American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Joan Kaderavek

Professor, Early Childhood, Special, and Physical Education Department

University of Toledo

Certificate of Clinical Competence, Speech-Language Pathology

Joan Kadaravek 1993-1997    Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Michigan

1993    PhD, Bowling Green State University
            Communication Disorders

1977    MS, Ohio State University
            Speech Pathology

                                           1975    BA, Miami University (Ohio)
                                                       Speech Therapy

I chose an academic/research career because:
I have an insatiable desire to challenge myself, to learn more, and to seek out answers to new questions.

What do you do in your career as a teacher, scholar, and/or researcher?
I began my university career in a speech-pathology department. I have recently moved to a different college, the College of Education, at my university. I am now the only speech-language pathologist in a department of early childhood and special education faculty. I enjoy working within a cross-disciplinary department as I now have more opportunities for collaboration with faculty who represent a variety of training approaches, experiences, and educational perspectives.

My favorite part of my job is running my research program. I am currently a coinvestigator on a project funded by the U.S. Department of Education. We are training early childhood educators to implement a book-reading intervention with children at risk for academic failure. We are following the children in the study into second grade to determine the effects of the intervention on later reading development.

In addition to research, I spend the majority of my time writing, presenting at conferences, and working as a consultant with other projects. I teach one or two courses a semester. My favorite course is one that I teach for general education majors. The course is designed to train future teachers to implement curriculum modifications in their classrooms. This is an exciting opportunity to make a difference for children with special needs and is a content area not typically taught by an SLP. I hope that the class will encourage general education teachers to enthusiastically welcome children with special needs into their classrooms.

The University of Toledo is a metropolitan university in a midsize Ohio town. Our college students are often older students or students who work full- or part-time. It is an opportunity to teach and mentor students who have valuable life skills and perspectives. The expectations for a faculty member are that-in addition to teaching, publishing, and research-the faculty member should serve on department- or university-level committees. I am a member of the College Personnel Committee (this is the committee that votes on tenure and promotion) and the University Graduate College. It is a busy schedule but very rewarding. There are many different ways that faculty can become involved in the community and campus life and make a difference.

How did you get to the position you have today?
I was a clinical SLP for 12 years prior to going back to school to get my PhD. Very soon after starting to work as a clinician, I was asked to be a department supervisor at a nonprofit community speech and hearing clinic in Toledo. I enjoyed working as a clinician and managing an SLP department, but the opportunities for advancement were administrative, and I knew I did not want to be an administrator!

What were the key factors in your academic/research career decision(s)?
I was offered increasingly advanced administrative jobs, but I knew that this was not what I wanted to do. I examined aspects of my job that I most enjoyed. I knew I wanted to learn more about communication disorders. I enjoyed writing, so I knew I wanted a career where I would have more opportunities to write. I also enjoyed working with the new SLPs who came to the center for their CCC year. I enjoyed training and mentoring. I realized these job components sounded like a university faculty member-that's when I decided to go back to school for a PhD.

What do you like most about your career?
I most enjoy the opportunity to always do something different. I like developing a new course, writing a new grant, figuring out how to write about a topic that interests me, how to present information so that it is helpful to other professionals, and so forth. There is always a new challenge and a new discovery right around the corner.

What do you like least about your career?
I am frustrated when I have students who don't like to be challenged. Some students think that professors should make learning "easy." Some students avoid having to seek out answers, or resist thinking for themselves and problem solving. Sometimes I become discouraged when faced with this attitude.

Who are your heroes/heroines?
I wanted to become a SLP because as a child I was fascinated by Helen Keller and her relationship with her teacher, Anne Sullivan. So Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan are my heroines-rather corny, I know, but true.

For inspiration I look at colleagues who are not at "top-tier" schools but are still able to do "top-tier" work. It is challenging because often at midlevel universities, faculty do not have highly developed infrastructure supports facilitating a research and publication program. They often have a greater teaching load. For example, if I did not have a research grant, I would be teaching 6 courses a year (12 semester hours in the fall, 12 semester hours in the spring). I see colleagues at smaller institutions who are considered to be the best in their area of expertise, they are active in ASHA at a national level, they have significant external funding, and they are actively writing and publishing. They inspire me that I can do the same.

What advice would you give to an undergraduate or master's student who expressed an interest in an academic/research career in communication sciences and disorders?
I think that communication disorders is absolutely the BEST field to be in, and there are many opportunities for someone with a PhD in our field. I have friends who are my age, who are very disenchanted with their work, and who are anxiously waiting for retirement. I feel that faculty life is a wonderful blend of independence, opportunity for challenge, and collaborative partnership with colleagues.

What was the best thing about your PhD program?
The most important component is to find a good mentor, someone who will support you through the process of the PhD.

If you did your PhD program or your early career years all over again, what would you do differently?
It would have been nice to have the freedom to go to any university and to take advantage of any offers that came along. Instead, I needed to balance my career with my family life, which meant that I needed to pursue my PhD and employment opportunities without geographically moving. If one can move and take advantage of every opportunity, that is a wonderful blessing. But even if one has to stay closer to home, it is possible to obtain a PhD and have an exciting and successful career.

How do you find balance between your professional activities and your personal life? What do you do to relax?
We started a family when I was a clinician. I was able to work part-time when my children were in preschool. When I began my doctoral program, my children were ages 6 and 8. I never went to school in the summer, so I was always home in the summers when my children were young. When I began my university teaching career, I chose to work a 9-month contract so that I could continue to be home with my children in the summers. Faculty life also means that some days you can work at home-so that was always a big help when my children were teenagers. I often worked from my home office, but my teenagers always knew where to find me!

For relaxation I garden, ride bikes with my husband (we ride the trails at all the metro parks in northwest Ohio every summer), and read. I am in a book club and play platform tennis (mixed doubles) in the winter. Now that my children are grown, my husband and I are beginning to travel abroad every year and to go somewhere warm in the winter over spring break.

What will you be doing 5 years from now? 10 years from now?
I am taking a paid sabbatical from the university in 2006-2007 so that I can write a textbook. I hope to write at least two more books over the next 5 years. I would like to obtain at least one more large-scale grant so that I can continue to have an active research program. I want to expand my consultation; I like working with school systems to improve their early literacy programs. I would like to obtain a Fulbright Award and teach abroad for 3-8 months at a time. I am beginning to interact and write with scholars on an international level, and these friendships will bring many new opportunities for travel and international scholarship. Many of my friends are thinking about early retirement; I am just getting started!

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