LU alums, history-makers to present at national ASHA convention

We never imagined that we were becoming a part of history –– we just thought we were doing what we were supposed to do which is to earn our degree and then start a career like every other adult. We were in the moment,” Keyara Watson-Love said, recalling when the pair simultaneously graduated with master’s degrees in speech-language pathology in May –– a field with only 3% of Black women in their fields.

That one moment took social media by storm soon after. From Yahoo and Black Enterprise to AfroTech and Black News, media outlets across the nation spotlighted the duo for their history-making feat.

“We’ve always felt that pressure of joining the 3%, even during undergrad,” Teyara said. “We would ask ourselves ‘Ok, what are we going to do? Will we follow through and accomplish this or will we fold under pressure?’”

Her sister Keyara added, “Being a part of the 3% is important to us and it always has been. This is a hard profession and we want to do our part to increase that number and provide support for other people of color in this field.” teyara-and-keyara-watson-love

This isn’t their first time achieving academic excellence, however. The fraternal twins also obtained their Bachelor of Science degrees in communication sciences and disorders of oral health with summa cum laude and magna cum laude honors from Texas Women’s University. Prior to that, the pair graduated from E.L. Furr High School in Houston with the highest honors placing them in the top 10% of their class.

Now, the two history-makers are set to present their academic research at the annual American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Convention.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association is the national professional, scientific and credentialing association for 223,000 members and affiliates within the speech-language-hearing field. The ASHA Convention, set to take place Nov. 17 in New Orleans, Louisiana, is an annual professional development and networking event for speech-language pathologists, audiologists and speech, language and hearing scientists. The 2022 theme, “Reframe Your Thinking: Resilience Reinvented,” is a challenge to reexamine how professionals within the field view resilience.

Teyara, who’s working with faculty mentor Michal Azios, Ph.D., assistant professor of speech and hearing, has focused her research on helping adults who stutter with speech fluency through cinema therapy.

“We talked to many adults that have stutters and while they have their own experiences with this, they’ve never seen another person who also stutters. They sometimes think that they are the only people going through this,” Teyara said. “The idea of our research is to show those adults films of other people stuttering in hopes that they would find relatability. They will no longer view their stutter as a hindrance, but as something that’s a part of them.” 

Keyara, on the other hand, is working with LeKeitha Morris, Ph.D., associate professor of speech and hearing, with a project called “Success with Stories.”

“Our research project focused on helping children develop reading skills before they start school or while they're in school. We took a look at how many parents actually read to their children and we started to wonder if parents’ beliefs had an impact on how the child reacts to being interested in reading,” Keyara said. “I really enjoyed that project and it was good work with a professor who's African American in the field of research. I did the research assistantship and the guided research project and it was great to work beside Dr. Morris and see how she does research and to get an inside look at the Ph.D. process.”

Morris, who also is a part of the 3% of Black women in the field of speech-language pathology, said she feels a sense of responsibility to keep adding the number.

“I tell students all the time, ‘Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey.’ To see any student succeeding is a wonderful feeling, but knowing Keyara and Teyara’s path to get here is a huge accomplishment and I’m so proud of them. Both are working now and doing their part to increase that number,” Morris said. “I’m so proud of them. I hope their story highlights how important we are as faculty in doing what we can to make sure that we are supporting students from marginalized backgrounds or students of color to succeed in this field.”