Northeastern’s Amer­ican Sign Lan­guage pro­gram has received $4.5 mil­lion in fed­eral funding to improve the quality of ASL-​​English inter­preters, inter­preter edu­ca­tion pro­grams and resources avail­able to deaf and deaf-​​blind people.

The Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion awarded a five-​​year, $3 mil­lion grant to Northeastern’s National Inter­preter Edu­ca­tion Center, and a five-​​year, $1.5 mil­lion grant to its Regional Inter­preter Edu­ca­tion Center.

We are very pleased to be at the very fore­front of research and devel­op­ment in the field of sign lan­guage inter­pre­ta­tion,” said Dr. Georges Van Den Abbeele, founding dean of the Col­lege of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties. “The ASL program’s recent grants from fed­eral funding will help ensure the imple­men­ta­tion and fur­ther devel­op­ment of sign inter­preter edu­ca­tion not only here at North­eastern but nation­ally as well.”

It’s a tes­ta­ment to the quality of the pro­gram we’ve been able to build at North­eastern,” added the pro­gram director, Pro­fessor of Amer­ican Sign Lan­guage Dennis Cokely, a co-​​principal inves­ti­gator on the grants.

We are widely rec­og­nized throughout the country as one of the leaders in inter­preter edu­ca­tion,” he said, noting that Mass­a­chu­setts Sens. John Kerry and Scott Brown called him to con­grat­u­late North­eastern for win­ning the awards.

Richard Peterson, asso­ciate pro­fessor of Amer­ican Sign Lan­guage, is also co-​​principal inves­ti­gator on the National Center grant.

Cathy Cogen, director of the National Inter­preter Edu­ca­tion Center, pointed to Northeastern’s lead­er­ship in run­ning the center for the past five years, and one of six regional cen­ters for the last 25 years. As she put it, “North­eastern is well-​​positioned to take the lead in all of these activities.”

Cogen said the National Inter­preter Edu­ca­tion Center will address a nation­wide shortage of inter­preters, in part by cre­ating a mar­keting cam­paign, called “Dis­cover Inter­preting,” to draw people from diverse back­grounds into the field.

The pipeline of stu­dents coming through inter­preting pro­grams will not come any­where close to the number of edu­ca­tors retiring over the next 10 years,” Cogen explained, “unless we can suc­cess­fully increase the number of stu­dents entering inter­preter edu­ca­tion programs.”

The National Center grant will also sup­port an “out­comes” ini­tia­tive, in which fac­ulty mem­bers from 15 inter­preter edu­ca­tion pro­grams in col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties around the country will con­vene reg­u­larly to share strate­gies for improving stu­dent success.

Northeastern’s Regional Center, which coor­di­nates activ­i­ties for New Eng­land, New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, will con­tinue to host annual meet­ings among the direc­tors of inter­preting and deaf studies pro­grams in the region, according to director Diana Doucette, inter­na­tional edu­ca­tion project coor­di­nator in Northeastern’s Amer­ican Sign Lan­guage department.

The Regional Center will also sup­port pro­grams applying for accred­i­ta­tion through The Com­mis­sion on Col­le­giate Inter­preter Education—the accred­i­ta­tion board for inter­preter edu­ca­tion programs—as well as instructor training from the Amer­ican Council on the Teaching of For­eign Languages.

This is the only fed­eral grant that’s ear­marked to sup­port effec­tive prac­tices in inter­preter edu­ca­tion in order to advance the field of inter­preting,” Cokely said. “Without these grants, we wouldn’t have made the strides in inter­preter edu­ca­tion pro­grams that we’ve made over the past two decades.”