At ASHA Convention, Reunions and Reconnections More than 260 faculty, alumni, students, and staff attend annual American Speech-Language-Hearing Association meeting in Boston.

Paula Diperri was beaming.

The 1998 Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology graduate was standing quietly behind a cluster of speech-language pathologists who were listening to Melissa Feller talk about her digital poster on the second day of the 2023 American Speech-Language-Hearing Association annual conference.

Diperri was beaming because Feller, her daughter, is also an SLP graduate of the IHP’s SLP master’s program (graduating in 2004) and currently a student in the school’s PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences program. Diperri had come up from her North Carolina home to be with Feller,  a former IHP faculty member who received the New Century Scholars Doctoral Scholarship award from the ASHFoundation at Friday night’s award ceremony.

“It’s incredible, absolutely incredible,” Diperri, a former reading specialist in the Marlborough school system, said of watching Feller present her poster, “Reading and spelling relationships: A study of 5th grade students,” which was co-authored with former long-time faculty Dr. Pam Hooks, Dr. Charley Haynes, and Speech and Language Literacy (SaiL) Lab Director Dr. Tiffany Hogan. “It’s so great to see Melissa do this and to see her get the award.”

They were among the more than 260 faculty, students, staff, and alumni from the Institute who attended the four-day event, held at the Boston Convention and Exposition Center November 15-18. All told, more than 14,000 people registered for “Igniting Innovation,” this year’s theme for the SLP profession’s largest annual gathering.

The Institute was well-represented throughout the conference. More than 75 IHPers authored and presented posters or gave talks on a wide variety of subjects.

“No matter where I seem to turn, I’d run into either an alum or a student or an ex-faculty member,” said
Dr. Marjorie Nicholas, Chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, as she stood in one of the massive exhibit halls with first-year students Heeeun Jeon, Ashley Andrade, and Camilla da Rocha. “That’s one of the best things about having this conference in Boston.”

“There’s a lot to do and see,” said da Rocha. “Just walking around and exploring everything has been great.”

Inside the exhibition hall, the IHP had two tables set up. CSD Instructor Abby (Po Jung) Lee and Assistant Professor Amanda Worek, both of whom are IHP alumni, spoke with prospective students who stopped by to pick up brochures and hear more about the department’s master’s and doctoral programs. In between, a steady stream of alums showed up to say hello.

“We’ve caught up with a lot of people we went to school with, because we didn’t see everyone because of Covid,” said Jillian McCann, noting how all IHP students shifted to remote classes in March 2020 because the pandemic halted on-campus classes for more than a year.

“We all went home for spring break and never really came back to campus,” said fellow 2021 graduate Kayla Kenney, who along with reconnecting with McCann was also renewing acquaintances with 2022 grads Lean Cohen-Herzberg and Daniella Roth.

For Director of Clinical Education and Assistant Professor Jenn Mackey, the first full day of the conference proved to be a bit nerve wracking. Because the IHP was the local host of the national convention, Mackey - as part of her role with the IHP and the Massachusetts Speech-Language-Hearing Association - was among a select few tapped to give the initial introduction to the attendees on Thursday morning. “I’d never spoken in front of thousands of people before, but it was fun and it went fine,” Mackey said with a grin. “It was a great opportunity.”

In addition to Feller receiving an award, several others from the IHP community were recognized:

  • Assistant Professor Marziye Eshghi received the 2023 Clinical Research grant for “Alterations in Dynamic Properties of the Speech Motor Circuit as Early Biomarkers of Alzheimer's Disease (AD) Pathology.”
  • Adjunct faculty member Lynne Brady-Wagner was named an ASHA Fellow.
  • Chuanbing Huo, MS-SLP ’20, Samantha Kridgen, MS-SLP ’19, Minsi Sun, MS-SLP ’22, Anna Wilner, MS-SLP ’18, and SLPD term lecturer Danika Pfeiffer each received the Distinguished Early Career Professional (ECP) certificate.

Following the ceremony was the annual alumni reception hosted by Alumni Director Katie Mulcahy. More than 100 people gathered to continue catching up and sharing a few laughs. Among those who attended were Provost Emerita Alex Johnson, Professor Emeritus and former department Chair Emerita Gregg Lof, and a plethora of alumni and current faculty, staff, and students.

“We welcomed over 250 guests, which was amazing!” said Katie Mulcahy, Director of Alumni Relations. “The room was filled with happy chatter that led to alumni and students interacting each other, alumni connecting with their fellow alumni as part of a game called, ‘Networking by the DOT,’ and alumni reconnecting with their favorite faculty members.”

Staying connected to the Institute, to the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department, and to each other were the main themes of the remarks shared during the event’s program. President Paula Milone-Nuzzo encouraged alumni to engage in the Institute’s continuing professional development programs and degrees such as the Doctor of Speech Language Pathology and the PhD in Rehabilitation Sciences.  Dean Laura Plummer thanked alumni for their contributions to the Institute as clinical educators, guest speakers, and mentors. In joint remarks, Mulcahy and Nicholas celebrated colleagues and alumni who received awards and recognition during the conference. With the remarks complete, guests turned back to each other for more conversations filled with laughter and reconnection.  

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