Field School in Deaf Geographies to open at RIT’s College of Liberal Arts

Researchers will study the deaf community of Rochester in 1880

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Mary Beth Kitzel with members of the Field School in Deaf Geographies at the UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries, London, England, in 2013.

Rochester Institute of Technology’s College of Liberal Arts has announced a new five-week course that will allow undergraduate students to learn more about Rochester’s deaf community.

The Field School in Deaf Geographies will be the only school of its kind, allowing students to engage in research using analytical and theoretical frameworks within human geography, social science research methods and American deaf history.

Research specialists in the fields of human geography and deaf history will teach the classes.

The field school is being moved to RIT from England “for the amazing deaf geographic research opportunities in the greater Rochester area, both historically and in light of the tremendous deaf community currently here,” said Mary Beth Kitzel, director of the field school. More than 1,200 deaf and hard-of-hearing students are on the RIT campus, enrolled in or receiving access support from RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

Topics of the research in the field school will vary from year to year. This year, the researchers will study what Rochester’s deaf community was like in 1880, using census information.

“Rochester’s deaf history is so rich, yet so unexplored,” Kitzel said. “The school that is now Rochester School for the Deaf opened just four years before the 1880 census.”

The field school will accept up to 15 undergraduates for the session, which begins June 1 and concludes July 2. Deadline to apply is April 30.

Kitzel also is planning a two-day International Conference in Deaf Geographies at RIT June 29 and 30, where researchers involved in deaf geographies around the world can gather and network.

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