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A Voice That Travels

Written by Nicole Ogrysko
3/21/2013

Skott Freedman

As a prospective student, Skott Freedman knew Ithaca College was the place for him within an hour of visiting the campus with his mother. He hadn’t even visited any other college or university before seeing IC.

“I told my mother, ‘This is it. I’m going here,”’ he recalls.

Several years after graduating from IC in 2001 with a degree in speech-language pathology, Freedman was offered the opportunity to teach at his alma mater. He knew he couldn’t pass up the job and returned in 2010 as an assistant professor.

“The thought of coming back was really exciting for me—just to be on the other side of the desk and know what it’s like from this angle to be a professor,” he says.

Freedman’s path to teaching wasn’t particularly straightforward. After graduation, he spent three years on the road, touring alone as a singer-songwriter. He released five albums, some of which were reviewed by the New York Times and Billboard magazine. He also camped all over the country and spent a month touring in Australia.

“I used to play some of the local coffee houses in Ithaca, so for me, it was a natural progression,” Freedman says. “I knew I was going to be a speech-language pathologist, so I thought, ‘Now is the time to really try out this music thing.’”

Shortly after Freedman finished his Ph.D. at San Diego State University in 2009, he moved back to the East Coast. Now, he works with some of the same professors who taught him as an undergraduate.

He teaches classes on children’s language development and leads the collaborative language research laboratory, where he works with students on a variety of research projects ranging from studies on how adults learn new vocabulary to college students’ perceptions and awareness of autism.

“I never could do just one experiment for the whole year,” he says. “My personality needs to be doing lots of different things at lots of different times.”

To that point, Freedman recently contributed to a book on animal communication by journalist Holly Menino titled Calls Beyond Our Hearing: Unlocking the Secrets of Animal Voices. In Freedman’s chapter, “Slow Boat to China," he discusses potential connections between the human word and the communication observed in animals (see sidebar).

Freedman says his passion for speech pathology began as an undergraduate at IC, where he realized that his field not only gave him the opportunity to study and do research but also to help other people who have a difficult time speaking or expressing their thoughts.

“If you’re not able to talk or communicate for yourself, what does that do to your quality of life?” Freedman queries. “That really inspired me to consider, ‘What can I do to help people who don’t have this ability or who have lost the ability to communicate?’”

For Freedman, returning to Ithaca not only gave him the chance to explore the lakes, gorges, and trails he loved as an undergraduate but to give back to the school as well. The best part of being back in Ithaca, he says, is working with his students.

“Part of why I came back was not just to be a professor and have that boundary but also to have the chance to interact differently than the last time I was here,” he says. “I love being involved with the students. I love working with them, and I like having fun with them. They’re so energetic. They’re so optimistic, and I probably learn more from them than they learn from me.” 



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