BALTIMORE – A graduate from Notre Dame of Maryland University’s PhD program in Instructional Leadership for Changing Populations was recently recognized at the national level for her professional accomplishments as a speech-language pathologist.
Dionna Latimer-Hearn D’19 was selected as the National Black Association for Speech-Language Hearing’s inaugural Clinician of the Year at the organization’s annual convention in Houston, Texas. The award includes a monetary prize that recognizes outstanding professional achievement of an NBASLH member who is a practicing speech-language pathologist or audiologist, whether in schools, medical setting, clinic, or private practice.
“I was honored and pleasantly surprised when I was notified,” Dr. Latimer-Hearn said. “This is my third inaugural honor since 2018, so it serves as a sort of confirmation that I am operating in what I am meant to do. I try to maintain a posture of service so, to me, being the first to receive an award or an honor such as this underscores the importance of supporting others who are pursuing their degrees and starting their careers. I didn’t get here on my own, and I acknowledge the importance of reaching back and helping others as much as possible.”
Dr. Latimer-Hearn has served as a multilingual speech-language pathologist and educational consultant since 2002. Her work has taken her across the globe, including professional stops in Montargis, France as an English instructor for the French Embassy and Yokosuka, Japan as a speech-language pathologist for the U.S. Department of Defense.
It was during Dr. Latimer-Hearn’s time as a speech-language pathologist in a school setting in Maryland that she was drawn to the Instructional Leadership for Changing Populations PhD program offered by NDMU’s School of Education.
“I was tired of the inequitable practices I had observed and the overall harm that was being done to students of color, particularly in Title I school settings,” she said. “I decided to go back to school to get my PhD in order to expand my understanding of the challenges in our educational system. I wanted to be better equipped to make an impact on the race and class inequities that I was observing.”
In relation to that goal, Dr. Latimer-Hearn is also co-founder and director of the REACT Initiative, a Christian nonprofit organization formed in 2008 that promotes equity in education for historically marginalized populations. The initiative originally offered extra learning opportunities for Maryland Title I school students during the summer months, and it has gradually expanded its reach to provide professional development for educators at both the national and global levels.
“We are currently providing speech and language services to individuals and/or organizations in the U.S., Burkina Faso, and Mauritius,” Latimer-Hearn said. “In recent years we have successfully petitioned for the removal of biased content from textbooks, mentored BIPOC speech pathology students, created online communities to raise awareness of cultural-linguistic diversity, provided back-to-school supplies and winter coats to youth attending Title I schools, and supported students transitioning to post-secondary study.”
In addition to the scheduling flexibility Notre Dame offered for its PhD program, with evening classes allowing her to continue working full time, Dr. Latimer-Hearn highlighted the ability to interact with a wide range of educators during her classes when reflecting on how NDMU benefited her professionally.
“I appreciated the opportunity to collaborate with educators from other school districts who had different experiences – different levels of access to resources for their students, different curricula, different roles and responsibilities – in their various school positions,” she said. “For me, this highlighted the importance of working collaboratively to meet the needs of learners, especially when engaging in equity work. It also afforded me an opportunity to identify where additional training and professional development could be of benefit to current educators across settings.”
Established in 1895, Notre Dame of Maryland University (NDMU) is a private, Catholic institution in Baltimore, Maryland, with the mission to educate leaders to transform the world. Notre Dame has been named one of the best "Regional Universities North" by U.S. News & World Report.