University of Connecticut students can now study American Sign Language (ASL) through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS), UConn announced this week.
UConn is the first college or university in Connecticut to add American Sign Language as a major and allow students to earn a bachelor’s degree in ASL, said CLAS Director of Communications Christine Buckley.
The new major will be part of the department of linguistics and students can declare it as a major beginning May 2020, according to Linda Pelletier, a UConn professor who proposed the major.
“I wanted to propose this major based on the growth and interest at the university for the study of American Sign Language, and the interest amongst students to study ASL as a world language comparable to other languages offered here,” Pelletier said.
Pelletier said American Sign Language is an important language to teach at UConn because of how unique it is.
“What makes ASL somewhat different from the other world languages offered at UConn is that ASL is a visual language,” Pelletier said. “It is a language used by a diverse group of people who have experience living with a disability. Students will benefit from this invaluable insight in addition to developing a level of cultural and linguistic competency in ASL and Deaf culture.”
It took a significant amount of time to turn Pelletier’s proposal into an official major offered at UConn.
“It has been close to two years making the proposal for ASL. The Board of Trustees approved it last year but it’s not going into the catalog until fall 2020, and that is because of catalog deadlines,” Pelletier said.
Pelletier said the drive behind her proposal was to offer another option for UConn students interested in pursuing a unique language.
“This major offers students an additional language of study and it is unique in that is is a visual language and it can supplement students who may want to work in human services or who want to work with people who are Deaf,” Pelletier said. “Students who learn ASL at UConn, even rudimentary communicative skills, have a better opportunity in becoming connected to the Deaf community. They will benefit not only by learning ASL but will better understand Deaf culture and the experiences of people who are Deaf. This is equally important in bridging the connection to the Deaf community.”
Doreen Simons, a UConn ASL instructor, said adding the major is necessary because UConn needs more exposure to Deaf culture.
“There are a lot of Deaf people in our country and it is important to showcase our culture and the language we use everyday,” Simmons said. “I think there are a lot of people who don’t know much and can be ignorant towards Deaf people so I think this is a great opportunity for hearing and Deaf people to gain knowledge.”
UConn currently offers six levels of American Sign Language, as well as winter and summer courses but plans to expand over time, Pelletier said.
“We were fortunate to already have courses available to build a major,” Pelletier said. “Part of the process did require making sure students can fulfill the written portion of the W requirement through the composition of an American Sign Language rather than writing it in English.”
Naiela Suleiman is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.