EKU Establishes Dept. of American Sign Language and Interpreter Education
Katie Huber, a senior in the Interpreter Training Program from West Chester, Ohio, signs with Bryan Grubb, a senior in the ITP from Richmond, in the newly renovated ASL lab.
The newly established Department of American Sign Language and Interpreter Education (ASLIE) at EKU advances the University as a national leader in a growing field, officials say.
Housed in EKU’s College of Education, the Department is unique in the Commonwealth, combining an Interpreter Education Program (a major in interpreting and a minor in American Sign Language), a Center on Deafness and Hearing Loss, and an active outreach in-service training program. In fact, in all the states surrounding Kentucky, only four public institutions have a baccalaureate interpreter education program. Currently, only 34 public and private baccalaureate degree programs are scattered around the U.S.
Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Oct. 27, to formally announce the program, President Whitlock said he remembers a time “years and years ago when Eastern was the first in the state to make a real concerted effort to meet the needs of deaf students. That effort and dedication caused the deaf and hard of hearing to start coming to our campus in large numbers (and) gave the program the traction to grow into the leader in the state.
“Today is a very proud day for EKU,” Whitlock added, “and, I think, an indication of our dedication to provide educational services where they are needed.”
Graduates of EKU’s Interpreter Education Program are in high demand. According to Department Chair Dr. Laurence Hayes, a significant increase in the need for interpreters is anticipated over the next decade. Beginning in 2012, all candidates for national certification must hold a bachelor’s degree in the field.
Currently, 23 students from a variety of states are pursuing a baccalaureate degree in interpreter education at EKU, and an additional 250 are enrolled in American Sign Language (ASL) classes. Since its establishment in 1989, the Interpreter Training Program has graduated more than 200 students.
Hayes explained that interpreting “is more than just straightforward coding and decoding of English. It is not akin to a transcribing process. Interpreting assumes a high level of fluency in two languages, English and ASL. There is no straightforward technique that can be quickly learned and applied in order to become a competent interpreter.
“The development of interpreting skills requires intense effort on behalf of the student and an inordinate level of face-to-face interaction with faculty and peers,” Hayes added. “Interpreter education requires coordination of providing source language material as well constant monitoring to ensure the student’s target language output matches the meaning and intent of the source language. Feedback is maintained constantly throughout the curriculum, internship and is continued by supervisors and mentors after graduation.”
Interpreters find employment in various settings: educational institutions, government, business, and the legal, medical and mental health professions, as well as personal (funerals, weddings, reunions, etc.).
College of Education Dean Bill Phillips noted that Kentucky now has approximately 140 licensed interpreters, “and we need twice that many.”
Phillips went on to credit the support of the Kentucky Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and from State Rep. Harry Moberly Jr. as instrumental in the program’s success.
Whereas interpreters were once seen as “helpers,” now they are seen as professionals, Hayes said, adding that the elevation of the program to departmental status “makes a positive statement about EKU … where the interpreting profession is and where it’s headed.”
The Center on Deafness and Hearing Loss and various outreach programs enhance and extend the Department’s leadership role in interpreter education in Kentucky.
The Center works closely with academic and non-academic partners, on campus and throughout the Commonwealth, to serve as a catalyst and conduit for the development of innovative programming, training, research and networking. External partners for the ASLIE Department include Kentucky Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Kentucky Department of Education, Division for Exceptional Children Services, Kentucky School for the Deaf, Kentucky Department for Mental Health and Mental Retardation, and the Division of Mental Health Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, among others.
Outreach services included more than 25 workshops all across Kentucky that attracted more than 1,000 participants.
For more information about EKU’s Department of American Sign Language and Interpreter Education, visit www.aslie.eku.edu or call 622-4966.