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Level Up Your Leadership

Yeah, I be where the bosses be... Judging from my vibe, you can feel it in my energy... Looking in the mirror, I thank God for what I'm 'bout to be."--Saweetie

Happy Better Speech and Hearing Month, y’all!!

I remember exactly one year ago, this blog was just a project in-the-works, and I wanted so badly for it to be ready to launch during Better Speech and Hearing Month. I mean, what better time to kick this thing off, right? Anyway, M.E.theSLP wasn’t ready to launch in time and I was so disappointed with myself for not reaching my goal. But what a difference a year makes!! Won’t He do it? So as we approach the one-year anniversary of M.E.theSLP, I look back at all of the triumphs and trials, and feel so motivated to take on year two of staying connected with each of you.


When I think of Better Speech and Hearing Month, of course I think of SLP appreciation— gifts, food, acknowledgments, all of that. I also see this month as a time to bring recognition to our field and educate the public about what we do and why our job is literally the best. This month we may go above and beyond to spend time providing information, handouts, and strategies to our patients/clients/families/caregivers. And that’s awesome. But sometimes we forget to use this month work on ourselves. To set professional goals. To improve our leadership. To grow into stronger and more knowledgeable SLPs (speaking of that, ASHA Learning Pass is FREE right now until June 30th!)


You may remember my ASHA 2019 recap where I mentioned a presentation I gave about increasing leadership—particularly at the national level—among Early Career Professionals in our field. I get it—it’s difficult to navigate a new career AND take on additional leadership tasks. Or you may be thinking, ‘I don’t have enough experience to qualify for any leadership roles.’ But all it takes is a few small steps to start yourself on a leadership trajectory. In fact, you can start your leadership trajectory before you even graduate.

Many times self-doubt is at the root of our reluctancy to get involved, which I believe is greater for minority groups who are using all of there energy and resources to find their niche and stay afloat in a field where they are sorely underrepresented. That’s why I LOVE talking about my experiences and some of the programs that have helped me find my way professionally. However, when I talk about the leadership opportunities available, I overwhelmingly hear “I’ve never heard about that” or “I wish I had known about that.” And my stomach sinks, because I know the influence these programs have had on steering my career in the right direction, catapulting me into leadership opportunities, and introducing me to a network of minorities within our field. In fact, my participation in many of these programs is what has given me the confidence to create M.E.theSLP and mentor to young professionals.


So, in honor of Better Speech, and Hearing Month, I charge everyone to level up their leadership, whether it be on a local level, state level, or national level. Below I’ve provided a brief summary of a few programs offered at the national level that are sure to kick your leadership skills into high-gear.


Minority Student Leadership Program

(MSLP)

MSLP was by far one of my favorite programs, but it was also one of the most selective. MSLP accepts a cohort of just 40 participants from minority and under-represented groups in the field of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology. This program aims to cultivate leadership skills, introduce students to leadership programs within ASHA, and provide networking with leaders within the organization—all jam-packed into a week-long retreat at the annual ASHA Convention in November. But don’t expect to attend much of the convention. From leadership seminars during the day, to hors d’oeuvres in the President’s suite, to late night networking mixers, you will be longing for a second just to catch your breath by end of the day. While I remember being exhausted (and the coldest I have EVER been—heyyyy, Chicago!), I also have fond memories of camaraderie with my cohort, being pushed out of my comfort zone, and experiencing some of the best of what ASHA has to offer. I still keep in touch with so many people from my MSLP cohort (shoutout to class of 2013), and it’s been so amazing watching them flourish into leaders in our field. This program is open to undergraduate seniors, graduate students, and PhD students who are enrolled in a communication sciences and disorders program and are NSSHLA members (I hope you are already a NSSLHA member.) All expenses are paid (except for travel) + a meal stipend. Following completion of the program, you automatically become a member of the MSLP Online Community. Applications open in March of each year.

