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$1.25M NIH Grant Aims to Boost Diversity in Communication Sciences Field

By Rachael Grahame ’17

A new undergraduate research program designed to spark underrepresented students’ interest in the communication sciences field is launching this month at the University of Maryland, supported by a $1.25 million grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences (HESP) is introducing “Research, Equity, and Access in Communication and Hearing” (REACH), a yearlong program that provides 10-12 students who are underrepresented on the basis of race, ethnicity or disability, or who come from first-generation or low-income backgrounds, with the opportunity to be paid to work in research labs alongside UMD faculty mentors. Other participating departments include Electrical and Computer Engineering, Linguistics, Psychology, Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, Special Education and Biology.

In addition to being paid 10 hours a week during the academic year and 40 hours a week for 10 weeks during the summer, students will participate in professional development training to help them meet graduate school application requirements. In coordination with the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences’ Summer Research Initiative, they’ll also be provided with summer housing.

“As a first-generation college student whose life was quite literally transformed by a research program with a similar mission, I know firsthand the positive impact that REACH will have—on its students, the field and the world at large,” said BSOS Dean and psychology Professor Susan Rivera. “I look forward to seeing this program help all of us become better equipped to Be the Solution to the world's great challenges.”

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)—the national professional, scientific and credentialing association for 228,000 audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students—only roughly 9% of ASHA members and affiliates self-identify as being part of a racially minoritized group.

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