Deaf STEM Community Alliance: Supporting Postsecondary Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

National Science Foundation Award HRD-#1127955



Lisa Elliot (Principal Investigator), lbenrd@rit.edus
James DeCaro (Co-Principal Investigator),



Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf (RIT/NTID), (Rochester, NY) and its partners, Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, and Camden County College in Blackwood, NJ, are creating the Deaf STEM Community Alliance.


Goals and Objectives

The goal of the Deaf STEM Community Alliance is to establish a model for a Virtual Academic Community (VAC) that will increase graduation rates of D/HH STEM majors in postsecondary education in the long term. Two objectives support this goal: (1) documenting and disseminating a description of the process of creating the VAC in order to create a scalable model that can be replicated to fit the needs of other SWD in STEM majors; and, 2) increasing the GPAs and retention rates of D/HH students in STEM majors.


VAC Components

The VAC prototype is being designed to allow academic support, communication access, and sense of community necessary for D/HH students to succeed in STEM fields of study through a web-based cyberinfrastructure. Main elements of the VAC include:

1. Web-conferencing tools as the main channel to provide students with remote support services (tutoring and mentoring) and remote access services (interpreting and captioning);

2. Synchronous/asynchronous communication network to create the academic community; and,

3. Access to electronic resources such as sign language dictionaries, professional organizations, captioned media, reports and papers.


Challenges Addressed

The Deaf STEM Community Alliance VAC addresses the following challenges for students who are D/HH:

1. Stemming the loss of potential STEM students through attrition in formal education;

2. Overcoming barriers in STEM education; and,

3. Gathering together disparate cyberlearning resources currently available for students and their service providers.