How did you develop an interest in American Sign Language (ASL)?
I became interested and involved in ASL through being a student here at the University of Wyoming, when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up. I tried engineering, business, special education, a variety of fields. It was probably my sophomore year and I was looking through the course schedule and found a sign language class. … Since I was frustrated with my academic career, I thought the class would be a wonderful change of pace. I took it and … I became passionate and just enthralled with the language.
What do you believe is the greatest misconception about sign language?
I think some people see ASL as a sloppy language or feel like it’s not language, not a true language, that it’s just signs in English order. Untrue. … The utilization of ASL can be an effective and important part of communication. ASL is not just communicative for deaf people but it’s very functionable. The reason why is because you can communicate in loud environments or in emergency situations when you’re not able to use your voice. With a gesture, you can communicate and that’s awesome!
You are helping to lead a statewide initiative to enhance ASL education in Wyoming. What is the goal of the initiative and why is it important for the state?
I believe it’s important for the University of Wyoming, as the only fouryear institution, to be the forerunner for ASL in the state. If we’re going to have quality programs, we need to have certified instructors. That’s one of my pursuits. Our curriculum had been very frustrating. Todd [Corbett, UW’s other ASL instructor] and I have very different styles. We had been using two different textbooks. For a student to transfer to my section from his section was frustrating. Or a student transferring from LCCC or Casper or Sheridan to here was frustrating. We already knew it was aproblem, because Todd and I work right next to each other and we saw it happening here at UW. But it was happening everywhere. … That’s why we initiated a statewide meeting of ASL instructors to address those issues of frustration. We needed to get together on the same curriculum, so that students could go from one college to another with little or no frustration. That meeting was very successful and, together with the state’s community colleges, we’re going to continue to strengthen the quality of instruction in the state of Wyoming.
How do you envision the future of sign language instruction at UW?
I want to be competitive, not only at the regional level but the national level. It is time for Wyoming to rise. We want to compete with every other school. We want students to say, “I’m going to go to the University of Wyoming because it’s as good as or better than anyplace else.”
Lucy Carter is one of UW’s two American Sign Language instructors.