Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox

Kim A. Wilcox
Kim A. Wilcox | photo courtesy of UC Riverside |

Meet Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox

I met Dr. Wilcox two years ago while completing my M.S. at Purdue University (Boiler Up!). Being a Boilermaker himself, he was visiting Purdue for an alumni event and made the time to speak with our SLP graduate class. He shared about his journey–beginning with a Master’s degree from Purdue in speech-language pathology to eventually being appointed Chancellor of the University of California – Riverside. He encouraged us, as first year graduate students eager to enter the workforce, to challenge the typical ‘trajectory’ of an SLP. He talked about the shortage of professionals with their PhD in our field and used his own career path as an example of the leadership opportunities and avenues we have a potential to explore! As speech-language pathologists, we are, quite literally, experts in communication. Communication is the foundation of education, business, leadership, and human relationships. As experts in this area, the avenues we can explore are endless. Let’s not limit ourselves in the belief that clinical practice is the only job we are qualified for. My interview with Dr. Wilcox reminded me to challenge the mindset that I reached my full potential when I earned my CCC’s.

His path: Dr. Wilcox has been the Chancellor of UC Riverside since August 2013. AS the CEO of UC Riverside, he oversees a campus of more than 23,000 students. Prior to joining UC Riverside, he held leadership positions as provost of Michigan State and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Kansas. He spent ten years as the chair of the Dept. of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences at the University of Kansas. Dr. Wilcox holds his master’s and doctoral degrees in speech and hearing sciences from Purdue University and his research focuses on speech acoustics. He was named a “Diversity Champion” by ASHA in 2009, an award which recognizes individuals for advancing multicultural issues in communication sciences and disorders. He received this award as an SLP for founding the Native American Training Program at the University of Kansas.

“Always be ready (or ready to push for) change.  I often say: “Few people like change, but everyone wants things to get better.” – Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox

The Interview

1.What advice would you give to a new graduate who is about to start their clinical fellowship (CF)?

Don’t think of this experience as the end, but the beginning.

Too often, we’re told from our undergraduate years that: “You need to get a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, complete a CF, and then you’ll be able to practice.”  Completing this basic educational regimen and practicing may be necessary for becoming a speech-language pathologist, but it is not necessarily sufficient for every student’s aspirations.  So approach the CF as necessary clinical preparation for what may be your next professional step, but also consider CF options with an eye toward what else they might lead to in such areas as clinical administration, community service and organizing, business creation, etc., etc.


2. What is one belief, habit or routine that has significantly impacted your life?

Always being ready (or ready to push for) change.  I often say: “Few people like change, but everyone wants things to get better.”  Unless someone is willing to change the current paradigm things won’t get better and we won’t move ahead as a profession or a society.


3. Where did you complete your CF? How does the career path you’ve traveled differ from the path you imagined as a new grad?

I was always planning to pursue an academic career, so I finished my Ph.D., took my first faculty job at the University of Missouri, and completed my CF during my first two years on the job.

Most of my CF was spent at the local Head Start Program in Columbia, Missouri; and I continued to work with the program after my CF.  My background was in speech science and acoustic phonetics, but my preschool experience at Head Start was of great value to me later when I joined the faculty at the University of Kansas and spent several years working with young children and even assisting Mabel Rice in creating a demonstration preschool.


4. What book do you most frequently recommend? Is there a book that has greatly impacted how you think?

I read a lot non-fiction, and especially history and biographies.  Among my recent favorites: 1491 (and 1493), Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson (in several volumes), and Boys in the Boat.  I don’t know if there is a single book that has shaped my thinking, but I find reading history makes me better able to critique current events both in my life and in the world.


5. What is your favorite failure?

I’ve made some hiring decisions that didn’t work out for any number of reasons, but each one taught me a lot about people and about the expectations of different jobs and roles.


6. What areas in the field of speech-language pathology do you see the most opportunity for growth?

We must regain our rightful role in leading the research domain in the behavioral sciences.  Oral communication largely defines us as humans and many of the most complex questions of the next century will involve communication and language.  Other groups are crowding us out of our own area of study.


7. What are bad recommendations you hear in the field or in your area of expertise?

Too many students are told to get a master’s degree.  Too few students are told to get a Ph.D.


8. What was a notable turning point or shift in your career? How did this impact your professional journey?

My chosen career was to be a professor.  Through a series of events, I became an administrator.  In each case, I was fortunate enough to be in a position to accept ever more challenging administrative opportunities when they arose; and I was even willing to try some that I didn’t believe I would be very good at.  I am forever grateful that I accepted these challenges, for they have provided me opportunities to see and do things that I never could have imagined.

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