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UNF’s ASL/English Interpreting program ranked sixth in the nation

Earlier this month, the University of North Florida’s American Sign Language and Interpreting Program was ranked sixth on Hands Up Communications’ list of top six schools for interpreter programs.

According to its website, Hands Up Communications provides ASL and spoken language translation services for schools, businesses and non-profit organizations. The company’s CEO, Joseph Featherstone, a UNF alumnus, recognized UNF’s ASL program among five other colleges.

UNF senior Catherine Ciucci will complete the ASL interpreting program next year. She said she had been pursuing her passion for the language since early high school.

Students at UNF looking to study ASL can pursue concentrations in community or educational interpreting. (Photo courtesy of UNF)

“UNF does a great job of supplying opportunities to see interpreters in action. Classes involve a lot of hands-on activities that allow us to experience what interpreting is actually like,” said Ciucci. 

Mark Halley, an interpreting professor, explained that students focus on ASL during their first two years and move on to practice interpreting skills alongside community members during their last two years in the program. 

According to Halley, real-life simulations are most beneficial to interpreting students. 

Currently, the interpreter program works alongside UNF’s nursing and clinical mental health counseling programs. Volunteer deaf community members act as patients in the simulations so interpreting students can practice their skills in real-life scenarios. 

“It’s something we really try to focus on in our program—not having a whole lot of lectures. We really try to get them involved in experiential learning opportunities, and we find that’s just a much better way for them to learn,” Halley said. 

UNF’s bachelor’s degree in ASL/English interpretation is one of only 19 accredited programs in the country and the only of its kind in Florida. Every teaching faculty member in the department graduated from Gallaudet University, the only university in the world with entirely specialized programs and services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.


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