Seeing With The Heart

Seeing with the Heart

“And what is as important as knowledge?” asked the mind. “Caring and seeing with the heart,” answered the soul. —Anonymous

Communicative disorders professor Susan Latham believes in “the power of failure.” Failure, she says, teaches her more than success ever does. On the first day of Phonetics class she tells her students, “Sometimes you will try and succeed in this class, and sometimes you will try and fail. I’m going to give you lots of feedback and help you along the way.” Don’t be fooled—Latham is one of the most positive people you’ll ever meet. In fact, she works to embody for her students the above quote, teaching them to care and see “with the heart.” As a teacher she hopes to be a “loving guide” for her students as they progress on the journey of learning together.

A 1991 graduate of Saint Mary’s, Latham received both her MA and PhD from Michigan State University. Latham is a speech and language pathologist (SLP) and also a farmer. She and her family work a 50-acre farm that has been passed down through the generations. The rural lifestyle, she says, “is the kind of life we want to give to our children.” Latham has two children and enjoys sharing tidbits about them and her personal life in general with her students. Latham works closely with her students, sharing her passion for children, and for all populations the communicative disorders program serves.

Communicative disorders has been a minor at Saint Mary’s since 1995. It just became a major this year, thanks largely to Latham’s perseverance in designing it along with the College’s curriculum committee. “We are able to provide a great resource for our students here,” says Latham. In fact, Saint Mary’s provides the only communicative disorders major in Northern Indiana. Working in the newly christened Department of Psychology and Communicative Disorders, the program prepares students for a career in speech pathology, audiology, and work in many other fields.

Latham is proud of how the program prepares Saint Mary’s students to work with a variety of populations. In addition to giving students a space on campus to help treat local children with speech challenges, the program pairs students with SLPs in the field. “Students may be observing at the hospital in the NICU, watching a speech and language pathologist doing feeding therapy for a premature baby that needs to learn how to suck, swallow, and breath to be discharged. Or they may be working with elderly stroke patients in outpatient rehabilitation.” Speech and language pathology, says Latham, “is about both the science and the art” of the practice. She tells her students that they not only bring their skills to the profession; they bring their humanity.

Ask her what she loves best about teaching at Saint Mary’s and Latham’s answer is, hands-down, her students. “I am here to guide students in the learning process,” she says. But she learns from them too. “Every morning I put on my bracelet that says ‘Ancora Imparo’ and I am reminded that ‘I am still learning.’”