CSD ASL Program Has First Graduates

by Anne Adams

In December 2023, the ASL and Deaf Studies program celebrated its first graduates, Max Ziegenhorn and Olivia Lawrence. In May, they will be joined by three more graduates: Paige Brick, Alyssa Pritchett, and Jansje Roberts. “Reflecting on this milestone in ASL and Deaf Studies program, it's important to acknowledge the progress that the students made in learning about Deaf culture, language, and community,” Trent Harper, the coordinator of the program, shared. “This milestone marks a significant step in their journey toward understanding and appreciating the richness of ASL and the experiences of Deaf individuals. 

The graduating students reflected on how the program has shaped them as people and prepared them for their futures. “Being in this program gave me the privilege of learning a beautiful language, American Sign Language,” Alyssa Pritchett shared. Alyssa is graduating in May with her degree in ASL and Deaf Studies and Psychology. “It has also given me the opportunity to be immersed in Deaf Culture.” After graduation, Alyssa plans to pursue a career in Speech Language Pathology. 

“To first year students in the program, my number one piece of advice is to get immersed in Deaf Culture as best as you can,” Pritchett shared. Jansje Roberts, also a May graduate, shared similar advice. “Get involved with the Deaf Community right away. Don't wait and think ‘my signing isn't good enough’ or ‘I don't know enough sign’ or ‘I'll embarrass myself,’” Roberts advised. “Take a deep breath and jump in. You will learn faster, understand more, and retain better if you immerse yourself.” Both Pritchett and Roberts also encouraged first-year students to get involved with the UofM Tigers ASL club.

The ASL and Deaf Studies program has seen exciting growth in its first four years. Students have access to resources and services that support their learning through the ASL tutoring and recording lab in the Community Health building on south campus. The program has also developed partnerships within the Deaf community, schools, and organizations so that students can complete capstone experiences for their degree programs. 

Trent Harper and Nicholas Norman, the program’s administrative team, have also contributed significant service on the University’s Disability Resources committee. They helped develop events for the University’s Disability Resources Week this past March They have also produced brochures to support inclusivity and accessibility for members of the d/Deaf community at the University. 

In the future, Harper hopes to expand the program and offer more support to the faculty. Based on growing interest from students, one goal is to establish an interpreting program. “The program would provide students with an opportunity to develop skills and knowledge necessary to become proficient interpreters, thereby expanding career opportunities and addressing the increasing demand in the field,” Harper explained. “The other vision I have is recognizing the importance of support systems for both faculty and students.” These include mentorship programs, professional development opportunities, and access to resources to support the growth, collaboration, and well-being of the program.