Using our Listening Ears

The Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) Department in CHHS has had a long, storied tradition of excellence. The Communication Disorders (CD) program at WKU was established in 1975 and offers several excellent academic programs including a Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders, a Pre-Speech and Language Pathology program (that provides pre-requisite courses for entry into a graduate program), both an undergraduate minor and certificate in American Sign Language Studies, an undergraduate certificate in Cross Cultural Communication in Healthcare, and a Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology (both traditionally on-campus and via distance learning, as well as a Rank I certificate online). The Master of Science program in speech-language pathology at WKU is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Dr. Jean Neils-Strunjas

Dr. Mary Lloyd Moore, a Clinical Associate Professor who previously served as Interim Department Head, recently assumed a new administrative position as the Interim Executive Director of the Suzanne Vitale Clinical Education Complex at WKU. Fortunately, Dr. Moore will still teach some courses and remain active in the CSD Department. I really appreciate Mary Lloyd’s dedicated service and we in CHHS and CSD will continue to partner with her to continue vibrant collaborations with her in the Clinical Education Complex (CEC). The silver lining in this news is that we recently were able to hire Professor Jean Neils-Strunjas, PhD, CCC-SLP. An experienced academic administrator with a wide range of leadership, teaching, and research experiences, Dr. Neils-Strunjas came to us from Armstrong Atlantic University (in Georgia) and was previously a tenured Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders at the University of Cincinnati for several years. Her expertise includes cognitive communication/language disorders in adults and her current research agenda tests the efficacy of interventions for individuals with mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Jean’s new leadership in CSD provides a great opportunity to build on our solid foundations and a chance to take full advantage of our past successes.

Hearing Screenings3
CSD Students with WKU President Gary Ransdell and Big Red

Recently, the CSD department conducted various events as part of their national association’s Better Hearing and Speech Month campaign.  The campaign helps to raise awareness of speech and hearing disorders across the lifespan.  As part of this effort, the CSD faculty and students hosted a free campus-wide hearing screening event.  President Ransdell, Big Red, and I graciously accepted their personal invitation to have our hearing screened.

Hearing Screenings5
Getting my hearing checked


I received excellent news from the hearing test results that I have no evidence of hearing loss. Hearing well does not necessarily translate into being an active and effective listener. I strive to actively listen to others and as Dean, I will continue that practice. Individuals in high performance groups are active listeners and distinguish facts from stories from beliefs in real time.[1]

Several months prior to my inception as Dean, I read an intriguing book by sociologist Edgar Schien[2] who delineated captivating and key elements to effective communication in a healthy organization. Some of the key elements that he put forward included the following arguments:

  • All too often we interact with other individuals by simply telling them what we think they should know. This exchange does not engender novel ideas, nor develop responsiveness.
  • To create positive relationships and effective organizations, a leader should practice “humble inquiry”, as defined as the “the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.” (p. 2)

CHHS has so many constituents (students, staff, faculty, alumni, colleagues across campus, community members, consumers, and more) and I will continue to take valuable time to listen to them and take their advice, thereby giving voice to their feelings and experiences. We want to strive to understand and see issues and things from another’s perspective. Kouzes and Posner (2002)[3] reported that listening is not well practiced in organizations, and only one in 3 employees reported that their company listens to them. We want to actively listen to you and pay attention to your needs.

To do this, we have created an electronic “suggestion box”.  CLICK HERE FOR THE “SUGGESTION BOX”.

We will review your comments and suggestions within 24 hours. Your time and opinion is very important to us. Your suggestions, comments, and feedback will provide me with valuable information to identify and overcome barriers that may impede optimal productivity, morale, etc. In the near future, I will have other forums for dialogue with staff and faculty to understand and gauge their needs as an employee in CHHS.

Listening to others and hearing what they say is important and I will use what I hear to continuously find ways in which to improve and build upon the current and past successes of CHHS.


[1] McGoff C. 2011. The Primes. Wiley: Hoboken, NJ.

[2] Schien EH. 2013. Humble Inquiry. Berrett-Kohler: San Francisco.

[3] Kouzes J and Posner BZ. 2002. The Leadership Challenge (3rd ed). Jossey-Bass: San Francisco.

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