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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Fairmount College welcomes ASL faculty to language department

Wichita State is offering a new degree this semester: a Bachelor of Arts in American Sign Language (ASL).

ASL courses are now offered within the modern and classical languages and literatures (MCLL) department in the Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS). Previously, ASL fell under the College of Health Professions in the department of communication sciences and disorders and ASL was available as a minor, but not a major

The department held an event on Friday to welcome ASL faculty to Fairmount. 

“We think it’s a language, like any other language, so we are very happy that it’s being taught in our department now,” Rocio del Aguila, the Chair of Modern and Classical Languages, said. 

According to del Aguila, the move was necessary due to increased student demand for the major, interest in ASL courses, and a need for more ASL interpreters in Wichita and beyond.

James Clark, a lecturer who teaches ASL and deaf culture classes, emphasized this need as well. Clark signs in ASL and uses an interpreter.

“There are not a lot of programs nationwide that have this degree for interpreters, so this kind of program is desperately needed,” he said.  

The change took several years, according to del Aguila’s predecessor, Wilson Baldridge. “We put together a proposal, and it went through the university’s process of curriculum change,” Baldridge said. “It went to the Faculty Senate and to the administration, Academic Affairs and then to the Board of Regents.”  

Clark expects the department to face challenges, including larger class sizes, struggling to find more faculty if the degree draws more students to ASL courses and filling the vacant director position. 

“It’s a fear I have that we will have growing pains,” he said. “We need someone to lead the program that is specifically deaf oriented. We really have to look all over the U.S. to have someone help lead this program. We need the right person.”

LAS is currently trying to find a director for the ASL program. According to the LAS dean, Andrew Hippisley, they hope to start interviewing candidates this semester and for the director to start in August 2024.

The first student who will obtain the Bachelor of Arts in ASL is expected to graduate in December. 

Maddie Fields, who plans to become certified and work as an ASL interpreter, said she finished her bachelor’s degree in sociology in May but stayed at WSU when she learned that the ASL degree would be offered.

“I already had the minor, and I had used my electives to take more classes,” Fields said. “I had taken seven classes under similar things to ASL, and then they were all part of the major and there were just five new classes that I would have to take.”

Fields is one of 15 students who have declared an ASL major, according to Hippisley. These students have the option to choose from three tracks: interpreting, deaf culture and language structure. 

Under MCLL, students with prior ASL knowledge can take a placement class to forego lower level classes. 

For more information on the ASL program, visit their website.

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About the Contributors
Ainsley Smyth, Reporter
Ainsley Smyth is a second-year reporter for The Sunflower. Smyth is a sophomore communications major with an emphasis in journalism and media productions. Her dream job is to travel back in time 30 years and then be a reporter for Rolling Stone. Smyth uses she/her pronouns.
Mel Bright, Reporter
Mel Bright is a first-year reporter and photographer for The Sunflower. They are a freshman acting major with a concentration in film acting. When Bright is not in school, they loves to dance, act and they do photography on the side for fun. Bright uses they/them pronouns.

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