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Letter from the Chair

Jennifer WindsorWith your financial support, we have been able to make a tangible difference for students: to help them pay tuition, buy books, attend professional conferences, take part in teaching workshops, and carry out research projects— all things that we could not do without you.
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by Jennifer Windsor
Jennifer Windsor
We know that the ability to communicate is a central part of people’s lives; it weaves the fabric of much of what we do—make friends and reach out to others, carry out our jobs, and teach our children. Communication is also a fascinating area of research and practice.

Communicating may often seem simple and effortless, but it is in truth a highly complex and quite remarkable process. To hear, we rely on intricate electromechanical systems in the ear and brain. To speak, we rely on the sophisticated control of about 300 different muscles. In any spoken or signed language, there are many thousands of words to be learned and an infinite number of different sentences and meanings to be formed.

The complexity of communication is most apparent when getting a message across is difficult—whether for the adult who has had a stroke and can’t talk with family or colleagues, the infant with a developmental disability, or the school-age child from another country now immersed in a new culture and learning a new language. These are not only complexities at the abstract level, but also issues that matter deeply for individuals and communities. They also matter for the faculty, staff, and students of our department.

It’s been my privilege to chair the Department of Speech- Language-Hearing Sciences for the past five years. This is the 80th year of the department, which began under the leadership of Bryng Bryngelson. I’ve been fortunate to build on the groundwork laid by an extraordinary faculty, including four other previous chairs: Clark Starr, Richard Martin, Charles Speaks, and Arlene Carney.

We’ve learned a great deal about the science of communication since 1927, and the scope of scholarship and teaching methods has broadened and grown. We’ve changed the department name more than once along the way to reflect that growth. But we’ve always been committed to the central goals of explaining how and why communication breaks down; to educating students about state-of-the-art practice; and to providing services for individuals with communication difficulties.

Department faculty members are world-class scholars studying communication across the life span—from brain development in infancy to hearing acuity and perception in childhood, to cultural variation in speech patterns, to language loss among older adults. It is, and always has been, a hallmark of the department that faculty members seek out graduate and undergraduate students as research collaborators. We want to do this because we are committed to training the next generation of scholars. We are able to do it because we have attracted the very best and most talented of students—and because students make our scholarship and teaching different, better, and more enjoyable.

It’s also a core strength of the department that we have been able to partner with the community to provide students an excellent education. Each year, in addition to working with clinical specialists in the Davis Speech- Language-Hearing Center, students receive practical experience in over 100 schools, medical centers, and private practices that reflect the diversity of the state of Minnesota. We are very grateful to the practitioners, many of whom are alumni, who support these efforts.

We are also deeply grateful to the many alumni, friends, and faculty and staff members who have given so generously to the department over the years. With your financial support, we have been able to make a tangible difference for students: to help them pay tuition, buy books, attend professional conferences, take part in teaching workshops, and carry out research projects— all things that we could not do without you. As you read these pages, you will see that there are new faces and exciting projects in the department; our strength remains that we have always achieved a great deal as a community. Thank you for being part of it.

Jennifer Windsor
Professor and Chair