Bluffton Adds New Major


Bender named director of speech language pathology and audiology program

Bluffton University is launching a four-year academic program in speech language pathology and audiology to begin fall 2016. New students starting at Bluffton in the fall of 2016, who major in speech language pathology, will receive a renewable, $3,000 scholarship. The addition comes after a university wide task force examined a variety of prospective majors to add to Bluffton’s offerings. 

“We chose speech language pathology and audiology because of the great fit with Bluffton’s mission, the expanding need for excellent speech pathologists and the good fit with resources already on our campus,” said Sally Weaver Sommer, vice president and dean of academic affairs.

Speech language pathologists work with people of all ages who have disorders in speech, language, social communication, cognitive communication and swallowing. Audiologists diagnose and treat a patient’s hearing and balance problems using advanced technology and procedures. Speech language pathologists and audiologists work in schools, hospitals and nursing homes. 

The field is growing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2012 and 2022, there is expected to be a 19 percent growth rate in job openings for speech pathologists and a 34 percent growth rate in job openings for audiologists. 

The university has hired Christina Bender, M.S., CCC/SLP to lead the program. Bender is a speech language pathologist at St. Rita’s Medical Center who specializes in helping patients with acquired brain injuries and head, neck and oral cancer.

“Bluffton University has a unique opportunity to develop a program which not only adheres to current standards required by all academic organizations but also links its own core mission to a profession which has service as its very foundation,” said Bender. “The benefit of combining traditional book knowledge with the development of a bedside manner and treatment style, will produce a clinician who is exponentially more prepared to perform at his or her highest potential.”

The Lima resident has worked at St. Rita’s Medical Center since 2010 where her responsibilities included the diagnosis and treatment of communication, cognitive, voice and swallowing disorders. She also mentored graduate level speech-language pathology students from various universities. 

“I feel so fortunate to work in a profession that I truly love and am honored and excited to be able to give back to our profession, as well as the community.  It is exciting to know that in the years to come, quality clinicians trained at a university with a focused and established track record for excellence, preparation and service will contribute to the field of speech and hearing,” said Bender. 

Bender graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2003 with a bachelor of science and in 2005 with a master of health sciences.  She began her career at The Ohio State University Medical Center’s Department of Rehabilitation Services. Between 2005 and 2011 she served as a speech language pathologist specializing in acquired brain injury. During this time, she also collaborated with professors in the OSU speech and hearing sciences department for research opportunities and program development.

During the 2008-09 academic year, she was an associate professor at The Ohio State University in the speech and hearing sciences department where she provided instruction of the Traumatic Brain Injury Course and instructed speech language pathology graduate students enrolled in the master’s program.

To become a licensed speech and language pathologist or audiologist, a person must complete an accredited master’s degree program. Bluffton’s undergraduate program will prepare students for graduate school. Bluffton’s faculty and staff will guide students in choosing coursework, clinical work and other activities that will strengthen graduate school applications.


 >>> more about the speech pathology and audiology program at Bluffton