For nearly 40 years, UALR’s Interpreter Education program (IEP) has equipped teachers to serve the deaf, hard of hearing, and deafblind community. Now, thanks to an over $1 million five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), the program is launching a new campaign to train as many qualified applicants as possible.
Led by Ray James, Senior IEP Instructor, the project will provide scholarships and extensive preservice training to dozens of new baccalaureate students. Other project collaborators include Dr. Linda Stauffer, IEP Program Coordinator; Dr. Glenn Anderson, IEP Instructor; Ella Irby, a founding member of the Little Rock Black Deaf Advocates; and Jami Hollingsworth, IEP Instructor, who will be the Project Coordinator and Educational Specialist.
Over the next five years, the $1,248,982 grant will support the team’s efforts to tackle the national shortage in Pre-K through 12th grade classroom interpreters; this USDE grant is funding the project in its entirety. With plans for 50 scholarships, outreach into the surrounding states, and extensive training assessments, the UALR team intends for the project to raise the bar for—and increase participation in—the educational interpreter community.
Though the profession is growing, UALR’s Interpreter Education bachelor’s degree is one of the few of its kind in the country, making well-qualified classroom interpreters hard to find. In his proposal, James explained that while nearly 600 deaf or hard of hearing students attended public schools in Arkansas in 2011-2012, only 34 interpreters provided classroom services throughout the state, many of whom didn’t have adequate training. “The supply of available qualified interpreters in Arkansas is insufficient to meet the needs of such a large number of deaf students on a regular day-to-day basis,” he says.
To address this deficiency, UALR’s program will take a three-pronged approach. They will actively recruit eligible applicants from all over the country, offering substantial financial support and giving priority to underrepresented populations. They will collaborate with Tulsa Community College to invite Tulsa students who have completed their associate’s degree in Interpreter Education to continue in UALR’s bachelor’s program. Finally, they will promote a high standard of qualification by supporting various state and nationally sanctioned assessment methods for interpreters, as well as local, regional, and national training efforts.