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The Magic of Interdisciplinary Partnerships: A Win-Win for Students and the Deaf Community

by Cameo Hunsaker

Interactive Workshop

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The field of signed language interpreter education has no shortage of challenges. For years we have been discussing the hurdles of student preparedness, the graduation-to-certification gap, and the disconnection of the Deaf community as educational gatekeepers. The goal of this presentation is to outline an approach to interpreter education that may be a solution to some of these challenges.

I propose a robust approach to interpreter training that provides a low-risk, authentic, hands-up experience for student-interpreters. The key? Collaboration and simulation. When an IEP collaborates with another discipline – specifically a discipline that is training students to work in diverse fields that often make contact with the Deaf and interpreting communities – the opportunities for shared learning are limitless.

Through authentic simulations in partnership with various fields, we can develop situated learning opportunities to better prepare our interpreting students. Although internships and practicums have traditionally been viewed as students’ primary opportunity for real-world, hands-up experience prior to certification, students have been known to complete more than double the required internship hours and still feel unprepared for work in the interpreting field (Wilbeck, 2017). I believe that interdisciplinary collaborations can bridge this gap.

Planning interdisciplinary simulations for interpreting students can seem like a monumental task. Participants in this presentation will examine all aspects of developing successful interdisciplinary partnerships and simulations. Attendees will brainstorm collaboration ideas, design a work-flow plan, and begin the steps toward implementing an interdisciplinary simulation at their institutions. We will discuss potential roadblocks and points of clarification for how these programs can benefit both disciplines through community-building and awareness of the underserved Deaf community.

Collaborations with other fields afford students exposure to working with interpreters and the Deaf community, while simultaneously inviting the Deaf community back into the fold to educate future interpreters. These partnerships can include cultural sensitivity training about Deaf populations, best practices for working with interpreters, and setting-specific practice for interpreting students. Simulation activities allow for shared reflection between diverse groups, providing a deeper understanding of stakeholders’ roles in an interpreted interaction.

Not only do authentic simulations equip interpreting students with low-risk, real-world experience before entering their internship, it also allows the Deaf population an innovative forum to give feedback to future interpreters while providing a platform to educate students of various disciplines about cultural sensitivities. It provides exposure to students in other fields to an underserved population that may otherwise be overlooked by college curricula. It also provides an outlet for IEP’s to show support and build relationships with local intersectional communities.

Interdisciplinary partnerships and simulations can bridge the worlds between interpreters, Deaf clients, and hearing clients. This presentation is going to teach you how you can start to develop these opportunities within your institution.


Wilbeck, D.K. (2017). An investigation of student perception how to better prepare signed language/English interpreters for the real world. Retrieved from: https://digitalcommons.wou.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1047&context=theses

Participants will:

  • show an understanding of interdisciplinary partnerships and
  • explain how to create simulations through several small group and interactive activities. These activities will cover:
    • making proposals to various disciplines to begin a partnership
    • designing preparatory activities for interpreting students, students of the partnering discipline, and Deaf community members
    • developing scripts for simulations
    • brainstorming possible partnerships in participant’s communities and institutions
    • creating a road map and checklist to implement an interdisciplinary partnership and simulation

Closeup of white woman with brown  hair wearing glasses in front of blue backgroundCameo Hunsaker has been a certified interpreter for 11 years and an interpreter educator for the past 4 years. She developed the first interdisciplinary simulation program in the Phoenix College Interpreter Training Program and won the Phoenix College Innovation of the Year Award for her efforts. She has presented her work for various educational organizations, including the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development’s 2018 International Conference. Cameo holds certification from the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Emergency Response Interpreter Credentialing from the State of Arizona, and is currently enrolled in the Master of Arts in Interpreting Studies with an emphasis on Teaching Interpreting at Western Oregon University.