ECU’s program was selected after a nationwide search, said Carolyn Coe, visiting assistant professor in the College of Education at UAA, who is coordinating the distance education program in Anchorage.
The partnership will help address a nationwide shortage of speech-language pathologists. Alaska is especially hard hit because there is no university training program in speech-language pathology in the state, said Coe.
To help resolve the shortage, UAA and the Alaska State Department of Education and Early Development entered into an agreement to develop and fund a training program.
In previous years, UAA collaborated with another university on a similar on-campus project that was successful. With the advent of quality distance education programs, UAA officials felt they could do an even better job and sustain the project over time through distance education, said Coe.
UAA officials reviewed the Web sites of a multitude of university speech-language pathology programs. Several were chosen for phone interviews and two were selected for final consideration. An advisory board gave final approval based on ECU’s well-established program in communication sciences and disorders and distance education.
“It’s a match made in heaven for Alaska’s needs,” said Coe.
Dr. Rose Allen leads the distance education program in Communication Sciences & Disorders in ECU’s School of Allied Health Sciences. The program began in 1997 with a state-funded grant, then led by Bob Muzzarelli, who retired in May 2003.
“This program doesn’t work without faculty supporting it,” said Allen. “They’ve been very receptive to this agreement with Alaska. They need to be commended because it is taking on extra work. The administration has been supportive as well.”
Coe said ECU was initially recommended by an Alaskan who had independently sought out and enrolled in the program, which prompted them to add ECU to their list of programs to consider.
“The professionals at ECU were always cordial, responsive and creative,” said Coe. “The quality of the program was high in every aspect. I think we all felt we could work well together.”
Months of preparation and review by officials from both universities, including a trip to Alaska by Allen in June to finalize details, resulted in a signed memorandum of agreement in July.
“This is an extremely unique program in our field,” said Allen. “They’ve had a great response to the program.”
Four students from Alaska will begin online courses this month along with 10 students enrolled at ECU. UAA is supporting internships and working with the Anchorage School District in internship placement and recruiting adjunct faculty for the project.
ECU and UAA are both offering online pre-requisite courses. There are 19 students taking pre-requisite courses at UAA with interest in starting graduate work in fall 2005.
Demand and interest is so great that UAA is considering partnering with a second university through distance education.
“While ECU is accepting a significant number of students, we need an additional university program to meet all the demands,” said Coe.
The initial memorandum of agreement is for five years, but the intent is permanent, said Dr. Gregg Givens, chairman of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders in the ECU School of Allied Health Sciences.
“That we were selected in a national search speaks to the quality of programs that we offer at East Carolina University,” said Givens.