UConn to offer degree in sign language

Storrs — With the approval of trustees recently, the University of Connecticut will implement a new undergraduate degree program in sign language.

The bachelor of arts degree, which will be offered through the linguistics department, was approved as part of the consent agenda during the UConn Board of Trustees meeting last week.

In an April 24 memo to trustees, UConn Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs John Elliott said the degree will “offer students the opportunity to interact within a global society and to communicate and collaborate in another language within a variety of fields including science, technology, business and health care.”

Elliott said such a degree could help those looking to work in the medical industry.

“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical professionals who know sign language, including speech language pathologists, mental health counselors, audiologists and occupational therapists, are in demand,” he wrote. “ Social workers and psychologists who know American Sign Language are often employed at schools for the deaf.”

The goal is to implement the new degree program in fall 2020.

According to UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz, UConn will be the first Connecticut institution to offer this bachelor of arts program.

According to Elliott, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows interpreter careers are growing much faster than average, with 17 percent growth predicted through 2026.

He wrote the university has had “steady growth” in the number of courses offered in deaf studies, linguistics and interpreting.

“This growth corresponds to a 2016 survey by the Modern Language Association, which found that American Sign Language is the third-most commonly studied language, behind French and Spanish,” he wrote.

According to the memo, UConn implemented its first ASL course in 1989 and now has six levels of ASL courses, including an increasing number of linguistics, interpreting and deaf studies classes.

Today, nearly every state recognizes and accepts ASL as a second or world language and a growing number of universities now offer ASL in fulfillment or foreign language requirements.

He wrote implementing the ASL degree program paves the way for more opportunities for collaboration and research, “locally and abroad.”

Elliott wrote the university is working on a partnership with the Neag School of Education for an ASL concentration within the world language teacher certification program.

 

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