10 Questions with Barbara Amster, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, BCS-FD, ASHA Fellow

HOMETOWN: Brooklyn, New York 

TITLE: Professor, Chair, and Graduate Director of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders 

YEARS AT LA SALLE: 20 

DEGREES: Ph.D., Speech and Hearing Science, Temple UniversityM.S., Speech-Language Pathology, University of Pittsburgh B.A., Speech and Theatre, Brooklyn College

  1. What made you want to become a speech-language pathologist?
    “My grandmother suffered from dementia, and it was awful to watch how it affected her language, so I thought I would help people like her. Another thing that set me on this career path was when my ninth-grade teacher told my mother, ‘Barbara is doing great, but she has the worst Brooklyn accent I have ever heard in my entire life.’ So that set the stage; I had to do something about it. The wonderful thing about being a speech pathologist is that . . . at the end of the day you can say, ‘I changed someone’s life today; I really made an impact.’ It’s just a wonderful career.”
  2. What recent accomplishment are you proud of?
    “Along with my colleague, Evelyn Klein, Ph.D., I just co-authored and edited a book, ‘More Than Fluency: The Social, Emotional and Cognitive Dimensions of Stuttering.’ One of the most difficult aspects of stuttering is how it affects a person’s life socially, emotionally and cognitively. And often, speech therapy programs to help those who stutter only address speech; they don’t consider these other issues. People who stutter have a speech mechanism that doesn’t always work for them, and this can be most frustrating during social interactions, causing much distress. Jim Mancinelli, Ph.D., and Jennifer Kleinow, Ph.D., who are also on our faculty, contributed chapters, along with some other prominent people in the field of stuttering. So Evelyn and I are really thrilled; it came out in April. It was a labor of love.”
  3. If your students take away only one lesson from the Speech-Language Pathology program, what do you hope it would it be?
    “To be client and patient centered — they always come first. And to enjoy what you’re doing and have fun. I always tell my students that they are making the world a better place and doing very important work. We now have over 500 graduates from the master’s program, and I think about how many people they’ve helped and how they’ve made the world a better place, one client at a time.”
  4. Do you have any favorite or least favorite words?
    “Two of my favorite words are collegiality and collaboration, and I think that’s because the Communication Sciences and Disorders Department here at La ­Salle exemplifies these characteristics. This department has faculty who are outstanding, and one of the things that I think is well known on this campus is how collegial we all are with one another. So I suppose, for that reason, polarization is one of my least favorite words.”
  5. Who was the biggest influence on your life?
    “My mother. She was always encouraging us to read and learn, and that strongly guided me. My sister and I were the first in our family to graduate from college, so it was her love of learning that set us on that path. My mother didn’t even graduate from high school. Her father died in the flu epidemic of 1918, and my grandmother was left with five children to raise, so my mother had to work to help support her family. But she always had a book in her hand and was reading. She also worked her whole life, helping my father with his business. She was a great mother and somehow able to do everything which, in those days, was not typical.

Fast Five

Dead or alive, who are four people who you would invite to dinner? 

“Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg.”

What is your favorite place to grab a bite to eat in the area? 

“I’m a vegetarian, so Vedge and Goldie are two of my favorites. Goldie is really fun; they only sell falafel, and — this sounds terrible but really is delicious — smoothies made with tahini. It’s unbelievable.”

What’s your favorite show or movie you’ve watched recently? 

“My husband and I are big movie buffs. We just finished the ‘Jack Ryan’ series on Amazon Video, and that was fantastic. I also loved the ‘Notorious RBG.’”

As a New York native, how do you enjoy living in Philadelphia?

“It has everything that New York has, but it’s a much more manageable city. You don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything. The food is great, the culture is great, and I love the change of seasons. I’m very happy in Philadelphia.” 

What are your favorite ways to spend your free time? 

“Traveling and meeting and talking to people. I love to try to understand other cultures. I am also constantly reading. I’m in the middle of ‘Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought Nazi Germany.’ I’m also reading ‘Big Little Lies,’ and I just finished reading ‘The Lost City of the Monkey God’ — I read everything.”