Debbie Drobney on the Proposed Sign Language Interpreting Bachelor’s Degree — Faculty Highlight

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Debbie Drobney, coordinator, Sign Language Interpretation Program and professor, Sign Language and interpreting, never dreamed when she joined Valencia in 1990 of just how Sign Language would evolve at the College.

Her first Valencia roles were as a professional Sign Language interpreter, working with Valencia’s Deaf and hard of hearing students, and adjunct professor of American Sign Language (ASL). For many years, Debbie was Valencia’s only ASL professor.faculty-insight-news-id

“Working as an adjunct, students kept asking for higher level ASL classes and courses that focused on Sign Language interpreting,” Debbie shared.

Slowly, the College began adding more sections of ASL and hiring more adjuncts, and now, beginning in the fall, we will have four full-time and eight adjunct professors.

In 2005, Valencia added an associate degree in Sign Language Interpretation. Today, approximately 500 students are enrolled per semester in ASL and interpretation classes, and we have more than 200 students who have declared Sign Language Interpreting as their major.

“We have basically been a ‘feeder’ school for the University of South Florida’s and the University of North Florida’s bachelor’s degrees in Sign Language Interpreting,” she added.

With this in mind, a few years ago, as a matter of curiosity, Debbie submitted a survey to all students enrolled in ASL or interpreting courses to see if they would be interested in a bachelor’s degree program at Valencia. “The response was crazy with 80 percent of over 500 students responding to the survey,” she exclaimed. “The overwhelming response from the survey was, ‘YES! Offer a bachelor’s degree in Sign Language Interpreting. We need that degree in Central Florida, and I will definitely apply.’”

This is at a time when both nationally and regionally, there is a shortage of qualified Sign Language interpreters. In addition, in the next eight years, economic projections predict 27 percent job growth in this field (Source: EMSI).

Debbie saw this as an opportunity for Valencia to meet a need in our community and to fulfill the educational needs of many Central Florida students.

After additional research, budget preparation, gaining industry support and developing a proposal, on September 23, 2015, the Sign Language team presented its findings to Valencia’s District Board of Trustees, who unanimously voted yes to move forward with establishing a bachelor’s degree in Sign Language Interpreting.

In the fall 2015 semester, Debbie, with the help of Lilly Miller, professor of Sign Language and interpreting, submitted 22 new courses and a proposal for the bachelor’s program to the College Curriculum Committee.

“Everything passed, all the courses have state numbers, and we continued to move forward with our application to the state,” Debbie said.

“We also collected over 20 letters of support from the community and various community stakeholders supporting the establishment of Valencia’s bachelor’s degree in Sign Language Interpreting,” she added. “We will be unique; after meeting with a focus group and determining what the community would like to see our program offer, it was suggested Valencia focus on Interpreting in the Performing Arts. With so many opportunities to interpret at various performing arts venues, it made sense to us, and that is exactly what we will be doing.”

In early February, Valencia’s application was submitted to the state to begin the first bachelor’s degree on East Campus in spring 2017.

“For now, we are in the waiting mode, but are hoping to begin accepting applications in August,” Debbie concluded.

4 Comments

  • Deb Larew said:

    Congratulations Debbie and Lilly for all your hard work! This is indeed a great resource for Central Florida!

    AMFri, 01 Apr 2016 09:54:07 +0000Fri, 01 Apr 2016 09:54:07 +0000am16,9:54 am

  • Mary Ann D. Dixon said:

    What wonderful news, Debbie! Amos and I are so very proud of you and your accomplishments. I know your parents are rejoicing in heaven over your success! Congratulations.!!

    PMSun, 03 Apr 2016 20:23:22 +0000Sun, 03 Apr 2016 20:23:22 +0000pm16,8:23 pm

  • dadyer said:

    Way to go, Debbie!

    PMThu, 07 Apr 2016 13:04:31 +0000Thu, 07 Apr 2016 13:04:31 +0000pm16,1:04 pm

  • Yasmeen Qadri said:

    Congratulations my friend!! Debbie you are making a huge difference and I am so glad we are friends:) Hope to partner with you on a Deaf Education program that we both are passionate about! My attendance at the World Conference on Deaf Education in Turkey was an eye opener!!

    PMThu, 07 Apr 2016 13:41:32 +0000Thu, 07 Apr 2016 13:41:32 +0000pm16,1:41 pm

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