Article - Office of College Advancement

Tell me, what’d I say

Jan Fried helps bridge the communication gap for deaf and hard-of-hearing people

By Mark Coleman.

Monday, November 5, 2007—Reprinted from Star Bulletin: Hawaii at Work [full article and additional photos available on the article's web page].

Jan Fried has been teaching sign-language interpretation at Kapiolani Community College for 16 years. Above, Fried, at left, last week had a short meeting with Dale Peterson-London, a project assistant with the school's Educational Interpreters and Assistants Project. —Photo by Craig T. Kojima, Star Bulletin.

Jan Fried thought she was going to work with developmentally disabled children after graduating from college, but instead she became a sign-language interpreter for the deaf and hard of hearing.

A resident of Hawaii since 1991, Fried frequently uses her skills at public occasions such as political meetings, court hearings and college graduation ceremonies, and at private events ranging from births and weddings to somber death-bed gatherings and funerals.

Fried also teaches people how to sign-language interpret, as an associate professor at Kapiolani Community College, which hired her while she was completing her master's degree in teaching interpretation from Western Maryland College (now called McDaniel College) in Westminster, Md.

Fried joined KCC as an instructor/coordinator, became an assistant professor in 1996, then was named an associate professor in 2002. She is tenured and on track to become a full professor.

[Mark Coleman] Q: What inspired you to get into this field?

[Jan Fried] A: I had actually planned on working with developmentally disabled children. I was in California at the time, and I found out that Spanish-speaking kids were often inappropriately placed in special-education classrooms, because it was really just a communications issue. Then I found out the same thing was happening to deaf and hard-of-hearing children. They were in special-education classrooms. But there was nothing wrong cognitively. Again, it was just a communication issue.

So I took my first sign-language course after I graduated from UC Santa Cruz. The instructor I had was a deaf man who was teaching the course, who talked a lot about deaf rights, advocacy and the need for interpreters. And at that moment I was really struck with the notion of becoming an interpreter. The notion of working between two languages and two cultures really appealed to me. So I actually at that point switched gears.

Fortunately, being in Santa Cruz, I was in close proximity to Ohlone College in Fremont, Calif. They had a very strong school for the deaf. Ohlone College had one of the top interpreter-education programs [emphasis added].

Q: So you got a master's degree there?

A: No that was a community college. But my career has really been a great example of being at the right place at the right time. Ohlone at the time had—and it still has—amazing people teaching there, and it was attracting lots of prominent educators. It was an amazing time to be there [emphasis added].

[Full article and additional photos available on the article's web page.]

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