BY: KYLE WOOSLEY
The first American Sign Language living learning community in the state is scheduled to open this fall in Walters Hall.
The ASL community would consist of two floors, one male and one female, in the residence hall and would be open to ASL majors as well as deaf students on campus.
“Any time you completely open it up to have a community and use that language, that’s going to give a unique opportunity for people to experience the language outside a classroom setting,” said Laurence Hayes, chair of the ASL department.
Hayes said the idea of a living learning community initially developed after a student-driven initiative was submitted through housing.
“We have some students, who are actually part of the ASL community, they put together a proposal for the floor and brought it to Housing,” said Nickole Hale, associate director of University Housing. “It actually came from the students saying they were interested in this community.”
Hayes said Eastern has been very supportive during the process of developing this living learning community.
“EKU has been very supportive of heading up an environment that is very supportive of this language,” Hayes said. “We’ve been fortunate and it’s been supported all the way along.”
Walters Hall was selected, Hayes said, because of the loft area in the lobby, which opens up the first floor of the lobby to the second-floor loft area.
“This [Walters] has a flavor of that in a way with communication between floors, which is kind of neat,” Hayes said.
Hale said several other deaf schools across the country implement a similar setting in order for students to communicate with each other between floors.
Leah Thomas, 20, occupational science major from London, who is minoring in ASL, said the environment will help students improve on their sign language skills.
“I think it’s a really good idea and it will be a really good environment for the deaf students on campus, as well as majors and minors,” Thomas said. “I think like with any other language the only way to truly learn it is to be around it all the time.”
Hale said the community would be especially beneficial to deaf students at Eastern.
“Because it will be a floor that includes native ASL speakers, they can come on the floor and use their first language,” Hale said.
Madison Keller, 19, ASL interpreting major from Lexington, said she thinks the residence hall community will help her improve on her own skills.
“I know that it will truly increase my signing ability since it will be more immersion within the language and the culture,” Keller said. “I am an Interpreting major so the more practice I get the better my capabilities will be.”
Though she will not be living in the community next year, Keller said she hopes to in the future.
“I will be living on the sorority floor next semester though but hopefully my senior year it will still be around to where it will be thriving much more,” Keller said.
Thomas said she thinks the community will be beneficial in recruitment for deaf students.
“I think that it’s a good way to bring in deaf students,” Thomas said. “I think they’ll feel more comfortable.”
Hayes said he also sees the new living learning community as a tool for recruitment and advancement.
“I think it’s going to be a positive recruitment tool for people who are interested in the language and deaf students to live and learn,” said Hayes.
Hale said it will “encourage people to come and become apart of the that [ASL] department as well as deaf students.”
The ASL living learning community is expected to be operating in the fall 2013 semester.