Sorenson Communications donates to Dixie State’s ASL program

By Chase Hansen

Dixie State’s American Sign Language Interpreting program recently received a generous donation from Sorenson Communications to establish the Sorenson Communications Sign Language Interpreter Scholarship in Honor of Ron Burdett and create a computer lab equipped with the specialized equipment necessary for interpreting training.

The Burdett scholarship will be awarded to students to cover the costs associated with taking the Utah Interpreter Program Knowledge and Novice Performance exams.

The Knowledge Exam, a written test, assesses students’ knowledge regarding history of the interpreting profession, deaf culture, linguistics, grammar, and usage of American Sign Language. Once students have passed the Knowledge Exam, they must receive a Utah Interpreter Program student permit and participate in an internship. At the conclusion of their internship, they take the Novice Performance Exam before they can begin working as professional interpreters in Utah.

Dr. Allyson Hamilton, DSU’s ASL program coordinator, anticipates that the program will award two scholarships this year and probably five per year after that. She went on to say that some students interested in the program may have shied away because of the cost of the exams and believes the scholarship “will encourage students and help them feel that others are there to help them succeed.”

Beyond the scholarship’s impact on students, it honors a highly influential individual in the deaf community, Ron Burdett.

Encouraged by two deaf parents, Burdett’s disability never hindered him. After attending the Utah School for the Deaf in Salt Lake City, he earned degrees in computer studies and accounting from the prestigious Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C., and later earned a master’s degree from Cal State Northridge. He went on to serve as a professor and dean of deaf studies at Ohlone College in California, president of the California Association for Postsecondary Education and Disability, director of the Southern Utah Deaf and Hard of Hearing Division, and vice president of community relations of the Sorenson Communications, Inc., before officially settling down in St. George.

This scholarship, in honor of the hard work and success demonstrated by Burdett, “will be seen by our students as a small reward of their hard work and will provide encouragement for their continued success,” Dr. Hamilton said.

In addition to establishing the scholarship, the funds donated by Sorenson Communications, the leading provider and developer of products and services for the deaf and hard of hearing, have also been used to develop a new computer lab that is designed specifically for the ASL program. The lab, consisting of six computers equipped with DVD players and cameras, will allow students to watch the ASL demonstrations that are part of their curriculum and record themselves interpreting as part of their assigned requirements.

Dixie State’s American Sign Language Interpreting program is like no other in Southern Utah. In addition to taking language acquisition, deaf culture, and interpreting classes, students learn crucial communication skills such as cultural awareness and sensitivity, register and code switching, and the ability to be lifelong learners. Furthermore, they develop cultural and linguistic knowledge to navigate various social, professional, and educational environments as cultural and linguistic liaisons.

For more information about Sorenson Communications’ donation or DSU’s ASL Interpreting program, please contact Dr. Hamilton at hamilton@dixie.edu.