From wallflower to leader: Ashleen Evans found herself at RIT/NTID

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A. Sue Weisler

Ashleen Evans was shy and didn’t know much sign language when she first came to RIT/NTID. Now graduating as president of the NTID Student Congress, she’s returning to Indiana with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, a job waiting for her and knowledge about deaf culture and being a leader.

As Ashleen Evans graduates this week, she’s able to look back at the past five years she’s been at RIT and how she’s learned more than the knowledge that earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting: she’s learned more about herself as a woman, as a leader and about deaf culture.

And she has a job waiting for her back home, thanks to her new degree.

“I was shy in the beginning of college,” she said. “I overcame my shyness and I can go up to people now and talk to them about any topic related to academics or anything. I also learned that I have overcome many challenges; I just keep working hard until I accomplish my goals. I have learned a lot about myself in order to be happy and I have discovered my own inner identity.”

Mainstreamed with hearing students in Lebanon, Ind., Evans graduated from high school in 2009 and applied to RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf after a teacher mentioned her deaf brother had graduated from RIT/NTID.

“When I first arrived here, I wasn’t fluent in sign language. I was like, ‘Why is everyone throwing their hands everywhere?’”

Her roommate taught her some basic signs. “I was really overwhelmed at first, but at the same time, it was a good experience,” she said. She did contemplate going to another college closer to home but realized RIT provided access services such as interpreting, classroom captioning and notetaking that aren’t always reliable at other colleges.

“I stayed at RIT, learned more about deaf culture and tried to learn to communicate with people on campus,” she said. “I realized it is very important for me to interact with deaf people in order to have the experience of using American Sign Language.”

She served as president of the NTID Business Club, the Ellie Rosenfield Personal Finance Student Club and co-coordinator of the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Business Studies. This year, she served as president of the NTID Student Congress. “I loved attending the meetings and getting to know other people,” she said.

Evans completed a co-op with the City of Elwood, Ind., where she typed up council meeting minutes, updated their budget, managed files and interacted with city employees, including police and firefighters who needed insurance records.

After graduation, she has a job lined up in the account securities department at the Defense Finance and Accounting Services in Indianapolis.

Being so close to her family is a plus. “I know that my family will always be there for me regardless of what the situations are.”

Her advice to other students considering attending RIT/NTID: “RIT is a better place to learn diversity and deaf culture. RIT has a bigger deaf community and better opportunities to learn more about oneself as a leader. And I like that many faculty, staff and students in the RIT community are accepting of deaf people and are interested in deaf culture.”