Vince Cerf, a computer scientist who is recognized as one of the founders of the internet, and other individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing have been very successful in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). However, as a group, individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields. One effort that has tried to rectify this is the Workshop for Emerging Deaf and Hard of Hearing Scientists held at Gallaudet University on May 17-18, 2012, with support from AccessComputing. Almost one hundred participants attended, including high school, college, and graduate students as well as K-12 educators, sign language interpreters, university professors, and government employees working in STEM fields.
The workshop's goals were to:
- establish a mentoring network of deaf and hard of hearing students at the high school, undergraduate, and graduate level, as well as established professionals;
- educate individuals about and promote use of the ASL-STEM forum for fluid exchange of technical signs; and
- develop strategies for improving and expanding captioner vocabulary and computer databases to include terms such as mathematical symbols.
Featured speakers included Harry Lang from the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology, Becky Wai-Ling Packard of Mt. Holyoke College, and Linda Campbell from St. Mary's University. Panels and breakout sessions provided an opportunity for in-depth discussion on the mentoring relationship between STEM students and faculty, resources for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in specific disciplines, and research experiences for undergraduates (REUs).
In addition to attending sessions, participants were able to network with each other, share resources, and develop strategies to be successful in STEM education and careers. In order to attract students from across the country, scholarships were available for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students who are deaf or hard of hearing to cover the cost of the workshop, travel, lodging, and meals.
The Workshop for Emerging Deaf and Hard of Hearing Scientists is a promising practice for building community amongst scientists who are deaf and hard of hearing and are often isolated geographically as well as within their disciplines. Holding an in-person meeting can help to form lasting relationships that can benefit both students and professionals.
AccessComputing activities have been funded by the National Science Foundation as part of the Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) program of the Directorate for Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering (CISE) (grant #CNS-0540615, CNS-0837508, CNS-1042260, and CNS-1539179).