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Arnold School of Public Health

Communications Sciences and Disorders faculty member working with a child

Communication Sciences & Disorders

Communication Sciences and Disorders (COMD) provides broad-based instruction in the areas of normal and disordered communication development. Our  master’s degree programs prepare individuals for the clinical practice of speech-language pathology, working with both children and adults who exhibit a variety of speech, spoken language, hearing and literacy problems, while the doctoral program promotes scholarly research in these areas.

COMD offers programs leading to the following degrees: Master of Science (residential/on-campus, full-time; distance education, part-time), and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Communication Sciences and Disorders. The department’s programs are accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA) in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Its graduates are eligible for national certification, state licensure and public school teaching certification from the South Carolina Department of Education. Admission to full graduate standing is on a selective basis, determined by the quality of the academic preparation of the applicant. An applicant for admission to graduate study in speech-language pathology must meet the requirements of both The Graduate School and the COMD department.

What is COMD?

The field of Communication Sciences and Disorders (COMD) involves the scientific investigation of the communication process, as well as the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of communication. Read more.

Department Mission
The mission of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders is to promote and advance knowledge of the nature, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of communicative disorders. It seeks to educate students who will become leading clinical scientists and researchers in their work settings. Through excellence in scientific research, instruction, and service, the Department seeks to fulfill its mandate as the leading graduate and research program in communication sciences and disorders in South Carolina and, indeed, one of the leading programs in the nation. The scope of the program reflects the broader communities (state, national, and international) it seeks to serve.

University of South Carolina's Mission
The mission of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders fits well with the mission of the University of South Carolina: The primary mission of the University of South Carolina Columbia is the education of the state's citizens through teaching, research, creative activity, and community engagement.

The Department's mission is consistent with and supports the university's mission through its focus on scientific research and the education of future researchers and clinical scientists and its excellence in teaching and ensuring its students are educated in current theory and evidence-based practices. Further, the Department reflects the mission of the University through its outreach to the citizens of South Carolina through the speech, language and hearing services provided via its Speech-Language-Hearing Research Center.

Arnold School of Public Health's Mission

The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders is housed within the Arnold School of Public Health. The Department’s mission dovetails well with the School’s mission:The Arnold School of Public Health will improve population health and well-being by fostering innovative education and research that promotes health and healthy environments and will use that knowledge to prevent and effectively respond to disease, disability, and environmental degradation in diverse communities.

The Department’s mission is consistent with and supports the School’s mission through its focus on advancing knowledge of the nature, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of communicative disorders. Additionally, the Department echoes the mission of the School through its focus on educating its students to become highly qualified clinical scientists who provide effective, efficient and equitable services to their clients from diverse populations.

Initiated through a federal Office Of Education grant in 1968, the graduate program in Communication Sciences and Disorders (COMD) at the University of South Carolina accepted its first students for the Master of Education degree in 1969 and graduated its first student in 1970. There were only two faculty members, five full-time students, and fifteen part-time students in the program. In the early 1970s, COMD became a freestanding department within the Division of Associated Health Programs. The Department was one of the first in the nation to offer the professional degrees, Master of Speech Pathology (MSP) and Master of Audiology (MAud).

As the University developed a School of Public Health (now the Arnold School of Public Health), COMD joined this unit. The Department flourished in this environment and soon had fifteen faculty members and eighty full-time students. In 1984, four students (three in speech pathology and one in audiology) were admitted into the Department’s new doctoral program, and three years later, PhD degrees were conferred upon its first graduates. With an emphasis on research and teaching, the program was designed to prepare professionals for academic careers at major research universities.

In 1995, COMD began one of the nation’s few master’s degree programs in speech pathology to be offered entirely through distance education. This program was designed to assist the State Department of Education in meeting federal mandates to upgrade existing bachelor’s-level clinicians to the master’s degree. Again, funded by a US Department of Education training grant, 24 students, all of whom were employed in the public schools, began this three-year, part-time program, and in 1998, 21 of those students received the Master of Communication Disorders degree (MCD). In 2006, COMD began addressing the SLP vacancies in rural parts of the state by expanding the MCD program to include applicants with no previous undergraduate training in speech-language pathology.

