New major offers students hands-on approach to ASL

Columbia ASL

Columbia ASL

By Assistant Campus Editor

Columbia’s American Sign Language-English Interpretation Department added a Deaf Studies major this semester, the only program of its kind in the Midwest.

Unlike the department’s current ASL-English Interpretation degree, Deaf Studies focuses more on deaf culture than interpreting, said Peter Cook, interim chair and associate professor in the ASL-English Interpretation Department, through Candace Hart, an ASL staff interpreter. 

 “There has always been a portion of our students who were interested in working in the deaf community but didn’t want to be sign language interpreters,” Cook said. “Now the program offers a bachelor’s for those students, so once they leave Columbia, they can go into a specific field whether it be deaf education, linguistics, being a community advocate or involvement in theater and the arts.” 

Cook said he thinks the new major will help the department’s retention rates because students who were dropping out due to a lack of interest in interpreting now have a alternative option.  

Students enrolled in the ASL-English Interpretation and Deaf Studies majors have a similar core curriculum during their first two years of the program, but later branch off into separate classes, Cook said.

During their final year of the program, deaf studies students will participate in a capstone project, during which they will specialize and develop research in their particular field of interest within the community. 

“Often we have students who are majoring in theater and also want to work in the deaf community, so they want to combine both of those interests,” Cook said. “[During] the last year [of the program], they can focus on that.”  

Students enrolled in the program would not be allowed to double major, though, according to Cook. 

Cook said current ASL students already expressed an interest in switching their major to deaf studies. Brooklynn DeCicco, a freshman double major in ASL-English