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What’s New at the Student Academy of Audiology (SAA): Interview with Virginia Best, President of the SAA

What’s New at the Student Academy of Audiology (SAA): Interview with Virginia Best, President of the SAA

October 05, 2009 Interviews

Douglas L. Beck, AuD, speaks with Best about the SAA goals, AudiologyNOW!® 2010, dual degree AuD/MBA programs, the SAA Board members, the SAA Advisory Committee, and how to start an SAA Chapter.

Academy: Hi, Virginia. It is great to chat with you again.

Best: Hi, Dr. Beck. Thanks for inviting me!

Academy: Congratulations on being voted in as president of the Student Academy of Audiology (SAA).

Best: Thanks, it really is an honor!

Academy: Absolutely. When did your term start?

Best: Well it just began on July 1, 2009, and it is a one-year term.

Academy: I cannot think of a better president for this year of the SAA. You and I met at a professional program at the University of Buffalo (UB) a few months ago and I was very impressed! Not just with how much the audiology program there had grown and improved since I earned my BA and MA there (a hundred years ago), but the depth of the research and clinical program at UB is staggering, and your involvement with so many facets of the audiology program as well as your involvement with the SAA and the local UB Chapter.

Best: Thank you.

Academy: And, as if audiology did not require enough clinical time and academic studies, you are also working on an MBA?

Best: Yes. I am in the dual degree program at UB and it is really going great. The curriculum for the dual degree was created at UB some six or seven years ago, but nobody had actually registered until I decided to go for it. Therefore, I am the first (and only!) student in the AuD/MBA program.

Academy: Okay, well you certainly have many unique experiences! In addition, I know you just got back from Brazil, too. What were you doing in Brazil?

Best: I was there for three weeks to study abroad through UB. We compared the universal health-care system in Brazil to the health-care systems in the United States….so it was very exciting and I learned a lot!

Academy: I am sure that was an amazing experience. Tell me about what it is like earning two degrees simultaneously?

Best: Well, it is busy! I did my first year of the AuD program and then during that first year, I applied to the school of management for the MBA program. It was a matter of totally re-applying to graduate school. I had to do all the applications, the admissions tests, and, luckily, I brushed up on my test-taking skills ahead of the exam! But I passed, and here I am.

Academy: How many extra years does it take to go through the dual degree program?

Best: Just one extra year. Not too bad!

Academy: No, that is great. I think it would take me an extra year just to complete the application! In addition, are you pursuing both degrees with a particular career goal in mind?

Best: Yes, I want to apply my AuD and my MBA eventually into my own private audiology practice. I love leadership opportunities and team building.

Academy: And so this is your third year of audiology coming up (2009-2010)?

Best: Exactly. Therefore, in the fall of this year, I will be applying for my fourth-year externship.

Academy: Excellent. Sounds like a great plan. Let us talk about the SAA. Who are the other officers?

Best: Vice President, Courtney Abel, AuD student at Ohio State University
Secretary, Erin Piker, AuD - PhD student at Vanderbilt University
Treasurer, Jacquelyn Baudhuin - AuD student at Washington University in St. Louis
4th Year Members-at-Large

Jacquelyn Baudhuin (SAA Treasurer)
Megan Engratt - AuD student at University of Connecticut

3rd Year Members-at-Large

Allison Hearn - AuD student at University of Maryland
Andrea Richardson - AuD student at University of Idaho

2nd Year Members-at-Large

Erin Piker, AuD (SAA Secretary)
Kim Thi Tinius - AuD student at Wichita State University

Any Year Members-at-Large

Ryan Bullock - AuD student at Missouri State University
Cherysse Lanns - AuD student at NOAC (University of Akron)

Academy: And, will the SAA annual meeting still be held in conjunction with the AudiologyNOW! meeting?

Best: Yes. Therefore, this coming year (2010), we will be getting together in San Diego, and I am sure the entire SAA membership is looking forward to that!

