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Education

OSU offers Oklahoma's first American Sign Language major

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Taylor Woodall-Greene wants more Oklahomans fluent in sign language, and she’s worked for years to make that happen.

The American Sign Language professor at Oklahoma State University is spearheading a new ASL major that the university began offering this fall.

Students majoring in ASL can take various paths. They can double major and pursue a career in a different field, or they can potentially pursue interpreting.

“The overall goal for our degree is fluency, native-like fluency, and from there the sky’s the limit. You can use this language in anything,” she said.

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Dr. Taylor Woodall-Greene

The Gallaudet Research Institute estimates about 70,000 people are deaf or hard of hearing in Oklahoma. And Woodall-Greene said communicating with them is incredibly important.

So far, a handful of students have declared ASL as a major and more have expressed interest, Woodall-Greene said.

Classes in ASL have already proved popular in Stillwater, Woodall-Greene said. Though the university hadn’t offered a major previously, it had offered foreign language concentrations in ASL for years.

Woodall-Greene said about 170 students are enrolled in the basic level ASL classes this semester. ASL only trails Spanish in the number of students enrolled in what OSU classifies as a foreign language.

Offering ASL as a major has been a yearslong process, Woodall-Greene said. OSU professors first proposed it as a major in 2016, she said.

However, one of the major hangups was that there were no tenure track professors at that time teaching ASL. So, once Woodall-Greene got her doctorate — she was pursuing it at that time — they tried again. Finally, in the summer of 2021 after rejections and delays due to the coronavirus pandemic, the major was accepted and students were able to declare it this fall.

Woodall-Greene said her hope is to increase supports for the deaf community in Stillwater and beyond as she continues to try and grow the program.

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