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The Current State of ASL-English Interpreting Programs: What do the Numbers Show?

by Barbara Garrett, Emily Girardin & Whitney Weirick

Interactive Workshop

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The state of interpreter education in the United States (U.S.) is discussed frequently through publications, presentations, and grant reporting, but until now there has not been an extensive, up-to-date inventory of sign language interpreting programs. Understanding the current state of interpreter education is the foundation for addressing the critical challenges in working towards transformation in the field. However, the data on interpreter education programs remains highly inconsistent and many questions remain: As of 2020, how many programs offer degrees in ASL-English interpreting in the U.S. (certificate, 2-year, 4-year, and graduate)? How many of these degrees are considered transferrable to 4-year institutions? What data is available on programs that offer specialization? How are these programs portrayed and described on college websites? What percentage of interpreter education programs hold accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education (CCIE)?

As part of a multi-year study regarding entrance and exit outcomes of interpreter education programs, data was gathered from an exhaustive investigation of information from sources including the Conference of Interpreter Trainers (CIT), Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), CCIE, hundreds of college and university web pages, individual state publications, as well as a detailed review of current literature on interpreter education and trends in higher education. This data was compiled, organized, and analyzed to identify similarities and differences in the specific degree offerings of interpreting programs across the nation today, and to directly address the field’s reliance on outdated and sometimes inaccurate database listings of programs. A great deal of time and resources were dedicated to this endeavor, which sought to disaggregate programs by specific degree or certificate type, rather than simply categorizing them as an “AA/AS” or “BA/BS” degree. This greater attention to specificity in degree offerings, combined with the comprehensive review described above, has resulted in the data that will be shared in this presentation. Future dissemination plans include drafting white papers to disclose this data for the benefit of all stakeholders invested in the future of interpreter education, research, scholarship, and grant reporting. An important part of understanding this data includes this opportunity to dialogue with other interpreting educators during this session provide context and identify gaps and clarify any misunderstandings. Ultimately, the end result of this dialogue could lead to information for CIT and CCIE should they desire to provide accurate listings of interpreter education programs for prospective students and stakeholders.

Recent reports (Cogen & Cokely, 2015; Boegner Godfrey, 2010), multiple calls to action (Volk, 2014; Cokely, 2005), along with other recent publications (Garrett & Girardin, 2019; Johnson, Taylor, Schick, Brown & Bolster, 2018), taken collectively make a clear case for a more critical examination of interpreter education and its implications for stakeholders, users of interpreting services, and interpreter educators. Discussions among interpreter educators that include critical examinations of the direction of interpreter education should be conducted with current, reliable data on sign language interpreting programs. This presentation will share accurate, up-to-date information, including specific degree offerings, to inform decisions surrounding the future of interpreter education.

Participants will be able to:

  • explain through the use of data the current state of interpreter education in the United States as it pertains to number of degree programs, transferability, specializations offered, description of programs, and accreditation.
  • describe ways to incorporate this data into the current work they are doing within their institute of higher education.
  • identify strategies to address the challenges presented by this data.

A white woman with short brown hair with glasses smiles at cameraBarbara D. Garrett, PhD, CI & CT, is the Director of the Department of ASL & Interpreting Studies at the University of Northern Colorado that offers an ASL Minor, BA degrees in ASL-English Interpretation and an MA in Teaching ASL and manages state and national grant-funded projects. She has been educating interpreters while leading academic departments for 20+ years. She has been certified by the RID since 1994 and has served on numerous committees and boards at the local, state and national level. She is the recipient of the 2017 Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Lifetime Achievement Award: Passionate Educator.

A white woman with brown hair below shoulders wearing a white cardigan sweater smiles at the camera in front of a grey backgroundEmily G. Girardin, M.Ed., Ed:K-12 joined the faculty at her alma mater, University of Northern Colorado, in 2017. Emily has over ten years of interpreting experience across settings, with a passion for educational contexts. Serving as a lead educational interpreter/mentor sparked her interest in interpreter education. Emily has her Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction – Adult Education. Currently, Emily is pursuing a doctorate as she continues her development as both a practitioner and educator. Her research interests include curriculum and standards, leadership, interpreting in educational settings, and online educational design. Emily resides in Northern Virginia with her husband.

A woman with light brown skin and brown hair below her shoulders looks directly at the camera in front of a yellow-orange backgroundWhitney Weirick, MA, NIC-Advanced is a doctoral student in Special Education- Deaf and Hard of Hearing at the University of Arizona. Her focus is improving interpreting services for k-12 deaf and hard of hearing students using a multi-scalar approach: “top-down” (policy) and “on the ground” (coaching, supervision). As an interpreter for eleven years, she has worked across settings and content areas. As a person of mixed ancestry, she is committed to equity and social justice. Her work is deeply rooted in respect for Deaf Communities both in the U.S. and abroad. She lives in Tucson with her partner and daughter.