ASL Conference Brings High School and College Students Together at Columbia College Chicago

ASL students gathered for two-day conference featuring creative performances and ASL learning sessions at Columbia College Chicago


The American Sign Language (ASL) Department hosted more than 200 students from across the Midwest to participate in the 2nd annual ASL Student Conference at Columbia’s Student Center. The two-day event featured beginner and intermediate breakout sessions with creative storytelling led by faculty members and community leaders. Special guests included Deaf actor Josh Castille, who did a series of on-stage improv skits, and Deaf hip-hop artist Sean Forbes, who performed on Friday night.

The conference celebrated the vibrant community of interpreters, signers, Deaf educators, and Deaf students who came together for a truly immersive ASL learning experience. High school ASL students joined Columbia students for games, catered lunches, and presentations from event sponsors over the two-day conference. Hearing participants refrained from talking in the auditorium to preserve the visual environment for Deaf students excited to interact with ASL students from other schools. Student interpreters and planners from the Columbia College Chicago ASL program were available to help anyone who wanted to communicate with Deaf attendees.

ASL-English Interpretation senior and lead student planner Tessa Kerouac helped hearing and Deaf students navigate the events throughout both days. "Being the student planner for the ASL Student Conference has been one of the best experiences of my time at Columbia,” said Kerouac. “It was so fitting to have this conference right before my graduation, it was the cherry on top of all the great memories.”

Kerouac said connecting with Deaf presenters, other students, sponsors, and Deaf performers was such a unique opportunity for her last semester at Columbia. "I've made so many contacts that will benefit me as I enter into my career as an interpreter,” added Kerouac.

Rachel East was one of the student planners and interpreters who helped run the ASL Student Conference with Kerouac. East is a junior in the ASL-English Interpretation bachelor’s program and secretary for the ASL Student Club.

“It’s been a lot of fun to be involved in the department and the different events happening,” said East. “I think it’s awesome that Columbia has so many resources and events like this for students. We had our big event for Deaf Awareness Day in the same space [as the ASL Student Conference], so it’s just been really cool to see the community come together.”

The ASL Student Conference is one of many initiatives that the ASL Department hosts throughout the year. This spring, the ASL Institute is back for another six-week non-degree program with beginner and intermediate ASL classes open to the public. The workshop is an introduction to ASL, and participants develop expressive and receptive ASL skills through discussions of topics such as personal information, surroundings, residences, families, and activities.

Learn more about upcoming ASL events at Columbia.