Deaf Studies Minor Returns to SJSU

By Lance Wyndon

Photo from SJSU Newsroom

After a decade hiatus, San José State University (SJSU)’s Lurie College of Education is proud to announce the return of the Deaf Studies Minor this fall. Lecturer Everett Smith and the chair of the Special Education Department, Dr. Peg Hughes, worked tirelessly over the summer to have the minor reinstated.

Smith, who is deaf, pitched the idea to Dr. Hughes last spring. His interpreter translated for this story.

“She was really supportive of the idea,” Smith signs in American Sign Language. “We immediately started working on the reactivation paperwork.”

This is not the first time Dr. Hughes has worked on developing a program. After arriving to SJSU in 1991 as a professor, she created the Early Childhood Special Education Credential Program. Since then, Dr. Hughes has helped build numerous programs and minors, quickly gaining a reputation for being a “program developer.”

Since Smith arrived to SJSU in fall 2016, he has been following in Dr. Hughes’s footsteps. Adept in deaf culture, he too hopes to make a profound effect on his community.

“[I] immediately thought Everett would be perfect to help update the curriculum from the previous minor and design one of its new courses: Introduction to Deaf Culture,” Dr. Hughes explains.

The Deaf Minor is comprised of four courses: EDSE 14A and 14B: American Sign Language I and II; EDSE 102: Speech, Language, & Typical/Atypical Development; and EDSE 115: Introduction to Deaf Culture.

In addition to teaching two ASL courses, Smith will teach the newly developed class “Introduction to Deaf Culture,” which is set to launch in spring 2018.

“[The classes] will provide necessary language access to many deaf and hard-of-hearing people,” Everett signs. “We train our students to become future educators. We try to provide them with invaluable resources to help them become allies to the deaf community. We’re so close to one of the two deaf schools in Northern California.”

The California School for the Deaf in Fremont and the CCHAT Center in Rancho Cordova are the only schools in Northern California that educate deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, as of 2017, one in eight people in the United States age 12 or older has hearing loss in both ears. About 28.8 million U.S. adults could benefit from using hearing aids.

“The idea is to make a bridge between two worlds,” Smith’s interpreter explains. “We have our own identities, but we want to be accepted by everyone and not pushed off to the side. We want the majority to recognize us as a minority. Deaf and hard-of-hearing people can have completely different experiences and bridges that gap us.

When it comes to future plans for the Deaf Studies program, Smith points out that he is still working on more paperwork.

“We are already making such great progress,” Smith signs.“First, we will need to see how much interest is the program. I would love to see an entire undergraduate or master’s program dedicated to it.”

Students who are interested in applying for a minor in Deaf Studies are encouraged to fill out the application form and submit it to the Special Education Department.