School of Communication Sciences and Disorders offers Bachelor of Arts in American Sign Language and Deaf Studies

Beginning in Fall 2022, the School of Communication Sciences & Disorders will be offering a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Sign Language and Deaf Studies. This degree will offer students the opportunity to gain a broader understanding of American Sign Language (ASL), Deaf culture, and the Deaf community. To learn more about this new program of study, we spoke with Trent Harper, the University of Memphis ASL Program Coordinator. Harper was born deaf. He learned to speak and received a cochlear implant when he was 4 years old. Harper learned ASL at school when he was 6 years old. He considers himself to be a part of both hearing and Deaf culture. Harper received his Bachelor of Arts in Theater and his Master of Arts in Sign Language Education from Gallaudet University. Harper describes the Bachelor of Arts in American Sign Language and Deaf Studies below. In addition, a video of Harper signing this information can be found at the following link.

According to Harper, in this degree program students will learn about various topics, including, “Deaf Culture and history from past to present, the history of ASL, accessibility and technology, Deaf education, interpreting, diverse Deaf people including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), and so much more.” Harper hopes that students majoring in ASL and Deaf Studies will learn more about inclusion, diversity, and equity. He states, “Students will have the chance to put the skills into practice in the real world and to promote what they do among the Deaf community.” A key aspect of this degree is to prepare students to become advocates for ASL and Deaf culture. Harper emphasized that this program of study is open to anyone with interest. Students do not have to be fluent in or have a background in ASL. The courses throughout the program will allow students to learn to use ASL as a different modality for communication. 

Based on the website description, graduates with this major will (a) have functional skills in American Sign Language, including use and comprehension of the language in a variety of settings; (b) understand the history and culture of the Deaf; (c) demonstrate fundamental understanding of communication science; and (d) advocate on behalf of those with communication differences. The flexibility of this program allows for a wide range of job opportunities. Harper states, “Whether you’re interested in working directly with Deaf individuals in healthcare, education, interpreting, your options are limitless.”

Harper is very enthusiastic for the beginning of this new course of study in Fall 2022. He is most excited about the additional courses being offered through this program which will allow for students to broaden their interests. To learn more about the Bachelor of Arts in American Sign Language and Deaf Studies, visit ASL and Deaf Studies - School of Communication Sciences and Disorders.