Rationale for the Bilingual Mission
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The Gallaudet University Mission statement, approved by the Board of Trustees in 2007 recognizes that Gallaudet is a bilingual university where students engage in academic discourse and the pursuit of excellence through American Sign Language (ASL) and English. While Gallaudet has been a bilingual university since its inception, it is important that we understand the principles that support the endorsement of ASL/English Bilingualism at the heart of the University.
Gallaudet University, federally chartered in 1864, is a bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard of hearing individuals through American Sign Language and English. Gallaudet maintains a proud tradition of research and scholarly activity and prepares its graduates for career opportunities in a highly competitive, technological, and rapidly changing world.
-Approved by the Board of Trustees November 2007
Gallaudet will achieve these outcomes through:
- A bilingual learning environment, featuring American Sign Language and English, that provides full access for all students to learning and communication
- A commitment to excellence in learning and student service
- A world-class campus in the nation's capital
- Creation of a virtual campus that expands Gallaudet's reach to a broader audience of visual learners
- An environment in which research can grow, develop, and improve the lives and knowledge of all deaf and hard of hearing people worldwide
-Approved by the Board of Trustees, May 2009
Principle #1: Access
Since its founding 1864, the cornerstone of the educational design at Gallaudet University has been direct, visually accessible communication among all participants in academic settings. The use of two visually accessible languages - ASL and written English - provides the most universally effective means of direct communication for all Gallaudet students.
Principle #2: Inclusion
Gallaudet University welcomes academically qualified students from diverse language and educational backgrounds and abilities. Typically, Gallaudet students begin their higher education with varying degrees of proficiency in ASL and English, similar to the range of language abilities seen among students in bilingual universities throughout the world. Curricular and co-curricular learning opportunities guide students toward developing their full linguistic potential. These opportunities include classes and support services for improving students' skills in signed, written and spoken communication.
Principle #3: Academic Discourse
As it applies to Gallaudet, bilingualism does not mean that students have fewer opportunities to learn and use English; rather, the opposite is true. Through an intentional and integrated use of ASL and English in the classroom, students are provided with multiple approaches to develop academic discourse, an essential component of critical thinking and success in the workforce. The academic benefits of bilingualism have been well-documented, including increased cognitive flexibility and self-awareness of language use. Thus, the bilingual environment at Gallaudet provides a value added dimension to students' learning opportunities.
Principle #4: Social and Cultural Resource
In addition to cognitive benefits, bilingualism supports personal development by enhancing students' social and cultural experiences. By being a member of a Gallaudet's bilingual community, students enjoy opportunities to form lasting social bonds with their deaf, hard of hearing and hearing peers. Rather than leading toward isolation, bilingualism at Gallaudet extends the reach of students' life experiences, especially as the use of a sign language facilitates participation in deaf communities throughout the world, opening access to a greater global awareness.
Updated April 7, 2011