Professor of Sign Language Interpreting
View Colleen’s profile >>
What drew you to want to teach at GC?
When someone suggested I apply for the position of director of the American Sign Language interpreting program, I went to the Goshen College website to learn more about the college. The thing that impressed me the most was the Study-Service Term (SST) program. Many colleges have some kind of study abroad program, but I have never seen one that makes a special effort to include ASL and interpreting students. The hybrid Spanish/ASL SST unit in Peru is unique and provides our students with an amazing opportunity. The ASL students have the chance to live with host families where at least one person is Deaf. This gives them daily exposure to Deaf culture and requires them to use sign, gestures, facial expressions and even mime to communicate. I feel it it one of the best training experiences for our students. Because of the SST program, I wanted to know more about Goshen College and decided to apply for my current position.
What do you love most about teaching GC students?
Our students are amazing! Since the college is small and our program is small, we really become a family. The students work so well together, encouraging each other when the work is hard, celebrating together with each small victory. Our students are also brave. I ask them to try new things, to stretch far beyond their comfort zone, and they do it! Our students demonstrate wonderful ethics and attitudes. I constantly hear from internship directors how impressed they are with the maturity and dedication of our interpreting students. I have taught ASL and interpreting at other colleges, but I have never experienced the wonderful cooperative learning environment that we have here in our program.
What excites you about ASL interpreting?
Sign Language Interpreting is such a wonderful profession. It is truly a service profession in the sense that through our work, Deaf individuals have the opportunity to participate in every aspect of life. We interpret in medical settings – everything from routine doctor visits to physical therapy, childbirth, even surgery. We interpret in legal settings, elementary, high school and college classes, and every kind of business you can imagine. We may interpret plays or concerts, sporting events, political rallies, or interviews with celebrities. I’ve even interpreted on cruise ships! This is a profession that allows us both the joy of serving and the excitement of learning and experiencing new things all of the time.
What do you enjoy doing outside of your academic work?
I call myself “the crazy cat lady” because I have rescued many cats and love to care for them and help them become healthy and happy. I enjoy doing creative things, like singing and acting, I have also taken jewelry making and weaving classes, working on a floor loom. I love to travel and learn about other cultures, this often includes travel with my extended family which gets us all together as we’re a bit scattered right now. Another passion is working for my church in the areas of outreach and music.
How does the college’s vision (international, intercultural, interdisciplinary and integrative) connect or shape your teaching and work?
Interpreting is, by its very nature, intercultural, interdisciplinary and integrative. While we are interpreting between English and American Sign Language, the situations where we work often include people from other countries as well as other ethnic, religious and cultural groups. Therefore, students need to learn how to work within and between the multiple cultures that may be present in an interpreting assignment. Interpersonal skills are critical for interpreters, as we have multiple clients and are often the mediator between them. Interpreting takes us into so many different disciplines and professions, so interpreters must be lifelong learners who are able to work in a very interdisciplinary and integrative manner. These are values and skills that I try to instill in my students.
How do you strive to make peace through your work and life?
Something that I talk about with my students is the concept of vicarious trauma. Interpreters, like first responders, are constantly dealing with the joys and sorrows of other people’s lives. It is easy to take that on and bring it home. In some ways teachers also take on the successes, failures and burdens of their students. It is easy to become overwhelmed and stressed. I work hard to create an environment for myself that is low on drama and high on peace. Having pets, plants, hobbies, good friends and a lot of laughter in my life helps to reduce my stress and increase my peace. I value the same attitude here at Goshen College where people work hard to have a positive attitude and work together in peace.
Is there anything else you would like prospective students to know about you?
I am passionate about many things in life. Some of my passions that impact my students are my love for the Deaf community and Deaf culture (we call it having a Deaf heart), my love for American Sign Language, my love for teaching, and above all my enthusiasm about seeing students learn this amazing skill of interpreting. I am my students’ most ardent cheerleader! Nothing gives me more pleasure than encouraging them, pushing them, maybe even nagging them, and watching as bit by bit, day by day, they realize they really can become an interpreter!