Deaf Student Makes History on College Campus
April 23, 2006
by Karen E. M. Black
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Elizabeth “Lizzie” Sorkin, 24, a Film/Video and Animation major at Rochester Institute of Technology, became the first deaf student government president of a U.S. college comprising of mostly hearing students.
Sorkin, of Elk Grove, Calif., was elected to serve a one-year term at RIT, where 1,100 deaf and hard-of-hearing students are mainstreamed with 14,400 hearing students.
RIT is the home to the renowned National Technical Institute for the Deaf, where students with varying levels of hearing loss have unparalleled access to technology, interpreters, note takers, tutors and other services that promote individual success in the classroom and workplace.
“We don’t just talk about diversity on this campus, we live it every day in so many ways,” said Sorkin, who prefers to use American Sign Language and will generally use interpreters to communicate with those who don’t know sign language.
She and her vice president, Daniel Arscott, a Boston, Mass., native who is hearing, have campaigned around their slogan ‘Identify.’
“Dan and I want to ignite pride and honor, as well as loyalty for everyone who studies or works here. RIT already has a good spirit community emerging; Dan and I want to continue that momentum at full speed,” Sorkin said. “When we started campaigning, people were already emailing us of their interest in being on the SG Cabinet with us next year.
“Even though Dan doesn’t know sign, we get by with one-on-one communication like any one else would,” Sorkin said.
“Lizzie is an excellent communicator and a natural leader,” said Dr. T. Alan Hurwitz, RIT vice president and NTID CEO/dean. “Through her hard work and dedication, she has earned the respect of students, faculty and staff alike.”
Sorkin is finishing her term as NTID Student Congress president and RIT Student Government senator, where she led the effort to hold regular pep rallies, Spirit Fridays, social gatherings and more to create a new sense of community within NTID, one of eight colleges of RIT.
Born hearing to deaf parents, Sorkin became deaf at a very young age for reasons unknown, and attended mainstream schools her whole life. She chose RIT because, she said, of the mainstream environment as well as exemplary support services offered.
“My dad, who graduated from RIT, encouraged me to attend the Explore Your Future career exploration summer program, where I met other peers who I could relate with,” Sorkin explained. “I lacked that kind of social stimulation growing up.
“I didn’t know what I was going to study at first,” Sorkin said, “but eventually I found my passion--film.”
Sorkin earned a Davis Scholar Award given to student leaders who contribute to campus life, an Academic Achievement & Service Award, and has made the Dean’s List several times. She also won awards from several film festivals for her short movie, “Don’t Mind?” She spent spring break this year in the Philippines co-presenting a workshop to deaf students there and visiting elementary school children.