Tuesday, July 22, 2014

To Fulfill a Dream: Graduate Study at Gallaudet University

By Ana Kristina Arce

It had always been my dream to study at Gallaudet University, an academic institution known for its prestige as an institution committed towards excellence in Deaf education and the first and only Deaf University in the world. My dream finally came true when I became the first Filipino to be awarded the World Deaf Leadership Scholarship to study at Gallaudet in 2012. I completed a master's degree in Deaf Studies: Cultural Studies and graduated in May 2014. I would like to share a brief story with you on how I lived and survived the academic challenges at Gallaudet as a graduate student.

Ana received the University diploma with Gallaudet University President Dr. T. Alan Hurwitz

My initial expectation about Gallaudet is that it is just like my school in college from our home country. I was surprised to find out that Gallaudet had all these video relay service booths, round tables in the cafeteria, and that the University is an ASL/English bilingual environment. The University's facilities from the cafeteria to the classroom were all the way of deaf beings. The University is a wide campus of accessibility for deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing and deaf students with disabilities. I did not expect that there would be a lot of written assignments and projects. I lived in the campus dormitory for four semesters and I saw that everyone including the staff, faculty, and students use sign language. I felt like I am one of those who belong to the majority because I did not experience any communication barrier. I also learned that hearing students are accepted in some programs such as Deaf Studies and Interpreting undergraduate programs as well as other graduate programs in the University but they have to learn sign language because professors in all courses taught students in American Sign Language (ASL). If I may exaggerate a bit, speaking people or those who use verbal communication in the campus are frowned upon by Deaf students.    

My fellow MA classmates

Two things I found difficult to adjust to were the new environment and American culture where I experienced a cultural shock. In the past four semesters, I reflected on why I choose to study there. I had to learn ASL, adjust to the new academic environment, educational system and American culture. Being a new student in a diverse, multicultural academic institution, I had to do self-reflection and learned to embrace and appreciate other diverse cultures. I also learned a lot of new perspectives on social justice and listened to people of color’s voices, which led me to teach “Dynamics of Oppression” course for my graduate internship under my South African professor Lindsay Dunn who had experienced in his Social Justice movement.

South Korean Seung Shin, Ana Arce's classmate and South African professor Lindsay Dunn

From Left to Right: Allara (Chad), Dae-Kun (South Korean), Ana,
-Kun's friend, Ikumi (Japanese) and Dana (Mali)

In graduate school, writing academic papers drove me crazy, plus a big project like the MA thesis. There were tons of scholarly articles, journals, and other publications from the course requirements I have to read to write papers and other written assignments. I fell in love with the Gallaudet library and archive and frequently visited them to do reading, writing assignments and projects.  Time flew fast, and I now completed the two-year graduate studies. Before the end of the program, I had mixed feelings-happy for I am now armed with an M.A. degree but sad because I left the campus, a place where I lived and learned and where signing is a way of life. I benefited a lot from the program, seminars/workshops, mentoring and trainings at the University. I also acquired a deeper appreciation and understanding of the Deaf ways-of-being. I went home with the aim to help improve the lives of the Filipino d/Deaf in my home country. The count down began after my graduation.

Graduate Class of 2014
In the University’s Graduate Hooding and Awards ceremony, I was totally surprised to receive two awards –  the George W. Veditz Award, which recognized the impact I have made and will continue to make in the field of Deaf Studies and the Graduate Writing Research Award for having completed an outstanding research study in my academic program. Both awards were presented by the Department of ASL and Deaf Studies and Graduate School. I told myself, “Incredible, I made it, dint  I?” with my big eyes when receiving the awards. I also joined the University’s Sesquicentennial Commencement Exercises and marched proudly carrying the Philippine flag.

Ana received two awards - George Veditz and Graduate Writing Research Award.

Ana Arce received a Master's hood from the Department of ASL and Deaf Studies.

I am deeply thankful to the Nippon Foundation of Japan and Gallaudet University for the WDL scholarship. It is an amazing opportunity for me to prove my worth studying at Gallaudet to further enhance my skills and help improve Filipino d/Deaf lives – in education, employment and preservation of deaf culture in our home country.

International Coordinator of WDL team Danilo Torres presented the certificate of achievement to Ana Arce from Nippon Foundation of Japan making me part of the Nippon Foundation Group Alumni Society.

I also wish to thank Dr. Rosalinda Ricasa, my WDL mentor and Dr. H-Dirksen Bauman, thesis adviser and graduate academic advisor for the awesome mentorship. 

World Deaf Leadership (WDL) mentor, Dr. Rosalinda Ricasa (first Filipino sign linguist) who mentored me in my WDL project for the Philippines to improve lives of Filipino d/Deaf people.

My parents, Ana Arce and Dr. H-Dirksen Bauman, chair of the Department of ASL and Deaf Studies

My special thanks to my friends Seung Sook Shin, Thuy Tien Nguyen, Lindsay Dunn, deaf Friends, Arlyn Penaranda, Peter Ji, Le Toudjida Allara, professors of Department of ASL and Deaf Studies, fellow WDL scholars, WDL team of Gallaudet University, my parents’ friends Gani Penaranda, Leny Santos, Victoria Vaughan and Jeffery Bowden for their wonderful encouragement and support. 

My fellow MA classmates, MA Cohort 2012-2014

Ana Arce with Dr. Gemma Gabor (former SDEAS teacher)

My deepest gratitude to my loving parents, Ramon and Vilma Arce for their wonderful support and inspiring me to strive for excellence in everything I do.

From Left to Right: Tita Leny (my mom's best friend), Ana, Ramon, and Vilma (my parents).

Ana Arce carried the Philippine flag that represented the "Proud Filipino"
and wore the special graduation stole with the national flag and Nippon Foundation logo. 


Kingsley David said...

Good reading, very nice blog, keep it up!!

blendedbeauty said...

I know this is super late but I love the story behind this post!. I have a question where did you get your stole made if you dont mind me asking?