Two UNI Alums to Graduate with Doctoral Degrees

Both UNI alum and graduates of the Department of Communications Sciences and Disorders, Laura Gingrich and Lindsey Leacox, will receive their Ph.D. from Florida State University (FSU) this month. Each earned their Communicative Sciences and Disorders B.A. degree in 2006 as well as their Speech-Language Pathology M.A. degree in 2008 from UNI.

Gingrich will graduate with her Ph.D. in Speech-Language Pathology with an emphasis in understanding swallowing, speech, language and cognitive-linguistic functions. She states, “The loss of the ability to communicate our thoughts or of the ability to eat and drink safely can be devastating. My passion is rehabilitating individuals with neurological disorders in the areas of speech, language and swallowing.”

At FSU, Gingrich has completed her doctoral studies under the mentorship of Julie A.G. Stierwalt, a respected leader and ASHA Fellow who is also a UNI alum. Gingrich also serves as a teaching assistant in the College of Medicine where she leads dissections of the head, neck, thorax and brain for over 26 cadavers. Outside of academia, she also enjoys volunteering as an adult leader for her church’s youth group and treasures her time working with the Parkinson’s Awareness Choir. The choir is a group of adults with Parkinson’s disease, caregivers and community members who perform concerts and simultaneously educate communities on Parkinson’s disease.

Gingrich continues to research pressures exerted by the tongue during swallowing in both healthy adults and in persons with Parkinson’s disease. “Our line of research is working toward developing a predictive equation based on an individual’s biometric (e.g., height and weight) and demographic (e.g., gender) factors. A predictive equation may have diagnostic value as persons with swallowing pressures below their anticipated pressures, may signify swallowing impairment. I am also conducting research regarding the effects of dopaminergic medications on swallowing pressures.  I hope to better understand swallowing parameters to aid in swallowing assessments and rehabilitation.”

Gingrich has continued to collaborate with UNI through professor and department head, Carlin Hageman, renowned leader and ASHA Fellow. Hageman was also a mentor for Julie Stierwalt and very well could be for Gingrich’s younger sister, Amy, who is currently a sophomore in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders working on research under Hageman as well as Angela Burda. Ultimately, Gingrich would like to be an advocate for speech-language pathologists and audiologists and for their clients (birth through adulthood) on a local, national and international level.

Beginning her doctoral studies at FSU at the same time as Gingrich, Lindsey Leacox will graduate with her Ph.D. in Speech-Language Pathology with an emphasis in Language and Literacy in Multicultural and Multilingual Populations. During the first week of November, Leacox successfully defended her dissertation, the final written product to complete her doctoral degree. Working briefly for Iowa’s Area Education Agency after graduation, where she had completed one of her previous speech-language pathology internships, Leacox began the journey of earning her Ph.D. at FSU under the direction of Carla Wood Jackson who she says has been “an exceptional mentor in the area of bilingualism and similarly has collaborative to train the next generation of clinical scientists. Through this experience, students will have the opportunity to learn the social and cultural differences that exist in working families from an ecological model of child development, to understand communication disorders from a holistic perspective within the theoretical framework of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health—Children and Youth, and to assess the impact of communication disabilities within the unique socio-cultural contexts of families and communities that exist in the two countries.”