MSLP Class of 2013, Chicago, IL

Students to Empowered Professional (S.T.E.P)

Another favorite! This virtual mentoring platform is the program I’ve participated in the longest. I started out as a mentee and eventually transitioned into becoming a mentor, and I find that experiencing both roles has been very insightful and rewarding. The S.T.E.P program looks to “facilitate recruitment and retention” among under-represented demographics in the field of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, which is something that I personally appreciated as a student. For those who are experiencing difficulty navigating this field, feeling like they are lacking a professional support system, or just have career questions, S.T.E.P is for you! Following enrollment, you self-match with a mentor/mentee based on your professional interests and career goals. Even though it is a virtual mentoring program, you have the freedom to choose how you want to communicate with your mentor (e.g., emails, phone, text, FaceTime, etc.) You may even choose to meet your mentor face-to-face. I met my mentor at an ASHA convention many years ago, and we still keep in touch to this day. This program seeks self-motivated students—both undergraduate and graduate—and dedicated professionals (with at least 3 years of experience…pssst that’s you, early career professionals), to serve as mentees and mentors. I will be honest, this program requires some leg-work in the beginning, but it’s totally worth it once you make professional connections to last throughout your career. If you don’t believe me, see ASHA’s Top 10 reasons to join STEP. After enrolling in the program, you will automatically become a member of the S.T.E.P Online Community. S.T.E.P enrollment opens in early spring of each year.

Leadership Development Program (LDP)

I am so excited to announce that I was accepted into the 2020 cohort for the Healthcare LDP (yay!). But I’m also super bummed that, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the healthcare LDP has been postponed until 2021 (boo!) This program is divided into two separate tracks with two separate enrollments—General LDP cohort (for SLPs and AuDs in any setting) and Healthcare LDP (for SLPs and AuDs in medical settings.) This year-long program works to refine leadership skills for professionals who are already on a leadership trajectory. The LDP kicks off with a full day leadership retreat at ASHA’s National Office in Rockville, MD, followed by a series of monthly webinars/virtual workshop, and ends with implementation of a self-organized service project. This is another competitive application process—accepting a cohort of only 30 participants. Preference is given to professionals who are Special Interest Group (SIG) members, past NSSLHA members, and/or have completed other ASHA leadership programs (e.g., MSLP). Applications open in January of each year.


Mentoring Academic-Research Careers (MARC)

Now, I’m no researcher, so I have not actually participated in this program, but I have heard positive things about it. It seems to have a similar structure and focus as the S.T.E.P program, only specifically designed for PhD students, post doc fellows, and junior faculty who are interested in research careers. And of course, you get access to the MARC Online Community. This 9-month virtual mentoring program has enrollment beginning in August 2020.

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Wanna skip all the applications and enrollments? Maybe that’s not your thing. Or maybe you want to level up your leadership TODAY. For these opportunities, all you have to do is join and start networking!


  • ASHA Early Career Professional Online Community—If you have been working for less than 5 years or are under the age of 30, you are considered an “Early Career Professional (ECP),” and this online community is especially for you! This platform was created to network with other ECPs, ask questions via the discussion board, and stay in the loop regarding leadership and professional development opportunities. It’s just one click away to join! Go ahead and take a look at some of the other ASHA communities while you’re there.

  • Sisters in Speech Therapy an Audiology (S.I.S.T.A.s)—This is a professional networking group designed for minority women in the field of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology. I love being a member of this informal group, enjoy mingling with other SLPs and AuDs, and always feel comfortable asking members questions or for advice. Check out S.I.S.T.A.s on Facebook, Instagram, or www.sistasinc.com to join the SISTAhood!

  • Multicultural Constituency Groups—Independent of ASHA, these professional organizations promote cultural competence and recruit, engage, and retain students and professionals from various under-represented groups in our field. I am personally a member of NBASLH, and am forever indebted to that organization for the support they have provided to me as a student and professional.

-Native American Caucus

-National Black Association for Speech Language and Hearing (NBASLH)

-Hispanic Caucus

-Asian Indian Caucus

-Asian Pacific Islander Caucus

-L’GASP-GLBTQ Caucus

  • Special Interest Groups (SIGs)—I know how hard it can be to part with that $45 every year (only $10 for students though!!) It honestly took me a while to join a SIG, but I found the knowledge and networking to be invaluable. SIGs allow you to connect with other professionals who share your same interests. And with 19 SIGs to choose from, you are sure to find at least one you love. If you want to get involved, be on the lookout for the many volunteer and leadership opportunities within each SIG.

  • ASHA Leadership Academy—Similar to LDP, the Leadership Academy is a self-study program consisting of self assessments, webinars, and virtual mentoring. Get started by creating a free leadership profile to identify your strengths and areas for improvement and set professional goals for yourself. You also get access to the Leadership Academy online community.


Remember a leader is not defined by title, age, or tenure. You can start developing the skills to become a leader right now. All you have to do is get started, no matter how small the step may seem. You got this! Feel free to reach out to me to chat about any of the opportunities discussed above. Also, comment below if I missed anything—I would love to see this list grow!


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