National Stuttering Association

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Chris HeathwoodAssociate Professor

    Chris Heathwood

    Boulder, CO
    Associate Professor
    University of Colorado – Boulder

    Briefly describe your daily job duties.
    I teach classes in the philosophy department, from introductory-level undergraduate classes to graduate seminars. I am currently the director of our graduate program. I do original research in philosophy — basically writing philosophy papers or books — with the aim of having it published. I present this research at conferences. I supervise graduate students. And I do all kinds of miscellaneous service work for my department, my university, and the wider profession.

    As a person who stutters, share the most challenging part of your job.
    If I’m having a bad speech day on a day that I need to be doing a lot of talking — whether because I am teaching or am in meetings — that’s a rough day. I think all people who stutter face this problem from time to time.

    What are your long-term career aspirations?
    I am now past the mid-point of my career. I hope to get promoted to full professor next year, and then just continue being a professor until it’s time to retire.

    Did you self-disclose your stuttering during the job hiring process?
    Absolutely. Disclosing is probably the single most helpful thing that a person who stutters can do. During the hiring process, I disclosed within the first 60 seconds of opening my mouth. I told people I stuttered. I told them they didn’t have to worry about it or do anything about it, other than wait, and that I was talking about it because it helps me to be open about it. I encouraged them to ask me about it and about how I deal with it in teaching, in giving talks, and in other speech-intensive activities.

    What is your proudest moment at your current company?
    I felt most proud when I earned tenure and when my work has been published in prestigious journals. In a more general way, I am very proud of myself for not letting the fact that I stutter stop me from trying to make it in the career I most wanted (professional philosopher).

    Describe how stuttering makes you a better, more valued contributor at work.
    I think that my students appreciate that their professor can be open and vulnerable about the challenges he faces. Students have told me that they find it inspiring and that it makes them feel like maybe their own problems don’t need to stop them from doing what they want to do.

    What’s your best advice for people who stutter just entering the workplace and for those in a career striving to achieve greater success?
    The most important thing is to be disclosing often (I myself need to be better at following this advice). You can do it with a sense of humor. Another crucial thing is to “set limits.” For example, if a co-worker is always finishing your sentences, and this is something that bothers you and makes you stutter more (that’s what it does to me), you have to ask them to stop. You can do it gently. You can say that you know that they mean well by it, but that it helps you more if they let you finish.

    Image of Leigh Gaston for NSA Career Profile