Voices of Value
Interview with E. Patrick Johnson, Dean of the School of Communication at Northwestern University
E. Patrick Johnson is the Dean of the School of Communication at Northwestern University. He has published widely in the areas of race, gender, sexuality and performance. Johnson is a prolific performer and scholar, and an inspiring teacher, whose research and artistry has greatly impacted African American studies, Performance studies, and Gender and Sexuality studies.
What is the best thing about your current role?
The best thing about my current role is my ability to transform peoples’ lives. When I became Dean, I purposefully focused on the people who never get focused on: staff. My grandmother and mother were domestic workers in the south. Deliberately, their employers wanted them around to work but be invisible. I accompanied them to work, and I witnessed it. I have always been a champion of people who don’t have a voice.
Compare communication today to when you began your career.
The biggest change I’ve seen is social media. The speed with which you can communicate to the world today was not even a possibility when I began my career. Now you can go online and instantly post and tweet, but “viral” language was not around when I got started. Now we have a generation born with instant access to the world, with both positive and negative effects.
What excites you most about the future of communication?
The thing that excites me the most is also the thing that scares me the most: AI. I would have loved to have access to some of the auto-dictation technology that exists today when I wrote my dissertation, and AI can create new ways for people with disabilities to communicate. It’s also a little scary to think about how AI has given so much information and access about our lives to the government and to corporations. It’s disturbing that Siri and Alexa are ordering stuff for us on their own, but technology also can do enormous good. The bridge is humans; we have agency over how we use technology. We have to be smart, and ever vigilant.
How can we attract more professionals/BIPOC professionals to the field?
When I was a child, I had a speech impediment – a terrible lisp. I had a Black SLP. I have a Black SLP sister-in-law, and know a lot of Black SLPs, but the percentage is still too low. Audiology is 99.9% white. Attracting Black, Latinx, and Indigenous folx will require showcasing how speech and language impairments are affecting their communities. We need to build pipelines through education and attract and support undergraduates to attend graduate school in the field.
How is one’s ability to communicate connected to shaping one’s own identity?
I constantly ask people about themselves through oral histories and ethnographic research. Being able to have another bear witness to telling your story affirms your existence. So many people are never asked to tell their story, ever. When I approach Black gay men in the south, their reaction is often, “You want to hear MY story? I don’t have a story.” And then five hours later, they are still talking! Communication can provide affirmation that you belong and matter and are a part of multiple communities, including the human community.
What would you say to your five-year-old self?
Keep asking questions! My five-year-old self was very inquisitive. I always asked questions, which led to more questions. That’s the only way you’re going to find things out.
And what would your five-year-old self say to you?
Keep asking questions!
How would you use, “communication is a human right” in a sentence?
Communication is a human right because anything that keeps you from functioning as a human being or accessing processes and procedures that others have, keeps you from living as your full self.
What does “communication justice” mean to you?
It depends on the context. Communication justice in the social media world is about protecting people from harmful speech that is based on hate. People mistake free speech and hate speech, and they’re not the same. Words have meaning and can lead to action. In the pop culture context, it means ensuring that our news media is communicating to us in ways that are not propagandist; currently there is no such thing as neutral news. In another context, communication justice might be about ensuring that everyone has access to the same services, like the speech therapy they need to communicate.
Lack of access is a huge barrier to services for many children. How can organizations and systems better collaborate to break this barrier down?
One way is by not always asking folx to come to you, and instead go to them. People living paycheck to paycheck don’t have the time and means to come to where you are physically, and they are too busy thinking about their basic needs to even think about services. Reach out to those communities that need help and tell them that you are an organization with resources that you’d like to use to collaborate and serve.
If you could tell people just one thing about CHAT, it would be…
$100 HELPS CHAT PROVIDE
$500 HELPS CHAT PROVIDE
$1000 HELPS CHAT PROVIDE
MAKE IT MONTHLY.
Sponsor A CHAT Therapy Room
Inclusion at the Core of CHAT
The principles of justice, equity, and inclusion are at the heart of everything that CHAT does and are what have brought together this team to work towards our shared mission of providing services to those with few—if any—other options.
As CHAT grows and continues to work with culturally and linguistically diverse communities, it is vital that CHAT’s Board of Directors, Associate Board, volunteers, and staff continue to be representative of the populations we serve. It is our pleasure to introduce three of CHAT’s newest members to the Board of Directors: Dr. RaMonda Horton, Dr. Giselle Núñez, and Dr. R. Danielle Scott. There is no doubt they will deepen CHAT’s perspective, influence, and inclusion as we strive to reach more children with communication needs.
“CHAT’s social justice initiatives offer a unique opportunity to bridge the gap between theory and practice, which seeks to eliminate systemic inequities and oppression experienced by marginalized individuals, groups, and communities.”
Dr. RaMonda Horton
Associate Professor, Speech-Language Pathology
DePaul University, Chicago, IL
“CHAT offers a unique opportunity for meeting the needs of individuals with communication disorders as well as the communities that they live in. It is exciting to see how these needs are being met through the lens of not only equity and inclusion, but also of intersectionality and the ‘isms’ of society.”
Dr. Giselle Núñez
Interim Graduate Program Director
Dept. of Communication Sciences & Disorders
Saint Xavier University, Chicago, IL
“CHAT upholds the value of passionate advocacy and strives towards communication justice for underserved, minoritized, and disenfranchised populations.”
