Speech-language pathology professor explores child and adolescent communication disorders

Q&A with Marie Kerins, Ed.D., associate vice president for research and graduate affairs

By Annemarie Langlois, '15  |  Photo courtesy of Marie Kerins

Marie R. Kerins, Ed.D., associate vice president for research and graduate affairs and associate professor of speech-language pathology/audiology for Loyola University Maryland, started teaching at Loyola in the fall of 2000 after teaching at Johns Hopkins and Towson University. Prior to studying and earning her doctorate at Johns Hopkins, she worked for 18 years in schools as a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist.

Kerins recently published a book, Child and Adolescent Communication Disorders: Organic and Neurogenic Bases, which features her scholarly work and that of several of her colleagues.

Annemarie Langlois, 15, spoke with Kerins about her book, her research, and her experience at Loyola.

What do you like about being a part of the Loyola community?

I enjoy being a part of a community that shares similar values with a focus on teaching and mentoring students to become thoughtful citizens that will contribute their skills and talents to an incredible but fractured world.

Tell me a little about your research:

I have long been interested in the how children and adolescents, who have no outward appearance of struggle or disability, can become successful socially and academically. I am fascinated by the relationship between phonological difficulties and later academic problems.

We really have gotten much better at identifying risk factors such as impaired syntax, morphology, and phonology, and analyzing these error patterns to better predict later academic success, specifically literacy acquisition. This has led to an interest in early intervention strategies that include phonological and morphological awareness.

On the social side, I see the frustration of students with language impairment and how that affects their self-esteem, peer interactions, and even the ability to comprehend a passage in a short story. Because of this relationship, there is a high concomitance between individuals with language impairment and psychiatric disorders.

Why is your research/scholarship so important to you?

My scholarship is closely linked to my 18-plus years of clinical experience. I see how keen assessment skills and observation can provide insight into a child or adolescent’s happiness and academic success. Continually refining the current evidence-based interventions through research provides our children more and better opportunities for healthy social relationships and access to a challenging curriculum.

Can you describe an “aha” moment in your research?

I am not sure I had one “aha” moment. However, I was first turned on to research as a clinician who was curious as to why some of the students I worked with were more successful than others. My colleague and I would spend hours collecting data on dozens of variables we thought might influence a successful path to graduation. We then took our data to my eventual dissertation advisor at Hopkins, who helped us run different analyses. It was at that time that I decided to go on to earn my doctorate.

How did you decide to create the book?

The book was the result of discussion with colleagues in the department of speech-language pathology and audiology. We recognized that there was not a good textbook on child and adolescent communication disorders for our undergraduates—and felt we had the expertise to develop one.

My colleague Lisa Schoenbrodt was instrumental in encouraging the development of the text, so I rose to the challenge and pitched the idea to several publishers. It was an exciting, sometimes frustrating, collaboration that resulted in my current book, Child and Adolescent Communication Disorders: Organic and Neurogenic Bases.

What are you hoping a reader of the book will take from it?

I am hoping that the audience will walk away with a curiosity to continue exploring child and adolescent communication disorders and an appreciation of the complexity of the communication disorders.

Did you learn anything from the book yourself?

I am always learning. I learned much from my colleagues, especially in some of the areas that I do not have expertise, such as cleft palate and fetal alcohol syndrome.

How are our Jesuit values reflected in your teaching and/or scholarship?

Regardless of what I am teaching or who I am mentoring or advising, I try to model what I think is most important, and that is fairness, kindness, and acknowledgement that we each have much to offer, and that it is our responsibility to use our talents in an unselfish and generous way.

What is something your students don’t know about you?

I worked one summer as an intern for Walter Mondale when he was vice president of the United States back in the summer of 1978. I had access to the West Wing of the White House, where I would run in to Amy Carter, and I stood on the South Lawn many times as President Carter received dignitaries, such as Prime Minister Desai from India.

What are your hobbies and interests outside of teaching?

Playing tennis, swimming, gardening, reading, and hanging out with family and friends

Do you have a favorite book, movie, or quote?

I love quotes, sayings, idioms. Ask my children. Here are two favorites:

“Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” —Philip Stanhope
“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” —Nelson Mandela

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