ASL continues its legacy on campus

October 20, 2017

They speak with their hands, mouths, and facial expressions. Each movement of the hands or body has significant communication value. Understanding, teaching and practicing this form of communication is necessary in completing the goal of the American Sign Language Society.

“My hopes for the society is to see more and more people seek to understand, and grow in their love for American Sign Language,” said Lauren McArthy, a member of the ASL Society.  “There could be a variety of reasons why people join the Society, but my hope deep in my heart is that people would develop a true love for the deaf/deaf-blind, in learning their native tongue.

Members of The Master’s University’s (TMU) American Sign Language Society practice how to communicate with the deaf and also how to get involved in deaf culture. As each Sign is learned, the group celebrates and exchanges short conversations in ASL.

Three years ago, another ASL club fizzled out because its leaders graduated. But, as of last year, several students decided to start the ASL Society.

Now, the ASL Society has 24 members and is still growing.

Students that are interested in joining the Society have the opportunity to join in Thursday night dinners; where attendees of Grace Bible Deaf Church will join the students and Sign with each other. And during chapel, members of the Society practice the importance of facial expressions while Signing throughout the music.

“I think it would be great opportunity for you to do the ASL because it would actually help you learn more and communicate with deaf people, like me,” said TMU junior Noah Frizzell. “ They love people that learn ASL even though they can hear.”

Despite the success and goals of the society, they are confronted with a problem; the leaders are graduating soon.

“The reason that I started the Society was to train people how to sign,” said Daniel Dupea, student at TMU and former coordinator of the ASL society. “So when I graduate, I don’t want the Society to stop. I don’t want people to stop learning Sign; I want them to continue. So, the only way to do that is to have a class.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

The class was first suggested to the Department Chair of Communication Bob Dickson by several members of the Society. And in one year, the Society’s members were able to see the fruition of their work.

TMU’s Communication department will now offer American Sign Language courses in spring 2018. In addition to teaching the language, this course will also incorporate studies of deaf culture. If the class gains enough interest, it will act as a permanent representation of the club.

“I am surprised at how quickly the class was able to be set up,” said Dupea. “I am very glad though that I am able to see it actually happening before I leave.”

The course will teach students the basics of American Sign Language and introduce them to deaf culture. The ASL Society members referred the soon-to-be TMU professor Jody Stevenson.

In a way, the first couple semesters are going to act as a trial run. The success of the class will dictate the future of this course and its potential.  

“We kind of want to see what the response is. We are rolling it out this semester as a singular class and with plans of repeating it again in the fall,” said Dickson. “If the interest level is what I expect it to be, we would be interested in offering a sequel.”

Even with a class, The American Sign Language Society has no plans to dissolve. With the possibility that this class will provide, The ASL Society will act as a practical counterpart.

“Now, since the class will be offered, the society is going to be more for social gatherings and for actually practicing,” said Dupea.

As the current leaders of the Society prepare to graduate college, they take precautions.

Replacement leaders and coordinators are already being trained to fulfill their role and grow the Society. Ensuring that the future TMU students will have the opportunity to take both an ASL course and join an ASL club.

“I can speak for everyone, and say that we want to make sure it’s a place where everyone who wants to learn,” said McArthy. “It’s a place where University students can come together whether you know sign language or not, and practice sign together.”

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