Baylor University’s communication sciences and disorders department will soon expand its operations – after announcing that it’s receiving an anonymous $10 million dollar alumni gift.
That gift, officials say, will help fund department improvements, such as modernizing facilities, creating new faculty positions and expanding the department’s support services. Michaela Ritter is the interim department chair and an associate professor of communication sciences and disorders. She says the gift will fund an endowed chair position as well as expand the department’s master’s program.
“We have over 300 applicants each year who apply for our graduate program and we’re only able to take about 15 percent per semester, sometimes even 10," Ritter said. "So this endowment is definitely, with an increase in faculty, is going to give us the ability to grow our program as far as our graduates students.”
And those students, faculty and staff will all relocate, from Neil Morris Hall to the Cashion Academic Building, where Ritter says the program can double their efforts. Currently, the department’s clinic aids about 150 clients in the Central Texas area. But with the move, they’ll have access to an 18,000 square-foot space that will be renovated for clinical work, which will allow them to reach up to 300 clients.
“And now with this building we have the room to serve this patient population. So this is exciting, you can tell this is transforming – without a doubt," Ritter said.
The renovation to the building is expected to be complete in the fall of 2016. The department’s new location will also house classroom and lab spaces. For graduate student Kelsey Fritscher, the transformative alumni gift will not only allow to the program to help grow in size, but in its efforts to help the community.
“Baylor will have more graduate students and that’s awesome, but I think we’ll also be able to reach out and effect our community," Fritscher said. "Because we can only take so many patients and clients now because of the size of our building, the size our resources and the size of our students.”
The gift, Ritter said, would also potentially allow for the creation of a doctorate program in communication sciences and disorders.