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Scenes from the Department of Communicative Disorders

Program Description

CMD Mission Statement

The major mission of the Department of Communicative Disorders is to develop clinically competent speech-language pathologists by providing master's students with a comprehensive curriculum and broad practical opportunities. In addition, the department provides undergraduate majors with an opportunity to achieve a Bachelor of Science degree and a sufficient background to become successful graduate students in either speech-language pathology or audiology. Each department member is committed to research and service activities as well as delivering the program content through excellence in didactic and clinical teaching.

CMD Strategic Plan

The Department of Communicative Disorders develops a strategic plan document every three years in keeping with the standards designated by the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA). The purpose of the strategic plan is to develop goals and objectives that the faculty believe are critical to the ongoing process of providing a quality educational program for our students. CMD Strategic Plan.

What You Should Know About Our Most Recent Graduates

Prospective students may be interested in the following information about our recent graduates. These are the most recently available data:

  1. Employment Rate: 97% for the last three years (2011-2013). This percentage represents 61 SLP M.S. graduates!
  2. Numbers of Students Passing the PRAXIS exam: 100% for the last three years with 51 students reporting (2011-2013)!
  3. Number of semesters to complete the program if registered full time: 5 semesters with a CMD undergraduate degree and 7 without an undergraduate degree in CMD (semester count includes summers). Over the last three years, more than 94% of our students completed their degrees within these time frames when choosing full-time enrollment. Note that by design we have a number of students who are completing their program on a part-time basis and they may take up to five years to complete their program.
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Essential Functions

Students enrolled in the graduate program in speech-language pathology must demonstrate that they are capable of the rigors of the roles and responsibilities inherent in the profession of speech-language pathology. In addition to their successful completion of academic and clinical course work, students are evaluated in their achievement of professional competencies that go hand-in-hand with becoming a certified, licensed speech-pathologist. Graduate students are provided with a copy of these essential functions at their first orientation meeting, asked to sign them and return a copy to their department file, signifying understanding that the faculty will use this comprehensive list to evaluate their successful progress toward their degree.

Essential Functions

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Student Complaint Procedure

Occasionally students may encounter a problem during the course of their program that they are not able to solve on their own. If this should occur, we strongly encourage students to meet face-to-face with their department advisor, the chair of the department or other departmental faculty, depending on their comfort level. Complaints are often mediated by the department chairperson and handled individually with the student and/or faculty members or at faculty meetings where action plans can be developed. Because the University of Rhode Island does not have an ombudsperson, it is necessary for individual departments to develop plans for handling student complaints. If complaints are of a general nature (i.e., impacting curricular changes beyond an individual student) they may be discussed at faculty meetings and retreats, and appropriate steps are taken to meet challenges to compliance with accreditation standards. Please note that at all times a student's anonymity and confidentiality are preserved. Students (or consumers) who are not satisfied with the department's efforts to resolve conflicts related to the department's adherence to the standards of the Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (CAA) for accredited programs in speech-language pathology can contact the CAA directly. Information for doing so can be found at


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Important URI Graduate School Links

Students should become familiar with the URI Graduate School's web site for three important reasons:

  1. Access to important forms that you will need to complete during your program (e.g. Program of Study, Nomination for Graduation)
  2. Link to the Graduate School's Calendar so that you can check to see when semesters begin and end, and when the important forms are due to the Graduate School
  3. Information about policies and procedures germane to graduate study at the University of Rhode Island can be found in the Graduate School Student Manual.

Graduate students should always double check with their faculty advisor regarding the due dates for the students' original Program of Study, Program of Study Revisions, and Nomination for Graduation forms. Your meeting with your faculty advisor each semester is an excellent time to check on this.

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Comprehensive Examination Dates

Comprehensive examinations are offered each fall and spring semester for students planning to graduate at the end of that particular semester. Typically, the exams are administered the second Thursday and Friday in November for the fall semester (typically coinciding with the Thursday and Friday prior to the annual ASHA convention) and the Thursday and Friday prior to the URI Spring Break (check the URI calendar). If students are planning to graduate during a summer session, they are advised to complete the comprehensive examination in the spring semester prior to the intended graduation date.

