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ASL and interpreting department creates honor society

Staci Lahr '09 was among the first students to be inducted into St. Kate's ASL Honor Society.
Staci Lahr '09 was among the first students to be inducted into St. Kate's ASL Honor Society.
Photo by Andy Ferron.

Four years ago, Staci Lahr from St. Cloud, Minn., visited St. Catherine University for a campus tour and a meeting with an advisor from the American Sign Language (ASL) and interpreting department. In May, she graduated from St. Kate’s with a degree in interpreting and was among the first to be inducted into the University’s new ASL Honor Society chapter.

“(That visit) helped me decide to enroll at St. Kate’s,” says Lahr, an inaugural member of the chapter along with 2009 graduates Quincy Craft and Megan Powell. “The faculty made me feel very welcome, and I just felt at home.”

The national American Sign Language Teachers’ Association founded the ASL Honor Society in 2006. St. Kate’s established its chapter in winter semester 2009. Membership is open to students who have studied ASL for three years and taken at least two ASL courses from St. Kate’s. They must have a minimum grade point average of 3.5 in ASL coursework and a grade-point average of 3.2 in all other subjects. Students also must have at least 20 hours of community service — beyond what is required for their courses — that benefits the Deaf community.

“We wanted to have the ASL Honor Society on campus to recognize the academic achievement of our students who are studying the ASL language and culture,” says Paula Gajewski-Mickelson, chair of the ASL and interpreting department.

Lahr, who is interested in ASL interpreting for medical situations and in post-secondary education settings (such as college classes), views the honor society membership as a personal accomplishment. “When I first heard about it from the department, I thought, ‘Oh, this is an extra goal to strive for,’” she says. “It was important for me to go above and beyond what I was doing in my coursework.”

Lahr has volunteered at Communication Services for the Deaf as a tutor and teaching assistant, worked as an interpreter for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Learn to Ski Program and helped with fundraising events for the Metro Deaf School and Northstar Academy. She currently works full time as an administrative assistant for the ASL and interpreting department. Her responsibilities include interpreting at department meetings and advising sessions, or even in classes.

The Resources for Disabilities office in St. Kate’s O’Neill Center for Academic Development hires licensed interpreters from the Twin Cities to ensure that all public events on campus, such as lectures, poetry readings and Commencement ceremonies, are accessible to everyone. (As an interpreter, Lahr works only with the ASL and interpreting department.)

Honor society member Quincy Craft was also singled out at the May 15 induction ceremony for her contributions to the community. The ASL and interpreting department presented her with its new Anita Buel Leadership Award, named after a deaf community healthcare educator and advocate for deaf women with breast cancer who “embodies the vision of the University — a woman who leads and influences,” says Gajewski Mickelson.

Buel, who attended the event, received a check from the University (in honor of the 2009 senior class) to benefit the Deaf Hospice Education Project in Minnesota — of which Buel is an active member.

Another highlight of the day: five research presentations by the 16 graduating seniors, including Lahr and Craft. The topics included:

  • “Discourse Markers: Transitioning into a Conscious Process,”
  • “Feeling Left Out? Tune-in to Intimate Register,”
  • “An Interpreter’s Portfolio: Sorting through the Confusion,”
  • “Features of Job Satisfaction Among Recent Interpreter Graduates” and
  • “Interpreting from ASL to English: Employing Compression Strategies as an Effective Tool.”
Oct. 23, 2009 by Pauline Oo

See also: Alumnae/i, Liberal Arts, Students