Practical Experience Key to Success in New SLP Program

Dr. Michelle Scesa, chair of speech-language pathology, with two students at Lebanon Valley College

As one of only five schools in Pennsylvania with a five-year Communication Sciences & Disorders/Speech-Language Pathology (CSD/SLP) Program that leads to dual bachelor’s/master’s degrees, Lebanon Valley College needed a strong leader to chair the department. Dr. Michelle Scesa certainly fits that bill.

Dr. Scesa received a master’s degree from East Stroudsburg University and a doctorate from Nova Southeastern University. These degrees, along with her experience working in public schools, preschool programs, and universities, made Dr. Scesa uniquely qualified to lead the CSD/SLP Department. 

“My time at LVC has been going great,” Scesa said. “I love it here. I love the people. I love the students. It’s been a wonderful experience.”

Since arriving at LVC for the Fall 2017 semester, Dr. Scesa has focused on the curriculum. The 3+2 program culminates in a master’s degree. This layout means that the final two years of instruction are classified as graduate school, and Dr. Scesa has made those two years incredibly involved. Some of the classes that were previously classified as electives are now required, and in their final two years, students will complete 66 credits with only two slots for elective courses.

“Sixty-six credits may seem high, but it’s because I feel that it is necessary for speech language pathologists changing roles in schools and hospitals,” she said. 

Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) can fill many important roles throughout their careers. Working with patients of all ages, SLPs do much more than fix speech impediments. Those who work in schools may work with students who have speech problems, as well as those with more complex speech and social-based issues. Another branch of speech-language pathology works with adults and senior citizens who have suffered from traumatic brain injuries, strokes, and neurological disorders. 

The intensity of the program has been met with enthusiasm from the 29 students currently enrolled in the major. Dr. Scesa has already started a student organization for speech pathologists, for which almost all of the students signed up, and her students frequently volunteer to speak with potential new students about their love of the program. 

“My favorite thing about the program so far is how Dr. Scesa has based our learning on her real life experiences,” Emilia Kaufman ’21, a communications sciences & disorders major, said. “She knows the importance of getting an education where we learn about what we are going to run into while on the job, and not just learning straight out of a book.”

Dr. Scesa looks forward to the future by planning for when the CSD/SLP students are ready to begin their clinical programming. 

“They can go and shadow a speech pathologist for a semester and just really get hands-on experience by making materials and having additional opportunities,” Dr. Scesa said. 

Starting in year four of the program, Dr. Scesa and her students will run a clinic for community members. The fall semester will consist of working with children aged 2–6 and the spring semester with middle and high school students. The summer clinic will work collaboratively with the Physical Therapy Department’s autism swimming program. Once these clinics begin, they will run continuously as additional students progress through the program. 

“I look forward to all of our clinical opportunities,” Kaufman said. “I can’t wait to put my knowledge to work, and Dr. Scesa has great plans for us to work with many people in the community.”

Dr. Scesa also has high praise for the faculty.

“One of the things about our faculty that will set us apart from other programs is that we’ve all practiced more so than anything else,” Dr. Scesa said. “We’re all really teaching from our experiences.”

The program is off to a great start and is currently working toward achieving its American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) accreditation. 


- Megan Marron, Marketing & Communications Intern