Deaf and Hard of Hearing Connectivity Series

In 2013, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) series invited NTID DHH women participants to develop an agenda for future events. Examples of DHH Connectivity series offerings include discussions with hearing and DHH guests regarding barriers to advancement and strategies for achieving career goals, a panel of experts discussing how to develop proposals for external funding, a meeting with the NTID Dean, and advice regarding building international networks and partnerships. Sessions take a range of formats including on campus events and teleconference events using the NTID CISCO teleconference system. This is an important feature of the series since the population of DHH women academics and professionals is relatively small and often are located fart from RIT; teleconferencing allows DHH NTID women faculty to interact with colleagues nationally and internationally. A subset of the participants in the career goal sessions decided to work on individualized career planning through collaborative meetings. 

Another participant submitted a competitive internal proposal for bringing an internationally known DHH woman to campus; the proposal was funded through a Connect Grant offered through an ADVANCE initiative and as a result Dr. Liisa Kauppenin (recipient of the 2013 United Nations Human Rights Award and former president of the World Federation of the Deaf) presented in both an open session to the university and in special session to DHH women.

Feedback is collected via paper survey at the end of each session. Results indicate a high level of satisfaction with the events and have generated ideas for future events. Examples of Likert questions focused on the degree to which the session was useful, related to career goals, involved presenters knowledgeable presenters, and whether achieved stated objectives. The average response was between 4.25-4.7 on a scale of 1-5. The Connectivity series is entirely managed by the DHH members of the team.

During the third year of the grant, the Connectivity Series team received requests, concerns and complaints from other faculty, including hearing men and women, DHH men, and hearing Faculty of Color. These colleagues believed that that they could also benefit from attending Connectivity Series sessions, and requested that they be open to all. The team considered these requests and, with the support of NTID President Buckley who provided additional funding, the DHH Connectivity Series expanded to include two formats - one a smaller and closed session for DHH women only and a second session open to all NTID and RIT faculty.

The Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) faculty continue to meet regularly for their Connectivity Series gatherings and formal speaker sessions.  Based on NTID faculty feedback and with the support of NTID President Buckley, the DHH Connectivity Series is now offered in two (DHH and ALL faculty) session formats for all faculty to have the opportunity to attend.  The DHH Research Team’s focus group findings uncovered themes of career pathways, mentoring and networking.

Workshops

Nancy Hilbok Amann A February 2017 workshop was presented by Nancy Hlibok Amann. Nancy Hlibok Amann is the superintendent of California School for the Deaf in Riverside. She earned bachelor and master degrees in Government and Administration from Gallaudet University, and worked at the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind in various positions before earning her Ph.D. in bi-literacy and reading from the University of Arizona. She became a literacy specialist and in 2006, a school administrator. In 2013, Hlibok Amann became the director of Special Projects and Development at Deaf Community Services in San Diego, and then a high school teacher in the San Diego Unified School District.

This presentation had three sessions over the course of two days, and was for deaf women in administration, including a session for all faculty regarding the past, present, and future of deaf education.

Johanna Lucht A March 2018 workshop, “Flying” Through Barriers at NASA, was presented by Engineer, Johanna Lucht. Johanna Lucht has made history by becoming the first Deaf engineer to take an active control role during a NASA mission! Lucht, who was born deaf, works at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, where she recently served as a systems engineer for tests of a new type of NASA aircraft. It was a gratifying moment after years of overcoming obstacles to education and communication. “When I was a child, I essentially missed my schooling between preschool and third grade,” says Lucht. “NASA offered me the opportunity, and I was shocked. When I was a kid, I used to learn about Challenger and the shuttles. It was interesting, but I never really thought I’d be a part of NASA.”

Lucht was born in Germany where resources for Deaf children were limited at the time. As a result, she didn't learn her first true language, American Sign Language or ASL, until the age of nine. “Math was the first thing I really understood in school, so I always had a love for it, growing up," she recalls. “It was something I worked at understanding, and it became my favorite subject." She later moved to the U.S. where more accessible programs for Deaf people were available, and eventually studied computer science at the University of Minnesota. Lucht says that catching up on other subjects helped prepare her for NASA’s high-intensity environment: “The catch-up was of course overload, but that really helped me in being able to work here and handle moderate to large information on a daily basis.”

While studying for her degree, she discovered the NASA internship program and decided to apply. When she received the offer, Lucht says that she was "shocked," but she quickly distinguished herself as an intern in NASA Armstrong’s research and engineering department. The internship turned into a full-time job and NASA arranged for Lucht to work regularly with one interpreter, and set up a second monitor so she could watch flight data while also receiving ASL translations. Lucht says that employers can ensure that they don’t miss out on talent by understanding that obstacles facing Deaf employees can be overcome with a little creativity. “We all meet the challenges that are presented in the environment, and do what we can to overcome it,” she explains. And, Lucht encourages kids facing similar obstacles not to give up: “You must always keep an open mind for opportunities. You never know when one might come by,” she says. “I never thought I would work for NASA, until they offered me a spot... Follow your motivation.”