After earning her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Psychology, Lori Milcic discovered that counseling didn’t feel like quite the right career path. She began her work as a counselor at a school for the Deaf, and she learned American Sign Language on the job from the Deaf students and staff. Even though she had learned other languages before ASL, she felt a deep connection to this unique form of communication and the Deaf community. Lori eventually passed her language assessment at a local interpreting referral agency and began working as an ASL/English interpreter. She later went on to achieve national certification through the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf.
She is currently one of only 75 people in the United States to have earned her Mental Health Interpreting Certificate, and she became an educator at different institutions and universities. Currently, she is working towards her PhD in Developmental Psychology with a concentration on Language Deprivation and Linguistic Acquisition.
Lori says that many deaf children are born to hearing parents and may not have access to sign language, which is crucial for language development early in life.
“There are all kinds of developmental gaps that occur because no one is out there explaining the importance of learning sign language at an early age.”
She realized how prevalent this issue was in the Deaf community, leading her to pursue a PhD and work directly with students wanting to become interpreters.
Lori is the Deaf Services Coordinator for the Office of Developmental Programs for Pennsylvania and the Coordinator of the ASL/EI program here at the Mount. Not only does she have a passion for ASL/EI, but she loves to help and support people that are new to this field. Being one of two schools in the state with a four-year ASL/EI program, Mount Aloysius plays an important role in the education of future interpreters.
Lori says, “Thinking of the consequences of what would happen if we didn’t have the Mount Aloysius program, we would really be in trouble in our field. Mount Aloysius is an important part of our community.”
She also actively teaches several ASL/EI classes at the Mount, including Translation and Introduction to Interpreting. Lori says that while some ASL/EI students enter college with some knowledge of the language, many people enter the program with no ASL experience and find success after graduation.
“Some students will have had one class or get on Youtube and look at content and learn on their own because they like it. But for the most part, our students come in without knowing any ASL, and that’s what we anticipate, so we base our program and curriculum on that.”
Not only do Mount students become fluent in ASL and proficient in Interpreting, but they also learn about Deaf culture and work directly with the Deaf community. Lori says that, over time, the Deaf community has been gradually pushed out of the decision making process regarding the education of future interpreters. Therefore, including members of the Deaf community on the academic front of ASL/EI is extremely important to her.
“The Deaf community around the Cresson area have impacted these interpreters. They have a part in teaching them. They can legitimize the experience of these students,” Lori said.
“On the other hand, these students learning the language can and should invest into the community. That connection is really important. I also think lifting barriers in our local community is really important. Having the opportunity to communicate, even if it’s just knowing how to fingerspell or only knowing a few signs really opens the doors for our local Deaf community. And that really can have an impact on what happens with our interpreting community, as well.”
Lori says that she dreams of a larger prevalence of ASL knowledge in our local community and around the country, because regardless of what field you might work in, you will run into a Deaf person. Having any kind of exposure to the language will benefit everyone in the community.
“I would really love to see a future where everyone knows sign language and interpreters aren’t needed. I would love to work myself out of a job.”