Speech-language pathology graduate student clinician named HPS 2019 Ricco Ethics competition winner

A winner is selected from each of the 13 colleges and schools in the University of North Texas.

DENTON (UNT), Texas – Shanielle Henslee, speech-language pathology graduate student clinician in the University of North Texas College of Health and Public Service (HPS) Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, has been selected as HPS’s 2019 winner of the Ricco Ethics Scholarship Competition. The competition was created in the Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism and funded by Nick and Anna Ricco, long-time UNT donors, to promote intellectual debate and discussion and boost ethical understanding in students. Students write an essay based on a specific case study topic provided and winners receive $1,000.

“When I found out that I was selected to receive the Ricco scholarship, my jaw dropped,” Henslee said. “This scholarship was something that I was really hoping to receive to help me finish out my last semester of graduate school. Originally, to help cover living expenses, I spent hours applying for different part-time jobs but I struggled finding anywhere that would hire me based on my limited availability. So, I devoted time to this ethics essay instead. I am extremely grateful and honored to have been selected as the winning entry – I cannot fully express how this award is truly a blessing of provision for me.”

This year’s topic, “Targeting a Broken Heart,” revolved around a February 3rd Facebook blog that revealed their researchers looked at users’ behavior before and after a breakup and used that information to target those users with ads based on keywords used in posts and whether those actions were ethical.

“The case study involving relationship break-ups and social media targeted advertising was a bit difficult to immediately tie in with my field of speech-language pathology; however, once I put myself in the shoes of an individual who would receive speech therapy services and use Facebook, I found it easier to determine Facebook's actions unethical,” Henslee said. “In a world controlled by social media and where the Internet has mass amounts of data accessible by good and bad-intentioned individuals alike, I determined it is unethical for Facebook to use targeted ads towards the vulnerable population of those seeking healthcare such as speech/language/swallowing therapy. Healthcare should be provided based on the quality and competence of the medical team, not based on which company can promote the most ads to individuals who appear to need the services based on posts they share.”

Dr. Neale Chumbler, dean of the college, says he’s proud of Henslee’s success.

“Ms. Henslee is a shining example of the quality of students we have here in HPS,” Dr. Chumbler said. “We are incredibly proud of her and the way she researched this topic and built a strong argument for this case study. It’s wonderful to see how her dedication and perseverance have paid off and we look forward to seeing her continued successes.”

Henslee’s award will be announced April 26 at UNT’s Honors Day celebration.