Academy: Yes, that will be a fabulous meeting and I think the attendance will be record-breaking. Virginia, what are the advantages to the new SAA structure?

Best: There are many advantages. Working with the Academy allows us access to a ton of professional resources, staff, legal counsel, and information we otherwise would not have had access to. Because we have these resources, we can focus on goals and initiatives, rather than administrative functions. Of course, our big push right now is to establish local chapters across the country, and that is an enormous amount of work.

Academy: Yes, no doubt. Therefore, as the SAA spreads out and grows, you need to stay in touch with all the chapters….How do you do manage that?

Best: Of course, e-mail is the standard conduit for information flow, but Academy allows us to use their conference call system, and that is great because it is instantaneous, and of course you get emotion rather than just text, and it allows us to speak with the whole group on a regular basis. So the SAA Board meets monthly through phone conference, and as you can imagine, soon, we will be setting up various meetings with the SAA Advisory Committee, as well as the SAA Chapters.

Academy: How many SAA Chapters are there?

Best: We currently have 32 programs that have applied and are now recognized as SAA Chapters. Of course, we would like to get all 71 programs to have a chapter for their students. So getting the local chapters up and running is the primary goal.

Academy: And what are the other SAA goals?

Best: The SAA Board agrees that we would like to push forward and support philanthropic and humanitarian efforts through the SAA, such as volunteering and providing hearing screenings at the Special Olympics. We also want to focus on all audiology students, not only those in AuD programs. This effort will reach out to those working on their PhD or ScD degrees. Undergraduate/ high school student recruitment is something else that we will be working on. Then another major goal for us is marketing the SAA via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and such, to help make it easy for people to find us, and perhaps to one day help coordinate 4th-year externships, and to generally make the SAA more visible.

Academy: You have got your work cut out for you—that is an enormous task. Then again, you already have almost half of the programs on board. I believe the SAA only came into existence about eight months ago, and you only took office three months ago—so that’s actually pretty impressive!

Best: Yes, well, it is very complicated because there are lots of moving pieces and people to coordinate, but we feel like we are making substantial progress.

Academy: Yes, I have to agree. You and the SAA have come a long way in a short time. Virginia, I know you have already told me the SAA Board Members, their names, positions and affiliations, and I was hoping you would do the same for the advisory committee members, too.

Best: Sure, we have:

Jackson Roush, PhD - Chair
Anne Marie Tharpe, PhD - University Representative
Brad Stach, PhD - Clinical Representative
Brian Vesely - SAA Past President (and AuD student at Missouri State University)
Carmen Brewer, PhD - Clinical Representative
Carol Cokely, PhD - University Representative
Dianne Meyer, PhD - University Representative
Gail Whitelaw, PhD - University Representative
Jessica Barrett Scott, AuD - Recent Graduate and Clinical Representative
Nancy Stecker, PhD - National Advisor
Teri Hamill, PhD - Academy Board Liaison
Victoria Keetay, PhD - Academy Staff Liaison

Academy: Okay, and lastly, for schools and students that want to start an SAA Chapter, whom do they contact?

Best: Well, the easiest way is to contact me or Courtney Abel (the vice president of the SAA). Of course, they can also contact any of the SAA Board members, but the two of us are probably the easiest contact points for starting a new chapter.

Academy: Excellent… and so please give me your e-mail address, as well as Courtney’s, and the SAA Web site address please?

Best: Sure, the readers can e-mail me at, and they can contact Courtney at The SAA Web site address is

Academy: Thanks, Virginia… it has been a pleasure catching up with you!

Best: Thank you, too, Dr. Beck. It is great to speak with you again!

Virginia K. Best is an AuD/MBA student at the University of Buffalo and president of the Student Academy of Audiology.

Douglas L. Beck, AuD, Board Certified in Audiology, is the Web content editor for the American Academy of Audiology.

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