diversity among the student body—a goal also shared by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Although incremental progress has been made over several years, the events of 2020 spurred the faculty to greater action to address systemic and structural biases within the field and within the community.

The initial goal, set in June 2020, was to raise funds to support two students. Within a few weeks, the faculty raised over $20,000, accomplishing that first goal. The first two fellowships have been offered to students accepted for the Master of Science program in the 2021-2022 academic year. Now, a long-term goal is to grow the fund to support students each year in perpetuity.

Largely comprised of white (91.9 percent) females (96.3 percent), the speech-language pathology workforce is mostly homogeneous. However, these students and clinicians serve patients from diverse backgrounds. In addition to connecting with clients, a diverse workforce yields innovative thinking and the inclusion of new ideas to help promote cultural humility and the enhanced problem solving, effectiveness, flexibility, and productivity needed to respond to the field’s growing and changing needs.

Said one professor, “To effectively diversify our workforce, COMD graduate programs need to diversity our student bodies. Creating a fellowship is just one small step, but it is a concrete step and hopefully one that will help us overcome other barriers along the way. As ASHA aptly stated in their response to racism position statement, ‘Our sustained action … will be what matters most.’”


To learn more or contribute to this fellowship fund

  1. Online
    • visit
    • In the box labeled Search Funds by Name, enter Communication Sciences & Disorders Diversity Fellowship (A32422)
    • Enter
    • Complete the rest of the online form to make your gift.
  2. By mail

Please make all checks payable to the USC Educational Foundation, note the fund name and number in the memo section of your check (Communication Sciences & Disorders Diversity Fellowship (A32422)) and mail it to:

Arnold School of Public Health
Office of Development
915 Greene Street, 421
Columbia, SC 29208

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