Barbara Rodriguez

Barbara Rodriguez, associate professor and chair, Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of New Mexico, is collaborating with Deborah Rhein, associate professor, Communication Disorders Program at New Mexico State University, on a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education, to prepare 48 bilingual speech-language pathologists in New Mexico.

“The grant was exceptionally well received by the U.S. Department of Education because it addresses a significant need in personnel preparation. That is, providing specialized training to graduate students in speech-language pathology (SLP) to prepare them to effectively deliver state-of-the-art bilingual SLP services to children with disabilities. In addition, UNM and NMSU will capitalize on the rich resources at each institution to collaborate in building strong programs at each institution. We've developed a unique and intriguing collaborative model that could be replicated at other institutions especially in the current context of recessions and sequestration at the federal level,” Rodriguez said.

“There is a huge need nationally and locally for more bilingual speech language pathologists,” said Deborah Rhein, Rodriguez’s collaborator at NMSU. “It is not enough to just be bilingual. This program provides a framework that qualifies them to be competent as bilingual practitioners.”

NMSU will collaborate with UNM to train students to deliver speech-language services to bilingual students of all ages and to increase the number of communication disorders graduate programs that offer bilingual strands from 14 to 15. NMSU will mentor UNM as the speech and hearing program at UNM develops its own bilingual specialization strand.

Each university will offer one course in a distance format so students at both universities can each take one course through the other university. The bilingual strand at each university consists of students taking three classes in addition to their regular coursework: one in second language acquisition, one in bilingual assessment and one in Spanish linguistics. In addition, students at each university will have at least 100 hours working clinically with clients who are not native speakers of English.

Out of about 250 certified programs, only 14 nationally offer a bilingual strand. Having two in New Mexico puts the state on the map.

 “It is where we should be because of our population and commitment to bilingualism and diversity in the state. We feel that we found a good compromise between providing absolutely everything and giving students a framework that provides the foundation for lifelong learning,” Rhein said.