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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU Communication Disorders Program awarded $1.25 million grant to collaborate with UNM

Deborah Rhein, Communication Disorders Program associate professor at New Mexico State University, has received 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.

Five years ago Rhein was awarded $800,000 for CLASS for ALL (Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Speech-Language Services for All Language Learners), a personnel preparation program that prepared 25 bilingual speech language pathologists. This fall, the CLASS for ALL-NM was funded for $1.25 million. With the new grant, the bilingual specialization strand developed under CLASS for ALL in the communication disorders program at NMSU has evolved into a joint program with the University of New Mexico.

"There is a huge need nationally and locally for more bilingual speech language pathologists," Rhein said. "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. The university will mentor UNM as the speech and hearing program at UNM develops its own bilingual specialization strand.

"Collaborating maximizes resources so that we have enough graduate students for the classes," Rhein said. "It also reduces the burden on each university by having one class for each strand taught at each university but having student at both universities take both classes. It makes it possible for both universities to support a bilingual 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.

Rhein said there are 14 out of about 250 certified programs in the nation that offer a bilingual strand. The increase of programs at the universities provides a unique opportunity for the state.

"To have two of those 15 programs in New Mexico really puts us on the map," Rhein said. "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. "My counterpart at UNM and I are proud that we have overcome petty rivalries at looked at what is best for both universities and New Mexico."