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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 15, 2004

UI ASL Program Celebrates 10th Anniversary Oct. 22

For the last decade, increasing numbers of University of Iowa students have been studying foreign language in silence. The American Sign Language program in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences marks its 10th anniversary with a celebration on Friday, Oct. 22, from 3 to 7 p.m. in Phillips Hall.

Starting at 3 p.m. in Room 315, Phillips Hall with a welcome from Richard Hurtig, professor and chair of speech pathology and audiology and head of the ASL program, the celebration will feature speeches by two members of the program looking back on its history and offering reflections on its significance. Douglas Baynton, associate professor of history and the first instructor in the UI ASL program, will speak on "In the Beginning: The Origins of the ASL Program," and William Ennis, a doctoral student in history, will speak on "The Significance of Deaf Studies to the Deaf Community."

The celebration continues with a reception and open house from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on the 6th floor of Phillips Hall. It will conclude with a performance by Ennis's father, Bill Ennis, a Deaf storyteller from Washington, D.C., in the Phillips Hall Auditorium, Room 100. Ennis's stories and jokes in American Sign Language will be interpreted into spoken English.

When the UI began offering ASL courses for foreign language credit in 1994 it was one of "maybe a dozen" major universities to do so, Baynton said. Interest was so strong that 70 students clamored for the 25 seats in his first course.

Now 10 years later there are 300 student enrolled in four levels of ASL foreign language courses and upper level courses such as "History of the American Deaf Community," "Topics in Deaf Studies," "Teaching Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students" and "ASL Literature." The UI offers an interdisciplinary certificate in ASL and deaf studies, and students in the College of Education can earn an endorsement to teacher licensure for teaching deaf and hard of hearing students.

Students are looking for even more options, said Kimela Nelson, ASL program coordinator, noting that the available classes meet only about a third of the student demand.

More information about the UI ASL program and the 10th anniversary celebration is available online at

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact ASL program in advance at 319-335-2238 or 319-335-8730 V/TTY.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACT(S): Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011, Program: Kimela Nelson, 319-335-2238 (V/TTY),