Kathy Vander Werff, PhD
Associate Professor, Syracuse University
BA: Communication Disorders, Northeast Missouri State University, 1991
MA: Audiology, University of Iowa, 1993
PhD: Speech and Hearing Science, University of Iowa, 2002
Why are you interested in serving on the Academy board?
I think my perspective as both an educator and researcher in audiology would help fulfill an important role on the board. I have been a member of the Academy throughout many stages of my career - as a clinical audiologist, doctoral student, investigator, and faculty member. I have benefited from the conventions and educational opportunities, the financial support of the Foundation (New Investigator Award), publication and dissemination of research, and the vast network of colleagues. I have also had the opportunity to serve on the Academy’s Research Committee, where I saw firsthand the dedication of members towards the Academy’s vision. I am at a point in my career where I can contribute to the leadership of the field through participation and service on the Academy board. I am committed to learning any additional skills that I might need as a new member. Being open to a broader perspective outside of my experience and holding the community that I serve in the forefront are critical qualities that I would utilize as a board member. I would be honored to help strengthen and transform the audiology profession.
What challenges or key issues do you see for the audiology profession in the next five years? What would you hope to accomplish about these challenges during your term on the board?
Audiology faces many challenges and opportunities in the near and long-term future.
As an educator, I understand the concerns of the students who are the next wave of practicing audiologists. While salaries have increased, they still are not where they should be for a doctoral profession, and the weight of student debt is enormous. As a field, we need to move towards fair compensation and recognition of the independent and autonomous status of audiologists as the hearing health-care professional. At the same time, we have the challenges of how to best prepare our entry-level audiologists for expanding fields and complexity of practice. The issues of lack of consistency across programs in academic preparation and the disparity in quality and nature of clinical externship experiences need to be addressed immediately and with concrete steps forward rather than circular discussion.
As a researcher, I see great challenges in strengthening and advancing the evidence base for clinical practice in the face of rapidly advancing technology and service-delivery models. The current climate for federal research funding could make this an Academy priority. As the vision of the Academy includes advancing the SCIENCE and PRACTICE of audiology, it is critical that the science is supported, as without it practice cannot advance in a responsible way. I would like to see a stronger emphasis on clinical research and outcomes measures in our training programs and the field as a whole and would be committed to helping implement this as a board member.
What experience do you have in the planning, evaluation, and implementation of a strategic plan?
I have been an integral member of the faculty at Syracuse University for the past 12 years, and am in my third year as associate department chair. I have been extensively involved in the development and ongoing assessment of our strategic plan. I have also served on focus groups within the College of Arts and Sciences and university-wide as a new strategic plan was initiated by the new chancellor and developed over the course of the last few years. These experiences have given me insight into the scope and importance of a comprehensive strategic plan, and the need for the voices of all stakeholders to be heard. Each member of the community brings a passion and expertise to the table, and molding this into a working vision is an enormous challenge. Once developed, it is critical to regularly appraise how our actual day to day work is consistent with this carefully laid-out plan. A faculty or a board member needs to be dynamic in implementing and revising initiatives to remain within the mission and vision of the organization. Also, he or she needs to remain accountable to accrediting bodies and governing agencies, and our important stakeholders: members, students, and clients and community we serve.
List any experience in Financial Management. Describe your experience in developing and implementing a budget for practice, business, department, or organization?
I have proposed and managed research grant budgets as a principal investigator. In my role as associate department chair, I have become increasingly familiar with the operating budget and the intricacies involved in managing the clinic and department operating costs within the context of the college and university. As a new board member, I would invest time in understanding the budget and financial reports of the Academy to develop a working knowledge as quickly as possible.
Select three competencies you feel best to represent your leadership strengths.
Commitment, Communication Skills, Decision Making
Based on the three competencies you selected that best represent your leadership strengths, comment on how these qualities would positively affect your ability to serve on the Academy board.
The strengths that I would bring to the board include commitment, communication skills, and decision-making.
A new member-at-large would start out with an incredible amount to learn, and require a strong commitment to developing the skills and leadership necessary to succeed in the job. As an advocate for the mission and vision of the academy, I would be dedicated to this learning process and actively participate in the implementation of all initiatives. I have always demonstrated reliability and efficiency and would bring these characteristics to my personal investment in the role of board member. I consider this service to be part of my job and would treat it as such. I am willing to prepare and plan ahead for meetings and decisions, as well as follow through with any task I have been charged.
We are a field that understands the importance of communication skills. As a board member, I would bring the skills of listening, analyzing, and respectfully and actively participate in the discussion. Through my years in departmental and college faculty service, I believe I have developed an ability to lead and contribute to collaborative and productive discussions, even in the face of disagreement. Engagement in active conversation with other members of the board and the membership at large, regardless of which side of an issue they are on, would be among the highest priorities as a board member and a critical factor for the effectiveness of the organization as a whole.
Decision-making is the heart of the function of a board of directors. My strengths include a calm and rational disposition, and a high need for time-efficient resolution. While issues and strategic planning are complex, the board needs to make timely decisions in the best interest of the Academy. I believe I have the skills and personality to help organize and weigh information that will promote efficient decision-making that is not just in the interest of individual members (including myself), but the stakeholders as a whole.