Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences

Dear All,

As we continue to move forward towards make meaningful progress, I would like to share news with you about the task force that we have developed to ensure that all voices are heard. We will make a statement with a plan of action after we have received input from all stakeholders. We are seeking your participation and feedback across every and all areas of relevance and will keep you informed of the outcomes and the impact. I am sharing with you the email that Dr. Courtney Byrd,  Chair of the Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, sent to Task Force Members. The task force is composed of students, faculty, and staff and has representations from diverse groups across CSD department. I urge you to read the email below and participate in town hall meetings of various workgroups. Thank you

Best Regards,

Raj Koul 

Rajinder Koul, PhD, CCC-SLP, Chair
Houston Harte Centennial Professor 
Co-Editor, Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Co-Editor, Evidence Based Communication Assessment and Intervention
Moody College of Communication|The University of Texas at Austin
moody.utexas.edu| 512-471-1759 

Dear All,

I hope you are doing well. Raj and I both thank you so much for your willingness to serve on what will be referred to as our Task Force on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences. This task force will be collectively comprised of the following working groups:

  1. Monike Garabieta, Amanda Zappler - Working Group on Advancing our Clinical Services and Training Opportunities 

  2. Liberty Hamilton, Mirza Lugo - Working Group on Advancing our Academic and Clinical Teaching 

  3. Zoi Gkalitsiou, Chang Liu - Working Group on Advancing our Faculty Support and Development

  4. Anita Ray, Carmen Hoffman - Working Group on Advancing our Staff Support and Development

  5. Kaj Baker, Ariah Watson - Working Group on Advancing our Undergraduate Student Experience

  6. Alejandro Granados, Natalie Sfeir, Tyra Burks - Working Group on Advancing our SLP Graduate Student Experience

  7. Robyn Croft, Maansi Desai - Working Group on Advancing our PhD Student Experience

  8. Lauren Ralston, Erica Ang - Working Group on Advancing our AUD Student Experience

Together, we will develop an overarching plan of action with tangible outcomes as it relates to every aspect of our program. To do so, we need to hear from all stakeholders, and as leaders of each of the 8 stakeholder groups listed above, each of you will host town halls, collect survey data, and present to the larger group, distinct action plans with related outcomes that will ensure meaningful progress for our unique programs and for our work environment as it relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Please note that I will meet with the leaders of each working group as they devise their individual plans and goals to ensure that all working groups are developing distinct plans of action with tangible goals that may complement, but do not directly overlap with other plans. Please also note Raj plans to attend all town halls, review the survey data, and provide feedback along the way. 

However, prior to the development of these individualized plans of actions and goals, the first and arguably most critical step in this process will be to listen. We will host a series of town halls to provide an opportunity to listen to the lived experiences of our distinct stakeholders. As noted above, the leaders of each of the 8 working groups will be charged with leading these town halls, and will be asked to recruit attendance and recruit (at least) a few people willing to share their experiences. 

In our correspondence as it relates to these townhalls, we will let all participants know that these town halls will not be recorded, that their names will not be associated with what they share, that they can even choose to keep their video off and have their name be anonymous during sharing, and that we will listen and take notes specific to how we can promote progress based on their lived experiences, but that we will protect and respect their confidentiality. 

Should no one volunteer to share during your town hall, please be prepared to take on that role yourself as we need to be able to put ourselves in that place of vulnerability in order to encourage others to do the same, and, we also need to so in order to make meaningful progress. 

Also, it could be that you would be able provide insight into lived experiences as it relates to one of the working groups, but you are not assigned as a leader of that working group – if that is the case, and you are willing to share for that particular town hall (meaning a town hall that you are not directly leading), please reach out to the leaders of that working group and/or those working groups for which your lived experiences would apply. 

Additionally, given that the town halls will likely lead to more thoughts and also that some people will not feel comfortable sharing even with the restrictions as it relates to recording and the options for anonymity, the leaders of each working group will also distribute surveys immediately following each individual town hall to gather additional anonymous feedback as it relates to lived experiences and any and all suggestions as to how we can facilitate positive progress. 

The second step will be for the leaders of each individual working group to take the information gathered and identify the themes as it relates to where we must make progress. Once those themes are identified, each of our working group leaders will come up with a unique plan of action and a related set of meaningful outcomes specific to their stakeholders that will be presented to the large group. Together, we will determine the feasibility of the suggestions and related outcomes, and revise as/if needed. 

As each distinct plan of action and related outcomes for each of the 8 stakeholder groups has been reviewed, revised and approved by the large group (i.e., all members of our full task force), we will send those plans back out to the stakeholders for review and feedback and then revise again, as/if needed. 

Ultimately, after all of our working groups have developed the plan of action for all stakeholders, we will pull together all of our unique plans of action to create one complete plan for moving forward, streamlining and removing any redundancies as/if needed. Although we do not want to rush the process, and, if necessary, we can allot more time, our goal is to have this plan in place by September 1, 2020, so that we can move into the new year, with measurable goals that we can report our progress towards in the following September of 2021.

I hope this overview provides a general understanding of our next steps. Above all, I hope this overview provides inspiration for what collectively we will be able to accomplish together that we would not be able to achieve independently. 

All the best,


Courtney Byrd, PhD, CCC-SLP, Associate Chair, Graduate Advisor, 
Founding Director, Michael and Tami Lang Stuttering Institute
Moody College of Communication |The University of Texas at Austin
moody.utexas.edu| 512-471-1759