The following topic areas are covered on the comprehensive examinations: Language disorders in children, Language disorders in Adults, Acquired cognitive disorders, Voice disorders, Stuttering, Phonological disorders, Dysphagia, Motor speech disorders, Research methods, and Audiology. The exams are administered in three segments of 2-2.5 hours. The Graduate Program Coordinator will contact students about the location and format of the exam several months prior to the exam dates.

Students must pass all 10 sections of the exam to pass the comprehensive examination requirement for graduation. The Graduate School has specific guidelines for the re-taking of comprehensive examinations that can be found in their student manual, in Section 7.45.2.

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Non-matriculating Graduate Students

Please be advised that the Department of Communicative Disorders handles the registration of non-matriculating graduate students in graduate-level courses somewhat differently than the URI Graduate School's policy. Our departmental policy stems from our function as a rigorous pre-professional program. Note that admission to all graduate courses prior to admission to the graduate program requires permission of the instructor. Specifically, the instructor of the graduate course decides whether registration is permitted in his or her course. If you currently are not a regularly admitted graduate student in CMD and you are interested in registering for a graduate course, you must contact the course instructor for permission to register. Graduate courses are purposely limited in size and our first priority is the education of students admitted to the M.S. program in Speech-Language Pathology.

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Directed Essay Option

PURPOSE: As an alternative to the traditional comprehensive examination experience, the directed essay provides students with a capstone experience that promotes their academic development. At the same time, the directed essay is intended to provide faculty with additional support for increasing their own scholarly productivity.

STUDENT SELECTION: The directed essay option is not granted automatically upon student request. Instead, it is an option for those individuals who faculty believe will benefit the most from the opportunity, would have little difficulty passing the traditional comprehensive examination and thus will be good candidates for an alternative scholarly experience. Faculty will select students they consider to be strong academically and with whom they can develop a good interpersonal working relationship. In addition, supervising faculty members have the right to terminate the directed essay projects before their completion if they decide that the participating students are not making satisfactory progress. At this point, those students will be required to take the traditional comprehensive examination.

ESSAY TOPICS AND POTENTIAL PROJECTS: Faculty supervisors will meet with graduate students individually to develop topics of inquiry and to design experiences pertinent to exploring these topics of inquiry. The purpose is to construct an individualized, scholarly capstone experience that is mutually beneficial to the student and the supervising faculty member. Because the idea is to encourage a range of different capstone experiences that simultaneously fit the academic needs of students and supervising faculty, directed essay experiences may include, but are not limited to: (1) research projects that culminate in a written paper or publication; (2) scholarly projects that culminate in a student presentation at a local, state or national conference; and (3) scholarly reviews of the literature.
As part of the directed essay option, graduate students will be required to register for and successfully complete at least 3 credits of independent study (typically CMD 598) tied to their specific projects. Students who agree to participate in the directed essay option must make that decision by the third Monday of September, if their plan is to graduate at the end of the spring or summer terms or the third Monday of January, if their plan is to graduate at the end of the following fall semester. At that time, the Graduate Program Coordinator should be informed of the decision and a title for the project must be specified.

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Policy Regarding Accommodations for Individual Diversity

The Department of Communicative Disorders, in keeping with the 2008 Standards for Accreditation, recognizes the necessity of providing reasonable adaptations in curriculum, policies, and procedures to accommodate individual differences among students that may arise from cultural, linguistic, and other diversity. The department follows the policies of the URI Graduate School with regard to English proficiency where specific criteria must be met. All other diversity issues are handled by a student's faculty advisor in consultation with the department chairperson, other departmental faculty, and personnel from the Disability Services for Students in the Office of Student Life, Division of Student Affairs.

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The Department of Communicative Disorders is pleased to announce that Dr. Elizabeth Crais, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will be our first guest speaker of the 2015-2016 academic year. The title of her talk is "Intervention for Children from Birth to Five with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Please join us.
Her talk will take place on Monday, October 5th from 7-9 pm in CBLS 100.


Congratulations are in order to our graduates


Welcome to new and returning students


Orientation details for graduate students announced


New professor joins faculty in CMD


M.S. program re-accreditation details


Leslie Mahler featured as one of URI's Big Thinkers