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Classics Major Leads Way for More ASL Classes

October 22, 2020 Classics

headshot of Zoe Singleton

Junior Zoe Singleton ’22 has a passion for accessibility and digital media.

By Jessica Weiss ’05

Junior Zoe Singleton ’22 is combining interests in the humanities, digital media and accessibility at the University of Maryland. 

The classics major is one of the founders of “ASL NOW,” a student-led group that is seeking to add more American Sign Language (ASL) classes at UMD. After receiving her bachelor’s degree, she hopes to pursue a master's in library science to work as an archivist. 

We spoke to her about her journey at Maryland thus far. 

Why did you decide to study classics? 

Freshman year I attended a college in Vermont and studied digital forensics, which is basically a combination of computer science and criminal investigation. I needed a part-time job and ended up working at the library, doing archiving. I realized that was my dream job. So, I stopped being a computer person and moved back to my home state of Maryland to transfer to UMD and switch to a humanities track. I didn’t know what to major in but I have always been interested in mythology and history so I talked to [Professor and Chair of the Department of Classics] Lillian Doherty and immediately decided to enroll in classics. 

What do you enjoy about studying classics at UMD? 

Classics is the study of the ancient Greek and Roman world, but in the end, it opens doors to study so much more. A lot of what we can ascertain from older civilizations helps us understand where we came from and gives us amazing insights into how our society functions now. 

My previous college was very small so the classics department at UMD felt like a sweet spot for me because it’s a personal major within a larger environment and the professors are wonderful. I love it. It’s also very flexible and allows you to do a lot outside of the requirements. So for instance, I’m taking literature and history classes and incorporating them into the major as well. And I’m minoring in classical mythology. Studying classics has also really heightened my communication skills and my writing skills. I’ve become both a better writer and a better speaker. 

You completed an internship this past summer at the Library of Congress. What did that entail?

Yes, I came across a general Library of Congress internship on the Careers4Terps website; that led me to the Library of Congress website where I saw the internship I ended up applying for and receiving. 

It was a virtual internship working with the digital production team in the Design & Development Office to “journey map” the library's provided accessibility devices. So, I worked largely figuring out captioning workflows for online collections on their website. The captioning will probably be implemented sometime next year. I have always been very passionate about accessibility so this was a dream for me. 

Where did this passion stem from? 

I am a CODA, a child of Deaf adults. Both my parents are Deaf and ASL was my first language, so I've known it for my whole life. Growing up with Deaf parents, I quickly realized how inaccessible the world is. It was clear I had to fight for accessibility rights. Everyone should feel comfortable and like they can effectively communicate everywhere.

You are pushing for more ASL classes at UMD. 

Yes, I founded “ASL NOW” with four other students in late 2019 because we currently only have one ASL class at UMD. It is my belief that ASL is not widely practiced here because it is not widely taught. We started a petition, and it really blew up overnight. We got 500 signatures in three days and the petition currently has over 1,750 signatures. 

There are a lot of hurdles that impact Deaf communities that I could never begin to understand, but integrating American Sign Language into the UMD curriculum is a step in the right direction. It would allow for more people to use the language, possibly create interpreters and give it the spotlight it deserves, especially in such a large Deaf community that we have in Maryland. The goal is to make it known as a language major as well, and not confine it solely to Deaf education courses. We're working with faculty in the College of Education right now to make that happen. Of course COVID is slowing us down a little, but it’s a work in progress. We’ve expanded sections of the ASL 1 class to capture student engagement and a new class will be offered in the winter, EDSP488C: “Selected Topics in Teacher Education; Deaf Study: Deaf Gains.” 

How do you find time for it all? 

I feel like it’s possible at UMD. I really like being part of lots of small groups and communities within the university. I have great relationships with professors. And my interests are all separate, but I look for every opportunity to blend them together.