By Mandi Enger
Dedicated to learning American Sign Language (ASL), a group of Nevada State College (NSC) students led the charge to expand the college’s language course offerings by organizing a petition during the spring semester. Through their efforts and collaboration with faculty, NSC will begin offering ASL V during the upcoming fall semester to students that have completed ASL IV.
Our students worked together to start a petition for the course, plan a deaf awareness rally on campus, and meet with the chair of the Humanities Department in order to express their interest in taking their ASL studies to the next level, said Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Andy Kuniyuki. It was incredible to see the passion, dedication, and professionalism of our students as they worked to make ASL V possible at NSC.
The deaf awareness rally was organized by students in the American Sign Language Club. We had over 20 ASL students actively participate in the rally, said Christina Barron, president of the organization. The event also welcomed members of the local deaf community eager to show their support for the new course.
Barron, a current psychology major at NSC began her ASL studies in the fall of 2012. She became president of the ASL club the following semester and has actively worked with students and faculty to grow the club’s membership and increase student involvement in the deaf community.
For me, learning another language gives me more opportunity, Barron added. With learning ASL, I can now take part in communicating with members of the deaf community; something I never would have been able to do before. Learning about deaf culture, I have gained a new perspective on people and what makes us unique.
Students enrolled in ASL V this fall will work to become more receptive and expressive in ASL conversation. Coursework will focus on the development of storytelling skills as well as the understanding of health issues in ASL. Students will additionally gain knowledge of ASL by participating in deaf community events, watching signing stories on video, and researching articles related to ASL and its culture and communities.
My classes are unique as no voice is involved with my instruction, said ASL faculty member David Kelsey, who was born deaf. This provides a unique benefit for our students as they are fully immersed in the language.
Professor Kelsey has been teaching ASL at NSC for the past seven years and was recognized as the Adjunct Faculty of the Year in 2011. Kelsey is the only ASL instructor certified by the American Sign Language Teacher Association in the state. Throughout his career, he has taught ASL to students in elementary school, high school, college, as well as within the community.
According to Kelsey, there is a strong need for interpreters in southern Nevada as well as a need for individuals to be able to communicate and understand our local deaf community.
Aside from the need for interpreters to work with the deaf population in all public services, there are many areas where the ability to interpret and understand deaf culture plays an important role, added Kelsey. ASL has its own grammar and structure which is entirely different from English. It appeals to and benefits students who are majoring in health care, education, law enforcement, psychology, visual media, or counseling, just to name a few.
There are approximately 4,000 deaf individuals living in Clark County. According to the Modern Language Association, ASL is a popular foreign language and is the number four most studied foreign language in the country.
ASL courses are definitely a priority for Humanities and the college as a whole, shared Peter La Chapelle, chair of the NSC Humanities Department. I am glad to see the students taking such an interest. I was impressed by how much thought and effort they put into their advocacy.
NSC first offered ASL I and ASL II during the 2003-2004 academic year. ASL III and IV were added to the course list during 2005-2006. Nearly 25 students enroll in ASL courses at NSC each semester and the college expects enrollment of at least 15 students in ASL V this fall.