ASHA CEO is Commencement Speaker and Honoree

Graduates Predicted To Become Leaders for Holistic, Inclusive, and Collaborative Practice

June 7, 2024

Vicki R. Deal-Williams, MA, CCC-SLP, FASAE, CAE, Chief Executive Officer of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), gave the commencement address today to graduates of A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Health Sciences (ATSU-ASHS), which presented her with an honorary doctoral degree.

“It is wonderful to be part of such an important and positive milestone in people’s lives,” Deal-Williams said, “and while I am most appreciative of being the recipient of an honorary doctorate, today is not about me, but about the graduates, what they have accomplished, and the opportunities ahead of them.”

In her address, Deal-Williams recognized that the graduates largely chose their professional paths because of the compassion, empathy, and altruism built into their ultimate purpose. “Your job now is to go beyond that purpose itself—blend your desire to do good with a major dose of humanity . . . to see what others often miss,” she said.

Deal-Williams encouraged the graduates to intentionally expand their options by seeking perspectives from others who are unlike them—people “whose experiences cause you to consider things you would never have thought of.”

Located in Mesa, Arizona, ATSU-ASHS’s programs include audiology, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. Its mission is “graduating health professionals in highly skilled evidence-based practices who are committed to reducing health disparities for individuals and communities.”

Deal-Williams’ commencement participation was particularly fitting and timely. For decades, she has championed diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the inaugural class of students who enrolled in ATSU-ASHS’s speech-language pathology program were among the graduates.

“There will always be someone trying to tell you, ‘You can’t,’” Deal-Williams said in closing. “But know you’ve got an army of support at ATSU and beyond. That army believes in you and what you’re capable of. You are not leaving here the same way you came in. You are well prepared to stand strong at the intersection of purpose and people.”

About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 234,000 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology assistants; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) identify, assess, and treat speech, language, and swallowing disorders.

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