Alumni Spotlight: Karan Andriacchi

We have always had outstanding students in our undergraduate and graduate programs, and Karen (Digney) Andriacchi is no exception. Karen earned her B.S. degree in 1988 and her M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology in 1990 from our Department. After receiving her clinical SLP degree, Karen did a CFY in a Lake Forest, Illinois school, and spent the following five years of her professional life as an SLP in a Schaumberg, Illinois school, where she worked in classrooms with children who had moderate-to-severe developmental disabilities.

“I was immersed in syndromes, feeding and swallowing issues, motor speech problems, and language disorders the likes of which I’d never seen in grad school,” she recalls, “I had the skills to teach myself how to work with these kids because of the UW-Madison program. They never spoon fed us. We had theory and knowledge, and a little practice. But we also left that program with the skills to figure things out.”

Karen Andriacchi (B.S., ’88 M.S. ’90)

Karen Andriacchi (B.S., ’88 M.S. ’90)

If we didn’t know Karen better, we might think she had been eavesdropping on one of the many curriculum discussions our faculty has had over the years! Karen returned to Madison in 1996, worked a few more years in the public schools and then took a few years off to start a family (three babies in 22 months, with a set of twins in the mix). In 2002 emeritus professor Jon Miller, who has a world-wide reputation for contributions to language sample analysis (SALT), called on Karen to assist him on a bilingual language grant. Karen also became the point person for the Symposium on Research in Child Language Disorders (SRCLD–, a world-class conference on child language disorders held each summer here in Madison, founded by Jon in 1980 and currently directed by Professor Susan Ellis Weismer.

SRCLD invites scientists from all over the world to present their work on various aspects of developmental language disorders. Posters and presentations are also submitted to the conference, and are juried by our doctoral students. The conference is considered a major event in the world of language disorders. The Symposium always runs professionally and smoothly, in large part due to Karen’s keen knowledge and organizational skills, as well as her outstanding communication skills.

“I love SALT and I love SRCLD,” says Karen. “My current jobs allow me to continue to be involved with diagnostics, to do research, write, and consult with SLPs in schools and private practice and in research. I get to meet, and even befriend, some of the best child language researchers in the world. I get to do it all – and I feel blessed to be able to continue to love, and learn in, my field because I have two very different, but very incredible, jobs.”

Karen remembers her time in our clinical graduate program with fondness—the interaction with her classmates, how they learned from each other, complained and comforted each other, the small, intimate nature of the program, the life-long friendships she developed and maintains among the group of people who were students with her in the 1990 graduation class of SLPs.

Check out Karen’s collaborative work with Jon Miller and Ann Nockerts, presented in their 2011 book ASSESSING LANGUAGE PRODUCTION USING SALT SOFTWARE: A Clinician’s Guide to Language Sample Analysis (Miller, Andriacchi, Nockerts), published by SALT Software.
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