Logo for CIT 2020 Conference - Transforming Interpreter Education

Recruitment and Retention of Signed Language Interpreters of Color in the Post-Secondary Environment

by Kristi Love-Cooper, Denise Herrera & Amberlee Jones


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Diversity and inclusion challenges are prevalent in society today, and the post-secondary environment is no exception. Preliminary evidence suggests that interpreters of color have a significantly different experience going through Interpreter Training Programs than their white counterparts. Systemic norms in higher education that cater to the success of the ethnic and cultural majority often adversely affect students of color. These norms manifest in oppressive, alienating ways that make it difficult for interpreting students of color to succeed.

According to the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf’s 2018 Annual Report, approximately 13% (1,195/9,218) of US interpreters self-identify as interpreters of color. According to the 2018 National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) Annual Report, the frequency count of self-identified interpreters of color were “small and not reported for confidentiality.” The report further states that 38% of NTID students are “students of color,” meaning that there is a significant underrepresentation of interpreters who have the cultural competency to work successfully with underrepresented students.

There is a need to recruit, train and equip emerging interpreters of color to become professional, skilled contributors to the interpreting field. In 2019, The Randleman Program was established at NTID as a two-year preceptorship to address identified gaps while simultaneously focusing on intersectionality and inclusion. It aims to equip interpreters of color that have recently entered the field, for the demands of interpreting in a post-secondary environment, while simultaneously increasing diversity representation. There are currently no other programs of this sort available for emerging interpreters of color.

The Randleman program continues the development of cognitive processing skills while interpreting, hones self-assessment skills using non-evaluative language, allowing the protégés confidence to grow within a post-secondary environment. Through the use of individualized mentoring, small group meetings, and professional development programs, they are able to do an in-depth analysis of their work. Our protégés explore intersectionality as interpreters of color, in addition to issues in interpreting that impact communities of color. We empower our protégés to explore their individual leadership passions while giving back to the community.

By the time our protégés complete the Randleman program, they will successfully be able to navigate the workplace, as well as have the tools to participate in inclusion initiatives in both the workplace and the field of interpreting.

The Randleman program serves as a model of how to support interpreters of color within the field of interpreting. This model of synchronous skill and leadership development enables the full potential for emerging interpreters of color. It is the hope of the Randleman program that we not only recruit and retain more interpreters of color across the field of interpreting, but also serve as a model for future programs around the world.

Participants will be able to:

  • Identify challenges that interpreters of color face in the field of interpreting.
  • Identify tools that will help support interpreters of color in the field of interpreting.
  • Identify strategies that will diversify the field of interpreting.

A woman with brown skin and hair wearing glasses smiles at the cameraKristi Love-Cooper is a nationally certified signed language interpreter and Randleman Program Coordinator at the Rochester Institute of Technology(RIT). She has a wide range of interpreting experience and a passion for mentoring, diversity and inclusion. Kristi received the Presidential Outstanding Staff Excellence Award in both 2017 and 2019. She has experience working as an interpreter in educational, medical and video relay service settings, and has served as a mentor for over ten years. Kristi graduated with her B.S. in Signed Language Interpreting from the University of New Mexico and her M.S. in Criminal Justice from RIT.

A Latina woman wearing glasses and a blue blazer and black shirt smiles at cameraDenise Herrera began her interpreting career at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 2007. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology (2004) from RIT, she pursued her ASL-English Interpretation degree (2007) after being immersed in the Rochester Deaf community. Being a Latinx trilingual interpreter, Denise brings a unique perspective to the field of interpreting. As a founder of the Randleman Program, Denise was awarded the Presidential Outstanding Staff Excellence Award as well as the 2019 National Technical Institute of the Deaf (NTID) Student Congress Alice Beardsley’s Outstanding Interpreting Award, an award for which interpreters are nominated by NTID students.

A light-skinned black woman wearing wire-rimmed glasses sits looking at the camera with her left arm raised to the top of her headAmberlee Jones was hired with the Department of Access Services in 2014 after graduating with her degree in ASL-English Interpretation (2012) from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). She found her passion for service based leadership in 2015 when she was selected to be RIT’s United Way poster representative, resulting in over 400 thousand dollars raised for the local charity. She continued to pursue her aspirations of equity and inclusion by hosting initiatives within the department, including panels such as “Interpreters of color” and “Deaf people of color.”

Amberlee graduated from the African American Leadership Development program in 2019, a program which identifies, trains and promotes the placement of African Americans in policy-making positions within the Rochester Community.