For the first time in the history of the COMD, the Speech and Hearing Research Center, the department office, and (most) academic faculty offices and research labs were relocated and housed together into one facility in June of 2014. Once separated by several miles, these offices and the Center are now located in the historic Keenan building in downtown Columbia at the corner of Sumter and Lady Streets. The new facility, which was renovated to house both the Center and the department, is approximately 17,000 square feet. The new facility has 12 speech and language diagnostic/treatment rooms, a full audiology suite that houses the audiology sound booths and cochlear mapping rooms, and a large student area that houses computer and materials preparation work stations. It also is home to nine different research labs in which research faculty are conducting investigations in the areas of speech perception, literacy, and speech production and motor control. As of 2015, there were 25 faculty within the department.

COMD has graduated over 1,500 master’s-level communication professionals and a substantial number of doctoral level professionals. Based on available data, the School of Public Health’s graduate program in COMD has become one of the nation’s largest, with 177 students currently seeking their master’s or doctoral degree. The USC Speech and Hearing Research Center offers state of the art assessment and treatment of communication disorders. It provides over 6,000 patient visits per year and houses the USC Cochlear Implant Team and Auditory Verbal Therapy Program, the Stroke Recovery Program, the Early Childhood Language Program, the Parent Training Program, and many other services for individuals with speech, language, hearing, or swallowing problems. In addition to the USC Speech and Hearing Research Center, the program utilizes over 300 external practicum sites to prepare its students for clinical practice. Unique specialty training is available in the areas of neurological disorders and habilitation of children with cochlear implants.

COMD graduates are speech-language pathologists in medical centers, schools, and clinics throughout South Carolina, the Southeast, and the nation. Many graduates have pursued doctoral level studies and have been outstanding academic leaders in other colleges and universities. COMD graduates are leading professional advocacy organizations such as the Alexander Graham Bell Association. COMD has expanded its research impact and is contributing significantly to brain imaging, voice analysis, literacy, and language function in children and adults. COMD has an outstanding history and a continued commitment to excellence.

10. You want instructors that truly care about your development as a professional.

9. You want a program where graduates are employed at rates at or near 100% upon completion.

8. You want a program filled with top scientists and rich research opportunities.

7. You want a program that offers rich clinical experiences and hundreds of practicum sites across the nation.

6. You want to scrub in and observe a cochlear implant surgery from the OR floor.

5. You want to cheer for an SEC football program having a big red chicken for a mascot.

4. You want to specialize in neurogenic disorders or cochlear implant therapy.

3. You want a career helping people across the lifespan.

2. You want a program having certification exam pass rates far above the national average.

1. You want a top-notch program that will train you for a career you love.

Communication Sciences & Disorders News

Jennifer Gardner

August graduate leverages distance education degree program to optimize work-family balance

Several years out from her 2011 graduation from UofSC with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health, Jennifer Gardner returned to school to become a speech-language pathologist. The COMD department offered the perfect program to make this career a reality. 

Pamela Dominguez

Student wins second national award from American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Pamela Dominguez has had the unique opportunity of attaining an array of clinical experiences as a high school and community college student. As a nursing assistant, she learned about the field of speech-language pathology and knew she found her passion. 

Marissa Castaldo

National award supports master of speech pathology student in quest to work with children with hearing loss

As a junior majoring in public health at UofSC, Marissa Castaldo contacted COMD associate professor Krystal Werfel about an opportunity to volunteer her Written Language Lab. She learned a lot more about the field, and the experience solidified her decision to pursue a career as a speech language pathologist.  

Suzanne Adlof

Suzanne Adlof wins Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

Recipients of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers were announced earlier this month. Suzanne Adlof was one of two individuals from the state of South Carolina and the only University of South Carolina researcher to be included on the list.  

Jessica Klusek

COMD assistant professor Jessica Klusek wins NIH award to study age-related language abilities in FMR1 premutation carrier mothers

Jessica Klusek, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, has been awarded $149,000 from the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. She will use the two-year grant to examine aging language trajectories for women who are carriers of the FMR1 premutation.

Hooding 2019

Arnold School honors graduates at 2019 Hooding Ceremony on May 9

The Arnold School celebrated master’s and doctoral graduates at the 2019 Hooding Ceremony on May 9. Arnold School and department award winners, along with Delta Omega inductees, were also recognized.


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