CSD Honored with Seven Seals Award

The Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders (CSD) is being honored with the Seven Seals Award, the broadest and most inclusive award given by the Employer Support of the National Guard and Reserve (ESGR).

Blake Donovan, Company Commander with the Michigan Army National Guard and a Communicative Sciences and Disorders graduate student, nominated CSD faculty, staff and students for the award for their support of his service in the National Guard and for setting an example for other academic programs to follow in advancing the mission of the ESGR.

“During my two years of study, the faculty, staff and my peers in the CSD program have worked hand in hand with me to accommodate my service in the Army National Guard while simultaneously maintaining the high standards of the program,” Donovan said in his nomination letter.

Donovan has been enrolled in the Communicative Sciences and Disorders graduate degree program since August 2014 and will graduate in May 2016. While meeting the demands of his studies, Donovan became a Company Commander with the Michigan Army National Guard in June 2015. As a new Company Commander, additional training requirements, outside of the usual drill weekend, were placed on him, which took him away from class lectures and interrupted his clinical internships.

“Throughout the academic and military service overlaps, my professors, program directors and peers have been understanding and supportive of me in every facet,” Donovan said. “Although I have had to miss classes, I have never felt disadvantaged due to strong support from faculty and staff. Nobody in the CSD program ever made me feel guilty for missing school, nor have they placed any extra pressure on me to make up for missed class time.”

Donovan’s professors have recorded lectures and posted them online for him to access at a later time. One professor also gave him a compact disc with additional course content that he would not otherwise had access to because of missing a class lecture due to National Guard training.

“It is part of our culture in Communicative Sciences and Disorders to be adaptive and supportive to the individual needs of our students. Our focus as educators always has been to identify early on the interests of our students and to support their education towards achieving their professional goals,” said Dimitar Deliyski, Chair of the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders. “Among students, we foster a culture of peer support rather than peer competition.”

That type of peer support was another reason Donovan nominated CSD for the Seven Seals Award.

“Classmates have gone out of their way on numerous occasions to take notes for me – going above and beyond expectations, using all available resources, to deliver the notes to me in a timely manner,” he said. “In graduate school, time is a valuable commodity; the time invested by my peers taking additional notes and sending them on to me has been of the highest value.

“The understanding demonstrated by peers during the completion of group projects also has been exceptional. My classmates have always held me to the same standards of performance as other classmates during projects while allowing flexibility to work around my training schedule.”

As part of the CSD program, Donovan has completed three clinical internships and is currently in his fourth and final placement at St. Joseph Hospital in Ann Arbor. He also has had internships with Eaton RESA (Regional Education Service Agency) at an elementary school in Nashville, Mich., at Hope Network in East Lansing, Mich., and with Livingston ESA (Educational Service Agency) at Pathway School in Howell, Mich.

“The clinical internship supervisors associated with the CSD program at MSU have allowed me to miss time in the clinical setting and have treated me more than fair in my evaluations,” Donovan said. “I have never been docked points for missing a day in a clinical placement, or made to feel that missing a day would reflect poorly in my performance evaluation. The faculty at MSU also have worked with me to begin clinical internships earlier in a semester, or later so as to avoid conflicts between my academic and National Guard schedules.

“There has never been a moment when I felt that the CSD Department did not, or would not support me in my military service. Their academic, professional and ethical standards in all matters have allowed me to perform at my highest ability as a student and as a soldier. There is no doubt that their support will remain steadfast and provide the greatest opportunities for future military service members to pursue rigorous academics while serving their nation, thereby increasing the readiness of the Reserve Components.”

The Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders was presented with the Seven Seals Award at a special ceremony on Jan. 12.

“The Seven Seals Award is the highest token of recognition we could get for our efforts as a department,” Deliyski said. “It means a lot to us because it shows that our students appreciate these efforts and find them necessary for their professional growth in the environment of their choice.