Dr. R. Danielle Scott
Dept. of Communication Sciences & Disorders
Minnesota State University, Mankato, MN
CHAT’s GAVC Services Growing to Support More Individuals
One of CHAT’s newer speech-language pathologists (SLPs) will help expand CHAT’s Gender Affirming Voice and Communication (GAVC) services, positioning the organization to reach individuals who may not otherwise have access to this life-saving care. Vocal congruence is vital for people across the gender spectrum.
Emily is eager to help the population expand their speech and voice production, aligning communication with gender. Under the guidance of one of Speech-Language Pathology’s most well-known trans SLP educators, AC Goldberg, she is looking forward to assisting the CHAT team in developing a GAVC program that addresses the gaps in the healthcare system and serves individuals with the most need.
Emily is a “Fighting Illini” through and through, having earned both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While she will rave about her classes and the many experiences and opportunities she was provided, time spent with a professor that specialized in GAVC was probably some of the most educational and truly inspirational time she had.
Emily will be the first to tell you that she had every intention of becoming a teacher. That is until she had the opportunity to speak with a friend of the family that was an SLP and then shadow another SLP in a school setting. “I loved the idea of working one-on-one with students and following them through much of their schooling,” said Emily. “I realized that establishing a relationship with these children was so important to me.”
As she dove into her graduate work, Emily found that her thinking resonated with professors that challenged the perspectives of access to communication. “Our health systems aren’t set up to give everyone equal access to quality services,” lamented Emily. “I think that’s why working for CHAT really made sense. I want to be part of opening the door for anyone that needs communication services and give them the tools they need to thrive in the world we live in.”
At CHAT, we are thrilled to have this amazing young professional onboard and we are looking forward to growing our GAVC program to support more individuals regardless of their socio-economic situation or any other barriers they may face.
Paid Internship Helps Remove Barriers for SLPs of Color
According to the most recent American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) data, less than eight percent of its members and affiliates identify as people of color, and less than three percent as Black. CHAT is working to increase opportunities for aspiring speech-language pathologists (SLPs) of color through our paid Hallie Quinn Brown Internship, which provides a stipend to work as aides in our life changing summer programs. Investing in this paid internship is important to CHAT because more than 95 percent of the students we serve are children of color.
Named for the late-nineteenth/early twentieth-centuries elocutionist, educator, school administrator, and activist who was considered the first Black pioneer in speech-language pathology and raised her voice for social justice, CHAT’s first Hallie Quinn Brown Internship was awarded to Habiba Ishtiaq during the summer of 2021.
CHAT is determined to be part of the solution to this systemic problem, helping to remove barriers and creating paths for aspiring SLPs of color to reach their goals. By supporting and encouraging their interest in the field while eliminating this financial burden, CHAT hopes more undergraduate students of color will be inspired to join the ranks of SLPs fighting for communication justice. “The representation of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) speech-language pathologists is incredibly significant. There are countless BIPOC men and women who may matriculate through graduate school and work settings without ever seeing another SLP that looks like them. Regardless of the statistics, we need diverse SLPs,” says Dr. R. Danielle Scott, Assistant Professor at Minnesota State University in Mankato and a CHAT Board member. “Culturally and linguistically diverse SLPs belong in this profession. It’s time to make space at the table.”
“As a person of color aspiring to become a speech-language pathologist, the Hallie Quinn Brown Internship provided me with a valuable experience that I will carry with me throughout graduate school and beyond. CHAT’s dedication to support future SLPs of color to diversify this field makes me proud to be a part of this program.”
This year, CHAT received more than 40 applications for four HQB intern slots to serve as aides to our summer Language to Literacy, Leap into Literacy, and Executive Functioning programs through our clinic and community partners. Stay tuned for more information about CHAT’s 2022 HQB interns in the next CHAT newsletter!
For more information about CHAT’s Hallie Quinn Brown Internship program, please contact Brittany Armstrong Sowle. If you are interested in helping CHAT fund this important internship opportunity, please contact Laura Beard.
This past fall, the CHAT family suffered the loss of a great friend and supporter, David Kendall. David lived in Hinsdale with his wife, Geri, where they raised their three sons, Joseph, Patrick and Colin. Because of Geri’s professional training as a speech-language pathologist, the Kendall family has a special appreciation for the art of communication. And when one of their own sons needed speech and language therapy services, the Kendall family turned to CHAT.
At the time, CHAT was known as the Center for Speech & Language Services (CSLD), and the Kendall family received services from our founder, Phyllis Kupperman. Phyllis saw their son, Patrick, for many years, and developed a great affinity for the Kendall family. That affinity grew to mutual admiration and continued support.
For many years after their son left CHAT, David stayed close to CHAT. His personal experience gave him a profound understanding of the importance of speech and language services. It made him want to ensure every other child had the same opportunity. That is why David chose to support CHAT for many years and enabled even larger donations through his role on the Grainger Foundation Board of Directors. “David never forgot the critical help his young son had received,” says Phyllis. “He was instrumental in providing support so that many children and families could also benefit from our services.”
Because of David’s support, CHAT was able to provide thousands of therapy sessions to children who had few—if any—other options. David was a champion of communication. We thank him for his passion and commitment.
David, you are missed.