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Boost for American Sign Language Program

Northeastern’s American Sign Language program has received $4.5 million in federal funding to improve the quality of ASL-English interpreters, interpreter education programs and resources available to deaf and deaf-blind people.

The Department of Education awarded a five-year, $3 million grant to Northeastern’s National Interpreter Education Center, and a five-year, $1.5 million grant to its Regional Interpreter Education Center.

“We are very pleased to be at the very forefront of research and development in the field of sign language interpretation,” said Dr. Georges Van Den Abbeele, founding dean of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities. “The ASL program’s recent grants from federal funding will help ensure the implementation and further development of sign interpreter education not only here at Northeastern but nationally as well.”

“It’s a testament to the quality of the program we’ve been able to build at Northeastern,” added the program director, Professor of American Sign Language Dennis Cokely, a co-principal investigator on the grants.

“We are widely recognized throughout the country as one of the leaders in interpreter education,” he said, noting that Massachusetts Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown called him to congratulate Northeastern for winning the awards.

Richard Peterson, associate professor of American Sign Language, is also co-principal investigator on the National Center grant.

Cathy Cogen, director of the National Interpreter Education Center, pointed to Northeastern’s leadership in running the center for the past five years, and one of six regional centers for the last 25 years. As she put it, “Northeastern is well-positioned to take the lead in all of these activities.”

Cogen said the National Interpreter Education Center will address a nationwide shortage of interpreters, in part by creating a marketing campaign, called “Discover Interpreting,” to draw people from diverse backgrounds into the field.

“The pipeline of students coming through interpreting programs will not come anywhere close to the number of educators retiring over the next 10 years,” Cogen explained, “unless we can successfully increase the number of students entering interpreter education programs.”

The National Center grant will also support an “outcomes” initiative, in which faculty members from 15 interpreter education programs in colleges and universities around the country will convene regularly to share strategies for improving student success.

Northeastern’s Regional Center, which coordinates activities for New England, New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, will continue to host annual meetings among the directors of interpreting and deaf studies programs in the region, according to director Diana Doucette, international education project coordinator in Northeastern’s American Sign Language department.

The Regional Center will also support programs applying for accreditation through The Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education-the accreditation board for interpreter education programs-as well as instructor training from the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

“This is the only federal grant that’s earmarked to support effective practices in interpreter education in order to advance the field of interpreting,” Cokely said. “Without these grants, we wouldn’t have made the strides in interpreter education programs that we’ve made over the past two decades.”

– Courtesy of CSSH Dean’s Office

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