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Josh Sorvik: Taking on the Study of Speech Pathology

There are those who can’t imagine pursuing a master’s degree after a life-altering accident. Josh Sorvik can. He is studying speech language pathology to help others communicate. His dream is to be a therapist for those with central nervous system injuries. Those who can, create their destiny.

Josh Sorvik and Olivia

Josh Sorvik is working on his masters degree in communication sciences and disorders at UMD. His goal is to become a speech language pathologist and so his study concentrates on how humans communicate, going beyond speech, hearing, reading, and writing.

For people with communication handicaps, language takes many forms. For instance, signing, cueing, and using technology are alternative languages.

In addition to his classes, Sorvik has already started working with clients. That means he is learning about child language disorders, swallowing problems, motor speech disorders, and neurogenic language disorders.

The first semester was tough. "There's so much to know," Sorvik said. "I'm getting my butt kicked." He said he is learning a lot. "The faculty are tremendous. Kent Brorson is a great teacher and Lynette Carlson has been an incredible help."

Sorvik is one of the students who has received a Robert F. Pierce scholarship, which means he is ranked in the top of his class. The scholarship is named for Dr. Robert F. Pierce who in the 1950s created the curriculum for the UMD speech pathology program and also headed a hearing and speech pathology clinic in Duluth.

Speech language pathology has a special meaning for Sorvik. In 2009, Sorvik was in a skiing accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. He also sustained a major concussion. As he went through rehabilitation, Sorvik met many fellow patients with brain injuries so severe, their ability to speak was impaired. "It could have been me if I landed an inch closer to a tree," Sorvik said. "The speech pathologists were remarkable. They made such a difference. As I watched them work, I realized that was something I wanted to do."

Sorvik enrolled at UMD and finished his undergraduate degree in communication sciences and disorders in three short years. Now he's on his way to making a difference in the lives of others.

Those Who Can, Duluth

Written by Cheryl Reitan with Korin Olgaard, January 2013

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UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,

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