As faculty members at East Tennessee State University, Dr. A. Lynn Williams and Dr. James Bitter, who have been married for 38 years, have supported each other through many career milestones.
Last fall, the couple had the opportunity to simultaneously celebrate an important accomplishment in academia: the publication of new editions of their bestselling textbooks in their respective fields.
Bitter is a professor in the Department of Counseling and Human Services in ETSU’s Clemmer College. The third edition of his textbook, “Theory and Practice of Couples and Family Counseling,” was published in October 2020 by the American Counseling Association.
His book, an introduction to couples and family counseling, lays the foundation for student skill-building by encouraging the development of personal, professional and ethical standards of practice. The third edition has been expanded to include couples counseling and updated to reflect recent research and current practice.
Williams, a speech-language pathologist, serves as associate dean for academics in the ETSU College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences. The second edition of her textbook, “Interventions for Speech Sound Disorders in Children,” was published by Brookes Publishing in November 2020, just a few weeks after her husband’s book was released. Williams co-edited the book with colleagues from Charles Sturt University in Australia and The Ohio State University.
An essential building block of every speech-language pathologist’s professional preparation, the second edition of Williams’s textbook is a comprehensive critical analysis of 21 interventions for highly prevalent speech sound disorders in children.
While Bitter and Williams work in different fields and colleges, there are several similarities in their most recent projects.
“An interesting parallel between our two books is they’re both focused on interventions,” Williams said. “Jim’s book is focused on working with couples and families, and mine is dealing with interventions for children who have speech sound disorders.”
Additionally, both professors utilized ETSU’s Broadcast Studio housed in the Department of Media and Communication to record video demonstrations to accompany and supplement the content in their textbooks. Bitter’s videos are available to the public at www.jamesrobertbitter.com, and Williams’s are available with purchase of the textbook.
Bitter and Williams have taught at ETSU for 25 years. However, their academic careers were not always aligned at the same institution. For several years—first while Williams completed her Ph.D. at Indiana University and then again when she accepted a job at Oklahoma State University and Bitter worked at California State University—the couple commuted and maintained a long-distance marriage.
“We had driven from Oklahoma to West Virginia a number of times to visit Lynn’s parents, and we would pass the signs for East Tennessee State University,” Bitter said. “We would say to ourselves, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we could both get jobs there?’”
Coincidentally, the couple learned about open faculty positions in their respective fields at ETSU. Williams was at a conference when she heard about an opening in the Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, and Bitter saw a job in ETSU’s counseling program listed in the “Chronicle of Higher Education.” They flew into Johnson City separately for their interviews at ETSU—Williams from Oklahoma and Bitter from California—and each was hired to come onboard the ETSU faculty the same year.
During their time at ETSU, the couple has found opportunities to blend their two professions, most notably collaborating to start a course titled “Counseling in Communicative Disorders,” which they co-taught for several years.
Now that their books are complete, the couple is celebrating the accomplishment together, as well as other recent career accolades, including Bitter receiving the Significant Professional Achievement alumni award in 2020 from his alma mater, Idaho State University, and Williams being elected the 2021 president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Williams and Bitter agreed: “During the 25 years we have been at ETSU, the supportive partnership we have had with each other, the encouragement and celebration of each other’s scholarship, that support has been mirrored in our relationship with the university. The people and personnel with whom we have worked here have helped us to improve every part of our academic lives, and these two books reflect that support and partnership in multiple ways.”