Deaf Studies, BA

At Columbia, you’ll find a Deaf Studies program that has a relationship with performance and visual art that you won’t find anywhere else—and exposure to the larger Deaf community in Chicago, including myriad niche groups within it. You’ll also learn from our renowned faculty, who are well known in the Deaf community and beyond. The result: A unique understanding of the issues facing those who are Deaf and hard of hearing, and immediate connections that will help you pursue your career as an advocate for the Deaf community.

In addition to being a part of the one of the most unique communities at Columbia, you’ll take Liberal Arts and Sciences Core classes to gain a well-rounded education that prepares you for work in a variety of fields, from community-based services, performance and visual arts, government organizations and more—and you’ll have the opportunity to pursue creative endeavors of your choice.       

What to Expect Your First Year

Our program is designed to start with ASL 1. However, if you have previous ASL experience—whether you’re a freshman or a transfer student—you will take a placement test to determine the ASL skills class into which you’ll be placed. You’ll attend a weekly ASL Lab to focus on receptive and expressive ASL skills and learn about the principles of Classifiers, an integral part of the language. You’ll take a course in Deaf culture—a requirement for all ASL students—and a course about career opportunities within the Deaf community. You’ll also have the opportunity to choose Core program electives in your areas of interest, including the popular Deaf Theatre production, which puts on a theatre production performed entirely in ASL.

You’ll also enjoy opportunities to engage in one of the most active communities on campus, from the student-run ASL Club to the department’s anticipated annual Silent Retreat.

What to Expect Your Last Year

As a Deaf Studies student, you’re guaranteed an internship. These unpaid, for-credit internship opportunities are arranged directly by the ASL Department through our numerous community connections. Your options range from managing artistic and performance events to working within community organizations to teach clients life management skills.   

Your last year will wrap up with a capstone, a semester-long research project on a topic of your choice related to the Deaf community. The project culminates in a presentation at Manifest, the college’s annual showcase of Columbia student work.

In addition, you’ll also continue taking ASL and elective courses, and you’ll continue to have the opportunity to be involved in the ASL Club and other department organizations and initiatives. 

Detailed Program Information

Download a Four-Year Plan

For More Degree Requirements and Transfer Plans, Visit the Catalog

Real-world Opportunities

What experience will I get outside the classroom?

Columbia will give you real-world experiences while you’re in school. You’ll be immersed in Chicago’s Deaf community from day one, with opportunities to:

  • Participate in Deaf events in Chicago—such as ASL-only coffee hours, ASL interpreted theater events and ASL improv nights—and volunteer for community-based projects
  • Attend the ASL Silent Retreat, an annual ASL adventure that immerses participants in a fun learning environment away from the classroom. While the retreat changes from year to year, it always provides informative workshops, lively presentations and performances, and team-building activities
  • Join the ASL Club, a nationally-recognized group of dedicated ASL students who are active in the Deaf community 
What are my internship options?

As a Deaf Studies major, you’re guaranteed a guided, immersive work experience with a social service provider that works with the Deaf population. A direct result of our great relationships in the Deaf community, these internship opportunities are coordinated directly by the ASL Department. During your internship, you’ll complete 90 hours of volunteer service to members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community with an organization that provides services to, or works in collaboration with, Chicago’s Deaf and ASL communities.


Ready to Apply?

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