OSU first state school with a bachelor’s degree in American Sign Language


Monday, November 8, 2021

Media contact: Jordan Bishop | Communication specialist | 405-744-9782 | [email protected]

Oklahoma State University is breaking down the language barrier for a severely underserved group: Deaf people.

This fall, OSU received approval to turn its American Sign Language (ASL) major into a bachelor’s degree program, which is crucial for students who want to learn interpretation and teach ASL nationwide. ASL was previously only offered as a minor.

Dr. Taylor Woodall-Greene has worked for years to make OSU the first in the state to offer undergraduate level courses in ASL and has finally been able to see his dream come true.

Originally offered in 2016, the College of Arts and Sciences said that in order to have a bachelor’s degree program, it must be supported by a tenure track professor. Woodall-Greene, who was an assistant professor at the time, was close to getting her doctorate, so she applied for the job and was appointed tenure-track professor.

Further proposal submissions followed until finally, after being delayed due to COVID-19, the bachelor’s degree program was approved in August to begin classes in fall 2021.

“In fact, I just got the official copy probably four weeks ago,” Woodall-Greene said. “I think we have about two students who have already declared their major in ASL. So that’s really cool.

ASL currently has five ASL professors and a search is open for another tenure track professor.

Woodall-Greene is thrilled to see more people enrolling in a program she is passionate about. She hopes this will encourage more inclusiveness.

“It’s not easy for deaf people to just learn spoken English,” said Woodall-Green. “They’re a whole group that comes under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s an underserved group, it’s a discriminated group, they’ve been oppressed, so their experiences are being revealed now. And I think that’s what makes our courses so popular.

Woodall-Greene said the campus has changed a lot since the early 2000s, when it was difficult to find deaf students on campus. She mentioned a student who helped uplift the deaf community on campus – former Cowboy football player Martel Van Zant, who helped start the college’s first ASL club.

Over the years, the university has taken steps to become more inclusive. As a result, its deaf student population is increasing.

“We have a tremendous sense of community that has been established here for many years,” said Woodall-Greene. “So deaf students at Oklahoma School for the Deaf, more from across the state who even go to regular schools, have been hearing about how OSU has had a strong Deaf community since the early 2000s. There is an ASL club on campus, there are ASL classes. They consistently provide certified and qualified ASL interpreters to fill this position. It makes us a kind of magnetic school.

Part of the inclusiveness is an increase in the number of people learning ASL and also deaf students being taught by deaf teachers.

“We have amazing instructors who are deaf,” said Woodall-Greene. “We have three deaf teachers on our campus of five. And we have a sixth teacher who accompanies us from time to time when she can, who is also deaf. So we put into practice what we preach, we bring in people who are native of that language and that culture, and who are able to teach and instill passion in people who take basic courses.

Woodall-Greene hopes that OSU can also start a bachelor’s degree for ASL interpreters. It is currently only offered as an associate degree. Performing is a rapidly growing field and requires a skill set that Woodall-Greene believes would be difficult to master in two years, as opposed to a four-year degree.

Dr Taylor Woodall-Greene

“There is a huge gap between the number of people who know sign language and the number of people who need language interpretation services,” said Woodall-Greene. “So there is a major call for interpretation training programs to start encouraging students not only to enter the training programs, but to pursue that education and earn a bachelor’s degree and become a certified interpreter across the board. national. “

Currently, OSU offers Associate Interpretation courses at its Stillwater and Oklahoma City locations, as well as courses in partnership with Tulsa Community College.

With ASL now offered as a license, Woodall-Greene said it would attract many people who need foreign language credit and want to learn how to sign. She said it would benefit any profession as there are so few people who are ASL certified.

“Deaf people are everywhere and deaf people use all services,” said Woodall-Greene. “[ASL] can be anything, if you want to be a lawyer, if you want to be an engineer or a doctor, you want to be a plumber, you can be anything. And if you have any [ASL] skills, the deaf community will come to you because you will be able to communicate with them in their native language. And they don’t have to try to understand it through their second language.

Even with the increase in ASL programs nationwide, Woodall-Greene said there are still not enough people who are fluent in ASL to help deaf people feel more included. She thinks schools like OSU can help turn the tide.

“If you come here you are not only going to have a great time at OSU and be part of this community as a Cowboy or Cowgirl, but you are also going to see what it is like to be part of and welcomed by the community. deaf from OSU and Stillwater, “said Woodall-Greene.” That alone will help spark your passion and interest in speaking fluently and trying to make a difference for a community that deserves it. “

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