For many sign language interpreting students, their first glimpse of Martina (MJ) Bienvenu is on videotape during classes in American Sign Language. On Monday, Oct. 24, they will be able to meet her in person as she opens the 11th annual Campus Week of Dialogue.
Bienvenu will address the RIT community at 10 a.m. in Ingle Auditorium in the Student Alumni Union. Her topic, “Deaf Culture and Deafhood,” focuses on the growth in deaf culture and identity; she will also discuss audism, defined as bias against deaf and heard-of-hearing individuals.
In the early 1980s, Bienvenu was the model for the Green Books, the standard textbook and video series for sign language instruction. This material is still used today for interpreter training coursework. Dynamic, insightful and provocative are only some of the words used to describe MJ, as she is known to many in the deaf and hearing communities. She is recognized across the country as one of the foremost advocates for deaf culture, presenting on topics as varied as cross-cultural interactions and interpretation to culture, oppression and empowerment.
Currently, Beinvenu is department chair and assistant professor of ASL and Deaf Studies at Gallaudet University. She has published numerous textbooks and study materials on ASL, curriculum development and education for deaf individuals. She is co-author of An Introduction to American Deaf Culture.
A native ASL signer, originally from Baton Rouge, La., Bienvenu received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Master of Arts in Linguistics from Gallaudet in 1974 and 1983, respectively. She worked at Gallaudet in various departments including Linguistics Research Lab and English for 11 years.
Campus Week of Dialogue is an annual event sponsored by the President’s Commission on Pluralism and Inclusion. This years event runs from October 27–31 with workshops, films and faculty development programs. All events are free and open to the RIT campus community. More information about the program can be found at www.diversity.edu/schedule.html. All events will have both sign and voice interpreters.