Communication sciences and disorders accelerates

Torque, pressure, and sound phenomena are coming back to Emerson, when a physics course re-enters the school’s curriculum next semester.

For Emerson’s smallest department, Communication Sciences and Disorders, the addition is significant. To become a licensed speech pathologist, graduates must be certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), which requires the completion of a physical science course, according to the group’s website. 

ASHA’s Speech-Language Pathology 2014 certification standards, announced that now only physics and chemistry courses fulfill the physical science requirement, according to the organization’s website. The previous certification standards from 2005 had deemed other courses as acceptable, leaving colleges to interpret the requirement as they saw fit, according to the website.

Emerson once offered Physics for the Media, but the course was cut in 2010 after the communication sciences and disorders department reorganized the science curriculum into two clusters: environmental science and human biology and health, said Wyatt Oswald, interim chair of the communication science and disorders department. Physics for the Media did not fit into either cluster and was removed from the program. 

Since then, Emerson allowed students to fulfill the physical science requirement with classes such as Earth Science: Natural Disasters, said Oswald. 

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“At this point, there is a clear need for a physics course in terms of our students in this department,” he said.

Taylor McMahon, a sophomore communication sciences and disorders major, said she welcomes the challenges that college-level physics promises.

“I took precalculus and AP calculus in high school, and I know some of the theories line up [with those of physics],” she said.  “I enjoyed the classes; I thought they were really challenging, and I’m sure this physics one will be, too.”

However, McMahon said she was concerned that the course’s rigor would be affected by the vast majority of students who do not need a physics course for their future careers.

“I don’t want it to be a class where the professors are like, ‘It’s okay, not everybody here has to take it too seriously,’” she said. “There might be students just getting a science requirement fulfilled, whereas I really need to benefit from the class.”

For current communication sciences and disorders students, completion of the physics course is not required for graduation, but is highly suggested for those who plan to pursue ASHA certification. The course will, however, be mandatory for the communication science and disorders major within two to three years, according to Oswald.

For some students, the physics course would be prudent in planning for careers other than speech pathology. Junior communication sciences and disorders student Rebecca Baker says she plans on studying clinical social work or special education.

 “I don’t have to take physics because it’s not a requirement for my year,” she said. “But it’s highly suggested because it would be beneficial for the [Graduate Record Examinations] and graduate school.”

Ellen Rothfuss, a freshman communication sciences and disorders major, said she was intimidated by the idea of a college-level physics class.

“I’m definitely a little scared,” she said. “As a freshman who hasn’t taken any major courses yet, I knew I had to take science, but didn’t know physics was a part of it.”

Doug Urban, who completed his doctorate degree in physics last spring at Tufts University, will teach the course, said Oswald. Urban has previously taught physics and statistics at Tufts and Wentworth Institute of Technology, he said. 

“The course starts by introducing the core concepts like force, pressure, momentum, and energy. We will then cover wave phenomena, like sound and optics,” said Urban.

Urban said he encourages students of all majors to try physics.

“Even without a specific connection to your major,” he said, “the physics of everyday life can enrich your experience of, cheesily enough, everyday life.”