Ph.D. in Sign Language Studies at Gallaudet University: A Feasibility Study

ID: 3693
Status: Ongoing
Start date: May 2019
End Date: May 2020


American Sign Language (ASL) has a heavy presence in the United States and Canada. Its use is growing at a rapid pace, and can be seen in multiple media outlets and social media platforms today throughout the world. According to a report written by Goldberg, Looney & Lusin (2015) for the Modern Language Association (MLA), ASL is the 3rd most studied language in the U.S. behind Spanish and French in higher education. Popular world language courses such as German, Chinese and Arabic trails behind. To illustrate this rapid growth and demand for ASL in higher education institutions, ASL has an upward trajectory of a 19% increase in a mere 4 years between 2009-2013 (Goldberg et al., 2015). Though the MLA report focuses primarily on higher education, the upward trend is also true of primary and secondary schools across the United States. While studies have shown a strong growth of ASL courses, a growing body of literature now suggests with this success also comes a challenge in hiring qualified ASL academics with advanced or terminal degrees to fill faculty or leadership roles. At the time of writing there are only two graduate programs from two higher education institutions in the U.S. awarding degrees in sign language pedagogy in the world, and no Ph.D. programs to prepare its graduates to assume faculty or leadership roles. Apart from the two sign language pedagogy programs, there are many programs that offer the study of ASL such as Interpreting, which is an entirely different field often misconstrued to be an eligibility for ASL positions (Harris & Thibodeau, 2016). Consequently individuals with varying backgrounds, experiences and qualifications often hold faculty and leadership roles. With the ever-growing 200+ ASL programs at all sectors of education across the U.S., this presents us with a challenge. Presented with a challenge, and an opportunity. This study asks, is it feasible to build a Ph.D. in Sign Language Studies degree program at Gallaudet University?

Principal investigators

Priorities addressed