Melisa Abernathy, a graduate student in Syracuse University’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD), has received the Minority Student Leadership Program (MSLP) Award from the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association (ASHA). She is a second-year student in the M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology Program.
“I am very pleased that Melisa was selected to be a member of this year's ASHA Minority Student Leadership Program,” says Karen Doherty, professor and chair of CSD. “These awards are extremely competitive, which speaks highly of Melisa.”
Only 40 people from an applicant pool of 150 were selected for the MSLP annual award, which underwrites the cost of attending the ASHA convention. “I have always wanted to go to the convention, so getting this chance is an amazing opportunity,” says Abernathy, adding that the convention will be held Nov. 12-14 in Denver, Colo. “Professionally, it allows me to take a step in the right direction.”
Abernathy looks forward to making connections at the convention, owing partly to the fact that ASHA is the organization that grants licensure in her field. Upon completion of her degree, she plans to pursue medical speech-language pathology. Abernathy is also interested in studying the effects of mental health on speech and language.
“I am very happy that Melisa has received this award. She will represent the department well,” says Anita Lightburn, one of Abernathy’s clinical instructors.
The CSD department is delighted not just for Abernathy, but for what the MSLP program means to the field, as a whole. “All of us are excited for Melisa to have this opportunity,” Doherty adds. “We value ASHA’s development of this program, along with Melisa's desire to learn leadership skills. Our field needs more people like her to better serve our clients.”
A native of New Jersey, Abernathy attended North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, a Historically Black College and University. “I had the opportunity to be educated with people who not only looked like me, but also had the same motivation,” she says.
Her interest in CSD began in high school, after receiving some prophetic news: An aptitude test suggested that her skills and interests would be well-suited for speech-language pathology. “I researched the profession, and immediately fell in love with it,” she says.
When not working on her M.S. degree, Abernathy participates in the National Black Association for Speech-Language and Hearing, where she has presented some of her undergraduate research.
The annual ASHA convention brings together top researchers and practitioners in the areas of speech-language pathology, audiology, and speech, language, and hearing science. Drawing more than 12,000 applicants, it is the primary professional education conference in the field.