May 20, 2023, Saint Mary’s College bestowed Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders professor emerita Ida J. Stockman, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, with an Honorary Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa, at the college’s commencement ceremony in Notre Dame, Indiana.
Ida J. Stockman’s career, including her 24-year tenure at Michigan State University as faculty in the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders (CSD), rode a wave of new perspectives and advancements in research. Many of those waves were of Stockman’s own making — investigating language development in children who acquire minority languages like African American English, how children with and without autism use their movement senses to think and talk; and the intersection of human and machine learning and its implications for normal and abnormal behavior, inclusive of language. She has received numerous awards and recognitions, including a Distinguished Faculty Award (MSU, 1996), the Faculty Emeriti Award (MSU, 2020), and Honors of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2006) and the Michigan Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2023).
Through the decades Stockman has spent in research and clinical settings, one thing remained constant: her love of teaching, the ripples of knowledge spreading to her students.
Susan Latham, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, associate professor at Saint Mary’s College, was one of those students. A graduate of ComArtSci’s Audiology and Speech Sciences program (M.A. ’95, Ph.D. ’07), Latham is the founding chair of the Department of Speech Language Pathology at Saint Mary’s and founding director of the college’s M.S. degree program in Speech Language Pathology.
“I was just so excited to go to class every day to learn from Ida,” said Latham. “I could tell from the beginning that she just had so much to offer. She's brilliant and taught in a way that made you feel comfortable and able to ask really hard questions. She taught us to ask, why?”
Latham said Stockman encouraged her students to become researchers, scientists and linguists in a holistic sense — teaching them how to put together the facets of a person’s life that would be meaningful for a speech language pathologist to question. She taught them to use critical thinking, problem solving and creativity to respond to an important need.
“In my case, it was children with autism,” Latham said. “To think about interventions and the way that they learn; asking questions that no one else was thinking about.”
Latham’s leadership in creating undergraduate and master’s degree programs at Saint Mary’s led to another major development: the college was able to offer a dual M.S. degree in Speech Language Pathology and Autism Studies.
Honorary Doctor of Science, Honoris Causa
When Stockman was invited to receive an Honorary Doctor of Science at the college’s spring 2023 commencement ceremony in Notre Dame, Indiana, she spoke to and met with some of those dual-majoring students. She was excited by the collaboration and synergy between SLP and Autism Studies.
“This year at the commencement, most of the students getting their master’s degrees in the Autism program had also majored in Speech Language Pathology,” Stockman said. “That is an unusual set of credentials nowadays. And so needed in our field.”
Stockman has long advocated for an interdisciplinary approach to autism and communicative sciences and disorders. In the mid-1990s, Stockman organized a yearlong series of university-wide symposia at MSU that emphasized the importance of looking at other sensory systems besides audition when treating all kinds of patients — especially children with pervasive developmental disorders like autism spectrum disorders. Stockman invited prominent researchers from around the country whose work was relevant to the links between the movement senses and our basic cognitive and perceptual learning about the world. In the same year, a continuing education course on autism-spectrum disorders was given to a multidisciplinary group of professionals (speech-language pathologists, physical and occupational therapists, psychologists, teachers) and to parents.
“It was a signature accomplishment of mine that is still very dear to me,” Stockman said. Latham recalls attending Stockman’s symposia at MSU, and the interdisciplinary approach used has motivated her own research projects today.
Stockman’s parents, Samuel and Angie Jones, were also educators — and the inspiration behind the endowment Stockman instituted at MSU in support of faculty research and development in the areas of autism and cultural and linguistic diversity.
“If my work has been pioneering, then it is not just because of me,” Stockman said. “It is also because I have lived and worked at a time when the issues I focused on had become relevant to my field. I always think that what makes a person is also the time in which that person lives and whether that person offers something that meets the challenges of the moment”, she said.
— Jessica Mussell