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Sign Their Language: Clemson launches new educational interpretation center to aid deaf children in public schools

When Stephen Fitzmaurice was 12-years-old, a deaf child moved in next door to him.  
“His parents were deaf, and their parents were deaf, and so we kind of grew up together. And I just kind of got into interpretation from that point on,”said Fitzmaurice.  He went on to become an educational interpreter and in 2010 was hired to lead Clemson’s new “Interpreting Program” major for college students. 
According to, educational interpreters communicate classroom information between the teacher, the deaf student and hearing students using American Sign Language according to the language level of the student.
Clemson’s Interpreting Program major is geared toward teaching its students American Sign 
Language in order to ensure that deaf students receive the highest quality education possible.
In South Carolina schools, “we have Deaf students who attend regular, mainstream general education classrooms….[who] need an education interpreter,” said Fitzmaurice, but due to a national shortage of interpreters, end up with interpreters that “may know a little bit of sign.” This, Fitzmaurice explains, causes deaf students to “keep falling farther and farther behind in t
he curriculum.”
Clemson is one of only seven schools in the nation that has such a program and the only university in the state that gives students a four-year degree for ASL translation. 
When Clemson asked Professor Fitzmaurice to lead this program, he jumped at the opportunity. He had been seeing a major flaw in most schools’ efforts to help hearing-impaired students. Most deaf children in this state attend “regular” public school, and are enrolled in classes just like their friends and fellow students and would require an ASL translator to translate everything that goes on in the classroom, from the lesson to any questions the child may have. 
A problem arises here; in that there is what Professor Fitzmaurice calls “a general shortage of interpreters in all settings across the nation.” Public schools, as a result, end up hiring translators Fitzmaurice says are “less than stellar.” 
This is the issue that Professor Fitzmaurice is attempting to address in this major program at Clemson. 

He wants students to leave Clemson with their four-year degree in ASL and wants them to be able to go into any school in South Carolina and help deaf students get a quality education. The major focuses on conversation and “educational interpreting,” Fitzmaurice explains. “So we specifically train students to translate in public schools.” 
Professor Fitzmaurice is also starting a new Educational Interpreting Center in Greenville that he hopes will improve the quality of interpreters already in the workforce. This will provide a central location where Clemson faculty and staff will work on “improving the work 
interpreter’s skills,” so that students in the classroom can achieve a higher quality education. “All the work we do is about the deaf students sitting at the end of the interpretation,” Fitzmaurice said. “Because if the interpretation is skewed they aren’t getting the right information.”
Professor Fitzmaurice has high hopes for the center, saying he wants to “improve access, improve outcomes for that kid, because we can rest assured that the actual interpretation is going to be more active, more consistent.”
 He also thinks that the program will spread a good message about Clemson. His end goal is that “we can take Clemson’s expertise and share it across the state – that’s hugely important. I’m very excited – it’s going to be a great new initiative and a really awesome adventure.” 
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