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Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Students Take Part in First White Coat Ceremony

Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders White Coat Ceremony The Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders held its first white coat ceremony on Feb. 15 in the MUC.

VERMILLION, S.D. – Thirty-nine graduate students in the Department of Communication Sciences & Disorders received crisp white coats that welcomed them to the healthcare profession in the department’s first white coat ceremony on Friday, Feb. 15 in the Muenster University Center. 

“White coat ceremonies introduce students to the care of patients,” said Jessica Messersmith, Ph.D., chair and associate professor of communication sciences & disorders. “These ceremonies welcome students to the profession and communicate what is expected of them as they practice in the field.”

The students who participated in the program are earning their graduate degrees in audiology and speech-language pathology. All will work and study in a clinical setting as part of their graduate program. Messersmith said that although some colleges that train audiologists hold white coat ceremonies, she believes USD is the only institution to hold such an event for speech-language pathologists.

At this year’s ceremony, students and family members heard from USD President Sheila Gestring as well as Elizabeth Hanson, Ph.D., who spoke on the history of the white coat ceremony. Teri Bellis, Ph.D., and Kyle Brouwer, Ph.D., also described the scope of practice of audiology and speech-language pathology, respectively. Students then recited the oath that faculty members wrote specifically for USD students, which included pledges to act professionally, continue learning, listen to patients’ unique human story and treat others with compassion.

Ashley Price, a third-year audiology graduate student from Creston, Iowa, recited this oath on Friday and was one of the students who suggested that the department hold a white coat ceremony.

“I have friends in the nursing program, and I liked how their ceremony presented them with white coats and acknowledged them as professionals,” she said. “I appreciated that our oath was tailored to counseling and teaching. It was very holistic.” 


USD's College of Arts & Sciences offers students a top-notch undergraduate liberal arts education in the humanities, social sciences and sciences as well as graduate programs that have earned USD distinction as a research university by the Carnegie Foundation. The college's more than 22,000 alumni include famous journalists, Hollywood screenwriters, novelists, a Nobel Prize winner, South Dakota governors, attorneys, physicians, justices of the state Supreme Court, distinguished university faculty and international humanitarians.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News