Professor Tapped to Lead State’s Speech and Hearing Organization

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi speech pathologist has been selected as the next president of the Mississippi Speech and Hearing Association. Higdon


Carolyn Higdon, UM associate professor of communication sciences and disorders, is set to take office in January.

“It’s an honor to be elected to lead the state’s speech-language pathologists and audiologists, especially during such a crucial time in our economy,” said Higdon, who has a nearly-40-year career as a speech pathologist. “Each leader in any association makes an impact on the quilt of that association. I hope to be able to use the skills and knowledge I have gathered from working in other states and in other countries to make a difference in both audiology and speech-language pathology.”

The slumping economy has cost many of the state’s speech and language pathologists their jobs, but Higdon hopes to improve the profession’s long-term outlook. As MSHA president, she wants to identify who is being laid off and where the layoffs are occurring, and then help those speech-language pathologists to recreate themselves in other ways.

“I think it’s important to help broaden the horizons of those who are laid off,” Higdon said. “The MSHA has a responsibility to help them see that they can cross over into other settings without much trouble, and we should help facilitate that.”

One professional who is confident in Higdon’s expertise and commitment is Sue Hale, a UM alumnus and 2009 American Speech-Language Hearing Association president. Addressing the unemployment issue in Mississippi could help set a strong example for the profession across the country, Hale said.

“Problems for our professionals and those who need our services are greater in Mississippi than almost anywhere else in the country,” she said. “Dr. Higdon has a long history of leadership in the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, and the lessons she has learned will help her speak to the broader national impact of these issues.”

Another area Higdon hopes to address is the lack of an independent state licensing board, which could help improve mechanisms for consumer safety and bring Mississippi closer in line to other states in the nation.

MSHA objectives include the study and research of speech-language pathology and audiology, the exchange of scientific and professional information among members, maintaining high standards of qualifications and ethical practice for professional personnel in Mississippi, promoting the extension of speech and hearing services in Mississippi and cooperating with other organizations and agencies to carry out the objectives of the association.

Higdon also is following in the footsteps of another UM alumnus, Tommie Robinson Jr., the current ASHA president.

“It is always great to see ASHA members active in leadership positions at the state level,” Robinson said. “The national association looks forward to continued collaborations with MSHA under Dr. Higdon’s leadership.”

An ASHA fellow, Higdon received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Kent State University and her doctoral degree from the University of Georgia. Her research interests include augmentative and alternative communication, pharmacology and communicative disorders along with speech science and voice disorders. She joined the UM faculty in 2000.

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