Image of Heather Rusiewicz

Can you tell us a little about your transition to online education?

Like others in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology (SLP), I have used technology to support in-person and online instruction prior to the pandemic. The support services and trainings at Duquesne University were great before and are even more amazing now. Interestingly, I had initiated a research study focused on the use of technology and higher education practices for SLP in early Spring of 2020. This study was transitioned from in-person interviews to an online format using questionnaires and Flipgrids (which allow for the participants to record their responses as they talk). We also added a focus on students' perceptions and experiences related to teaching and learning during the emergency closure. Also, my colleague, Mrs. Caterina Staltari, and I recently began a second investigation exploring the transition to expanded clinical education experiences, such as telepractice and simulated learning experiences. As part of this work, I mentor five pre-professional and professional phase students who collaborate with these studies. My interest in scholarship of teaching and learning started many years prior to the pandemic but certainly took on a different meaning and scope since March of 2020. The goal of this line of work is to enhance our clinical and academic education practices in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology as well as to inform evidence based practices for other higher education programs in the area of communication science and disorders.

You have a wide variety of research interests. What are some of the things you have been working on lately?

There are two main lines of my research at the moment and they intersect in some ways. I am very interested in the coordination of hand gestures and movements of the speech mechanism. In recent years, I also established a research agenda that explores the connections of music and speech-language pathology. For instance, I study the role of using hand gestures that mirror mouth movements (i.e., manual mimicry gestures) on the accuracy of sounds produced by children and adults with speech sound disorders. Dr. Caron Daley, faculty member in the Mary Pappert School of Music at Duquesne University, and I also are interested in the connections of manual and speech movements for vocal pedagogy. As an example, recently examined the effect of using manual mimicry gestures on trained singers' production of German vowels and consonants.
Another area of interest related to music is the impact of incorporating beatboxing into speech therapy practices. This research is a collaborative effort with James Kim and others of Bridging Education and Art Together (BEAT) Global, an organization in New York City that uses beatboxing and hip hop to support and empower underserved youth. Starting in the Spring of 2021, this collaborative effort that also includes colleagues at the Ariel University in Tel Aviv, will expand to examine the effect of speech therapy infused with beatboxing on speech and vocal parameters and overall engagement and communication for adolescents and young adults with Down syndrome. Students from our department and the Mary Pappert School of Music are involved and assist in all of these projects.

You are the Program Director of the Speech Production Clinic. What does that entail, and what's happening in that clinic?

As Program Director of the Speech Production Clinic, I work closely with Ms. Katie Micco, a Clinical Assistant Professor, to guide clinical education for students and provide diagnostic evaluations and treatment for children, adolescents, and adults with speech sound disorders. Individuals also seek out accent modification services through the Speech Production Clinic, which is part of the Duquesne University Speech-Language-Hearing Clinic. Students in the professional phase of the SLP program engage in face-to-face and telepractice sessions with clients, as well as other forms of clinical education such as simulated cases. As a teaching institution, we are fortunate to use a variety of cutting-edge tools. For instance, we can "see speech" using acoustic software, electropalatography which uses a customized mouth piece, and even ultrasound to visualize tongue movements. Fundamentally, the work that we do in the clinic is seamlessly integrated with what is learned in the classroom. Clinical education endeavors also support research initiatives, such as a recent student thesis focused on the use of ultrasound biofeedback for accent modification. My involvement as the Program Director of the Speech Production Clinic affords me a valuable and unique opportunity to unite my clinical expertise, love of teaching, and research aspirations.