Making a Change: It Starts with Students

“Something happens here” is the motto at The George Washington University, where I began my journey in speech and hearing. As a student who never took a political science or international affairs class, I can attest that something happens there for everyone. Being in the heart of Washington, DC, I was constantly inundated with politics; more importantly, the air was filled with passion and the motivation to help facilitate change. I walked away from college with a deep understanding that everyone has a role to play in making the world a better place. This is likely what encouraged me to join the NSSLHA Executive Council in the first place!

Each spring, the NSSLHA Executive Council partakes in “Hill Day,” where we have the opportunity to speak with Senators and Representatives about current, relevant legislation affecting the disciplines of speech- language pathologists and audiologists, as well as the individuals who utilize our services. Going back to DC each spring to participate in such an empowering activity reminds me of how important it is for all of us to be knowledgeable and active in politics (not just the traditional political junkies).

I felt it was important to continue to spread this message and encourage our student members to take an active role in advocating for the professions and the patient populations that we serve. Embracing the generation of technology, a virtual advocacy day seemed like the perfect opportunity to raise awareness and participation in advocacy activities.

I think I can say without hesitation that the first annual NSSLHA Virtual Advocacy day was a huge success. In total, students from more than 50 NSSLHA chapters joined together to send nearly 1,000 letters to Capitol Hill. The letters urged Congress to protect federal programs that serve individuals with communication disorders from budget cuts.

This event is in line with a larger agenda of the NSSLHA Executive Council to get students involved early on in their careers. This includes becoming active members of their state associations and informed about local issues that may affect their careers and the wellbeing of individuals who utilize their services.

If you have any feedback on your students’ involvement in the Virtual Advocacy Day, or suggestions for ways in which we can facilitate student involvement, please do not hesitate to contact me at nsslha.region9@gmail.com. I hope you will keep the spirit of this one day alive and write your members of Congress today at ASHA’s Take Action Center, http://takeaction.asha.org/asha2/home/.

Rene Utianski is the Regional 9 Regional Councilor, and immediate past Vice-President, of the NSSLHA Executive Council. She is a doctoral student at the Arizona State University, working in Dr. Julie Liss’ Motor Speech Disorders Lab. Her research focuses on understanding the temporal-spatial cortical activation patterns associated with processing degraded speech.

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