JCU Introduces American Sign Language Seminars

(By Ilenia Reale, The Matthew)

During the Fall 2021 semester, JCU students had the opportunity to attend weekly American Sign Language (ASL) seminars. The workshops, which were led by International Affairs major Belén Ribulotta and Psychology major Moya Seneb, took place on Tuesday evenings and were also streamed online. Freshman International Business major Clark Barrett, JCU’s first deaf student,  provided support throughout the semester.

Students participating in the last seminar

Students participating in the last seminar

“The ASL seminars are a good way to introduce hearing people to a different perspective and to remove, for the most part, the barrier between the hearing and deaf worlds,” said Barrett. Ribulotta and Seneb covered a variety of topics useful for basic interaction, such as the alphabet, numbers, greetings, locations, and school vocabulary. “Once you know the basics … you already know quite a bit,” said Seneb.

Ribulotta met Barrett during Orientation week, and they agreed she would assist him with sign language around campus. Students’ interest led Ribulotta to propose to Student Services the creation of seminars that would introduce the JCU community to the world of American Sign Language. Seneb’s involvement with the seminars began as a Resident Assistant when she learned that she had Barrett assigned to her group.

Ribulotta studied ASL in high school for two years while also practicing with a deaf friend in her field hockey team. Seneb first learned ASL during middle school by participating in a deaf club. She also took ASL in high school for four years but had stopped using it until she met Barrett.

Ribulotta said she is preparing Seneb to continue leading the seminars since she graduates in Fall 2021. Seneb will most likely continue the workshops together with other interested students. “You can really see the steps that JCU has been taking to increase inclusivity and broaden students’ horizons,” said Gioia Kunst, sophomore Psychology major and seminar participant.

“The ASL seminars opened my eyes to how difficult it is to communicate with someone who does not know your language, as we have been told by students who experience this first-hand, and how much need there is for more people who know sign language,” said Irene Palermo, junior English Literature major. Barrett says that no matter how difficult American Sign Language might seem, the key is to keep practicing, especially in front of a mirror to make sure all signs are done correctly.

Every seminar was recorded and uploaded on JCU’s SharePoint together with additional material related to the topic and is available for anybody interested. To learn more about the ASL seminars at JCU, contact Student Activities Coordinator Federica Bocco at [email protected]

Read Ilenia Reale’s full article.