In the true spirit of the purple and white, Alicia Ramirez wants her students to know how lucky they are to be a part of the longstanding legacy of ACU’s mission for quality education, vocational training, and service toward others. As assistant professor and program director for the Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders, Alicia believes that no student’s journey is complete without understanding their personal reason for embarking into the world of speech pathology. And while she understands the daunting task of building the next generation of pathologists and speech therapists, she is eager – and ready – to do so
The Wildcat Full Circle
Raised in Plainview, TX, Alicia grew up knowing she wanted to serve others. Whether it be children or adults with disabilities, Alicia knew that she was meant to work with individuals that needed care, support, and above all else, patience. After completing high school, Alicia attended ACU and immediately fell in love with it. She majored in Communication Sciences and Disorders and began to build relationships with faculty members that would inspire her to become the speech pathologist she is today.
“The people and the experiences that I went through during my time at ACU were unlike any other,” Alicia said. “The most influential people in my life today are the ones that taught me back in my undergrad years. A couple of them are still there, and they have no idea how much they influenced me and made me into the person I am today.”
Wanting to dive head first into the field of speech pathology, Alicia quickly enrolled at Texas Woman’s University for her master’s degree, where she gained the qualifications to work as a speech pathologist. Within the span of her 25-year career, Alicia has made a name for herself by serving in multiple positions and organizations geared toward pediatrics and non-native speakers. Eager to make a difference in the lives of each of her patients, Alicia didn’t begin to feel the nudge to return to school until she was contacted by Dr. Brenda Bender, a long-time friend, and faculty member, who informed her that a new position was opening up. Not only did Alicia have the skills and the experience to push the program forward, but most importantly, she yearned to make a difference in students’ lives.
And, just as importantly, Ramirez loved the idea of returning to her alma mater. “It’s funny because my dream job was to go back to ACU at some point because I loved it [there],” Alicia remarked. “And when they mentioned it to me, I was surprised because it was exactly what I wanted, and I felt like I would have been crazy not to take it. And now, I get to work with these students that also have the same drive I did, and it’s just a God thing. It just fell into my lap.”
Like a dream, life had come full circle for Alicia. She was finally back to the place where it all started. Except this time there are no other role models or mentors, or guides. Now, it was her turn to lead her students.
Taking the Reins And Pushing For Success
In September 2022, Alicia started her position as program director at ACU Online. Learning the ins and outs of the program, Alicia was ready to jump into action. Along with teaching three classes, the new program director puts her most significant efforts into guiding students through the beginning stages of their academic journey. Whether that be making sure they are turning their assignments in on time, getting connected with other students, or contacting clinics to complete their field hours, Alicia considers it all a privilege.
“I can see the perseverance in my students’ when they approach me with a question or concern. They want to know more and want to get everything right. They are perfectionists – like me,” Alicia laughs.
To Alicia, that’s what separates her students from the rest. Their persistence to want to serve others with the utmost compassion and expertise.
“The profession calls for people who are compassionate towards others and very giving,” Alicia commented. “Don’t be fooled. It can take a lot out of you. You can serve in numerous positions and are, in essence, the front line for several families looking for answers for their kids or loved ones.”
In other words, it’s a “special brand of individuals.” In looking at the demographics of her students, Alicia recognizes that the online world of communication sciences and disorders brings in a different kind of student. From students with several years of experience to those just starting their careers, the fact remains the same; each student is seeking a career to improve other people’s lives. Whether that be becoming a speech pathology assistant (with a bachelor’s degree) or attending graduate school, Alicia is proud to have the types of students she interacts with on a weekly basis.
“My goal when entering this position was to make it the best undergraduate program possible,” Alicia said. “And while there are a lot of online programs out there, I want to keep the legacy going in the same direction and likeness as the Abilene program.”
The Ambitious Future Ahead
Alicia has several goals during her time as program director, including partnering with local clinics and sites seeking interns as well as establishing an online speech therapy clinic specifically for students in need. And while she has a long way to go before her goals become a reality, she remains optimistic. Every day, Alicia strives to make her students capable and effective speech pathology assistants who can compete for jobs and graduate school slots against other students regardless of the institution.
“A minor goal is to have 100 percent of our students in a job or on their way to graduate school by the end of their degree. That’s what I’m working toward. That’s what all program directors should want for their students – the absolute best,” Alicia expressed.
And without a moment to spare, Alicia knows she wouldn’t be where she’s at without guidance from the Lord. In the midst of completing her doctoral degree in education with an emphasis in special education, Alicia would be the first to tell you that she didn’t seek this job opportunity on her own; it sought her. And since then, it has reshaped her thinking about higher education and communication sciences in the last few months. And most importantly, it has reminded her that each and every moment is God-breathed and given. For now, that’s all she needs to know. In her words, she has enough work in front of her to carry on the tradition of a quality education backed by life-giving professionals.
Do you desire to make a difference in the lives of others like Alicia? Visit acu.edu/online or contact us at 855-219-7300 today to learn about our online programs.