ASLD and Biotechnology departments collaborate on communications event at KUEC

Attendees received real-world simulated educational experience to gain a better understanding of the problems they may face moving forward in their respective careers

A student signs to the crowd in a conference room.

On November 17, 2022, the American Sign Language & Deaf Studies department at KU Edwards partnered with the Biotechnology department to host an event and promote collaboration between the two departments where current students had opportunities to participate in real-world learning experiences. Randy Logan, Biotechnology program director and professor of the practice at KUEC, says the collaboration between the two departments seeks to provide students important education experience in science communications. 

“One of our courses – BTEC 310 Science Communications – focuses specifically on teaching effective oral science communication skills that are suitable for both lay and technical audiences,” said Logan, “Scientists typically receive in-depth training and education on technical aspects of science, but rarely have an opportunity to learn and develop effective science communication skills. 

Communication that is applicable and accessible to a wide audience is top-of-mind for students in the American Sign Language & Deaf Studies (ASLD) program, particularly those looking to pursue a career in interpreting. “The distinction between ASL students and Interpreting students is an important one, and one that often is misunderstood,” said Stacey Storme, program director and professor of the practice in the American Sign Language & Deaf Studies program at KUEC. “Interpretation does not happen in a vacuum, and authentic application with real-time speech is critical. This collaboration with Biotech is aimed at providing interpreting students a real-world simulated experience representing science communications delivered in real-time.”

This event gave attendees like Kaitlyn Blackmon, an interpreting student in the ASL & Deaf studies program, a chance to work with others outside of their programs. “The experience was scary at first, but it ended up being a really good opportunity for everyone to practice their skillsets and become more comfortable being on stage and talking aloud. It was a good opportunity for all the students involved, and I'm glad we got to do the collaboration together!”

Kaitlyn Sy, a pre-med student in the Bachelor of Applied Science in Biotechnology program at KUEC, attended the event as a part of her Scientific Communications class. “I believe it was a fruitful exercise for both parties involved,” said Sy, “For me, it was a great opportunity to practice taking a complex and technical concept and explaining it in a way that resonates with people.”

“But it was more than just a public speaking exercise,” Sy continued, “It was also an eye-opening experience to realize that the Deaf community is often excluded from scientific discussions due to language barriers. I would love to be part of future collaborations between ASL and Deaf studies, the science programs at KU, and the Deaf community, working to pave a way towards a solution.”

While this collaborative event focused mainly on interpreting scientific communications, not all students in the ASL & Deaf studies program become interpreters. “Interpreting between two languages, American Sign Language (ASL) and English in our case, is a complex task, and one that requires fluency in both languages,” said Storme. “ASL majors attending this event are pursuing a certificate in ASL/English interpreting and are at the phase in their learning journey that they have sufficient language proficiency to start learning how to represent other people's messages delivered in spoken English into ASL.”

Learn more about the Bachelor of Applied Science in Biotechnology
Learn more about the bachelor’s degree in American Sign Language & Deaf Studies

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