When student speech-language pathologists hear the name Dr. Michael Susca, PhD, CCC-SLP, BRS-FD, their first thoughts are of how his courses are not only challenging but rewarding. “Students usually say I’m hard but fair,” says Dr. Susca, who believes in enabling students to step outside their comfort zones for learning.

Dr. Susca is an Associate Professor in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and has been at Pacific since 2001. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Santa Barbara, Master of Science degree at the University of New Mexico, and his Doctor of Philosophy degree at the University of Nebraska. He is also one of approximately 200 Board Recognized Specialists in Fluency Disorders in the United States.

At a young age, Dr. Susca battled with stuttering and received speech therapy form third grade until his undergraduate years at University of Santa Barbara. It was his relationship with his speech-language pathologist that inspired him to study communication disorders. Today, Dr. Susca, who now speaks fluently, provides various clinical services for people who stutter.

Pumpkin dedicated to his years as a member on the Pacific Rowing Team

Dr. Susca praises the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, ASHA, for their efforts in educating the communities, local schools for identifying the need for speech therapy, speech-language pathologists in private practice for their distinguished work, and the media for presenting communication disorders in a positive light.

In the Oscar and Grammy award-winning film “The King’s Speech,” an Australian man named Lionel Logue works closely with King George VI to manage the king’s stuttering during radio speeches given in World War II. The movie depicts many of the complexities associated with stuttering.

“Stuttering has often been associated with people of low intelligence.  One reason the King’s Speech was a great film is that an individual with a stutter was also depicted as an intelligent man, a king,” commented Dr. Susca.  Today ASHA represents more than 145, 000 professionals who treat communication disorders.

His advice for students who are preparing for graduate school and for the profession is that they “think outside the box, challenge not only the authority but their own thinking, assume little, and continue learning.” Dr. Susca states a belief that his personal therapist and Logue were successful because of these reasons and because they had deep “knowledge, pushed the edge of the envelope, were creative, and developed a relationship with their patients.”

Dr. Susca is a humble man with a deep passion for his profession, patients, and students. Although he refrained from boasting his impressive list of accomplishments, he did share a few. In 2007, Dr. Susca was the director of the thesis The Effect of Phonological and Semantic Cues on Word Retrieval in Adults given by Katheryn Elizabeth Burrill, BS. At that time, it was the first thesis that had been defended in 23 years in his department at Pacific.

Pumpkin dedicated to his years as a member on the Pacific Rowing Team

Dr. Susca is an organic gardener and enjoys carving pumpkins for leisure and competitively known as “Mike the Knife,” sailing, poetry, and the thrill of skydiving which includes a total of 128 jumps. He lives in Stockton with his wife Mary Alice and his sons Galen and Ethan. Ethan is currently a junior at Harvey Mudd College.


By Dua Her '09
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