New department chair hopes to update speech and hearing clinic

Christopher Watts had no plans to enter into the field of speech-language pathology before he went to school at the University of South Alabama. In fact, the main reason he took a course on the subject was because his girlfriend was also taking it.

“I just kind of fell into it,” Watts said about the beginning of his interest in the field.

Now, he is the new chair of the Harris College of Nursing and Health Science’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (COSD). Watts also heads the Miller Speech and Hearing Clinic on campus.

Watts credits his professor for sparking his interest in the field. He ended up staying eight years at the University of South Alabama, earning a Ph.D. The woman who helped convince him to take his first speech course also became his wife. The two will celebrate their 14th wedding anniversary this December.

Watts left his position at James Madison University, where he was a tenured professor since 2004, to come to TCU.

“I saw a really good opportunity for career growth,” Watts said. “I had aspirations to move into leadership, and there was a leadership position here.”

Others in TCU’s medical community are excited about having Watts on board.

“He’s an outstanding scholar and teacher and comes highly recommended,” said Dr. Paulette Burns, dean of the Harris College. “We’re very excited to have him here.”

The COSD has a “great reputation regionally” and a “solid reputation nationally,” Watts said. However, he believes there are ways to bolster the school’s reputation across the country.

“There’s so much potential in this department to see it evolve,” Watts said.

Some of the improvements he hopes to bring to the department include updating the program’s curriculum and an expansion of the English as Second Language program. Updates to the Miller Clinic are also needed, Watts said.

“First, we need to increase our physical space,” Watts said. “Once we have space, we will be able to expand the clinical services we offer in the Miller Speech and Hearing Clinic, and grow the graduate program in terms of numbers.”

Burns said about 20 students graduate from the COSD every year. TCU also offers a two-year Master’s program in speech-language pathology, in which 12 students are enrolled in a given year. Burns and Watts said they hope to see an expansion in the school’s graduate program sometime in the near future.

Watts is a member of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and a lifetime member of Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society, according to the Harris College Web site. He is a frequent published contributor to peer-reviewed journals and presenter to scientific and professional organizations. Watts has expertise in vocal physiology, voice disorders and motor speech disorders.