By Susan Kirby-Smith ’06 MA • photography by Martin W. Kane
THE PRESENCE OF SKILLED SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETERS, TEACHERS, AND ADVOCATES IS CRITICAL IN WORKING TOWARD A MORE ACCESSIBLE AND FAIR SOCIETY. MEETING NEEDS FOR COMMUNICATION BEGINS WITH COMPREHENSIVE EDUCATION IN AMERICAN SIGN LANGUAGE (ASL) AND DEAF CULTURE.
THAT'S WHERE UNC GREENSBORO COMES IN.
UNCG'S PROFESSIONS IN DEAFNESS (PID) IS THE ONLY PROGRAM IN THE UNC SYSTEM THAT FULLY PREPARES STUDENTS TO EARN INTERPRETING LICENSURE. IT IS THE ONLY ONE IN THE NATION TO OFFER A PROGRAM WITH THREE DISTINCT TRACKS: INTERPRETER PREPARATION, K-12 DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING TEACHER LICENSURE, AND ADVOCACY SERVICES FOR THE DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING. AND WITH EACH GRADUATING CLASS, ITS UNIQUELY REMARKABLE IMPACT CONTINUES TO GROW.
Learning in a classroom, talking with colleagues, consulting with a medical provider, speaking with a lawyer about a will, calling a family member on their birthday, participating in community events. Those are all things that deaf people, like everyone, need to do, and in a hearing person’s world.
The PID curriculum isn’t only about developing professional-level ASL skills but also about becoming familiar with the deaf or hard of hearing person’s experience, and the nuances within the Deaf community.
The first groundbreaking thought: Deafness is not a disability; it’s a culture and community.
“American Sign Language is the core,” says Dr. Claudia M. Pagliaro, director of the K-12 licensure track. “Our philosophy in PID is based in that culture and community and language.”
A second surprise for many people is that ASL doesn’t have the same structure as English. Although it is the only language that lends itself to simultaneous interpretation because of its manual mode, it doesn’t translate to English word-for-word, the same as with French, Russian, and many other languages.
A third revelation is that deaf or hard of hearing people’s experiences with American Sign Language and English are entirely unique. Graduates of UNCG’s program strive to work with the deaf or hard of hearing in a way that fits their needs.
“It’s important people trust deaf people to know what’s best for them,” explains Matt Bacarri ’14, staff interpreter for Greensboro nonprofit Communication Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. “ASL may or may not be someone’s first language. Writing in English may work for some but not others. Lip reading may work for some people and not others. We have to understand that everyone is different, and the situations vary widely.”
The students who graduate from the Interpreter Preparation program are prepared to take the national certification and provide services throughout the nation. They are at doctors’ appointments, educational settings, clients’ places of employments, large performances, and ceremonies. Relay service interpreters also help people remotely on the phone, with everything from ordering a pizza to talking to their child’s health care providers to calling their mothers on Mother’s Day.
From all accounts, ASL interpreting is tremendously challenging work.
“Interpreters have to learn how to manage incoming information, how to process that information, and how to put it out in ASL,” explains PID director and clinical professor Sam Parker.
“Not only is it that you’re working with two different languages that are very different and distinct from each other, but you’re also the third person in sometimes very intimate or private situations,” adds Bacarri. “We need to be aware of our personal biases and the deaf person’s biases and how that may affect the communication.”
Latoya Jordan ’06 is a CODA, a child of a deaf adult. American Sign Language is her first language, so she is a native signer. As a freelance interpreter, she has performed interpreting services for the North Carolina Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, within university settings, for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Secret Service, for film productions, funeral services, medical appointments, formal ceremonies, and at national music festivals, such as the National Folk Festival and Bonnaroo, often alongside other Spartans who graduated from the PID Interpreter Preparation program.
“The idea of ’interpreting’ has been around forever but as a profession, it is fairly new,” says Jordan. “Our country’s understanding of civil rights and its citizen’s needs for accommodations and laws to protect them helped establish and provide official recognition for the need of legally certified interpreters.”
While Jordan may be most visible to the public when interpreting for public events, her work behind closed doors she cites as more significant in terms of impact.
“99 percent of the assignments that interpreters accept are confidential in manner," she says. "One percent of the time you may see us doing platform work, where we are on stage interpreting. But I am successful in my profession every time I provide courteous, accurate interpretation, whether it was the assignment where I interpreted for President Barack Obama or when I hold the hand of a patient who has just found out they have cancer.”
In 2016, Jenese Portee ’06 became the first-ever staff sign language interpreter for the Peace Corps, providing training and consultation at the office headquarters in D.C. and throughout the world. She also put her skills to use signing for musical artist Pink at the Grammy awards in 2018.
“Every word that comes out of your mouth has to be received, thought about, organized, and shared into sign language in a split second. And the people who communicate via sign language are as unique as anyone else,” says Portee.
Graduates of the K-12 Deaf and Hard of Hearing Teacher Licensure program work locally ‒ at Kiser Middle School, for example ‒ across the state, and across state lines, such as at the Virginia School for the Deaf. Those graduates are not only fluent in American Sign Language upon graduation but are in tune with the learning variations that come into play when working with deaf or hard of hearing students.
“A deaf learner has a unique perspective on the world, intaking the world differently, organizing cognitively and linguistically differently than a hearing person. Our students are learning to take that perspective and understand what that deaf student brings to the classroom and how to direct that student’s progress,” says Pagliaro. “We believe that success starts when people have full access to a complete language as early as possible.”
Morgan Lavey ’17, who came to the PID K-12 program from Minnesota, completed her teaching internship at the North Carolina School for the Deaf in Morganton, and now works for the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind. She teaches English in grades six through 12, but her students may be as old as 21. Among other subjects, she teaches independent living skills to young adults.
“Being able to connect with the students personally and understand them is the best way to approach education. This is especially true within deaf education,” says Lavey.
She credits the mentorship she found in UNCG’s PID program as the source of her expertise in navigating those variations.
“These professors love building up the next generation of skilled, creative, and qualified teachers to go out and change the face of Deaf Education. My professors taught me that this profession is extremely valuable and is in desperate need of qualified professionals. They taught me that I am capable of impacting every student I encounter.”
Graduates of the Advocacy Services program are prepared to work in deaf and hard of hearing service centers – nonprofit, for profit, or state agency-operated – that offer everything from interpreting at medical appointments to legal assistance to live captioning in college classes or at board meetings. Many alumni pursue graduate degrees in specialized careers working with the deaf and hard of hearing, such as master’s degrees in rehabilitation counseling and in clinical social work. But while they are in the program, they work with director of Greensboro’s Communication Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CSDHH), Kelle Owens, who teaches the UNCG internship course and coordinates PID internships, many of them at CSDHH.
Paige Sprinkle ’12, ’14 came to the program after first earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UNCG in 2012. In the PID advocacy track she studied the many implications of the Americans with Disabilities Act, knowing what situations the law applies to and how. Her internship at CSDHH showed her the type of work she wanted to be doing. Now as the program coordinator there she provides direct client services. She is passionate about helping to promote an equal playing field for deaf people in all parts of life. She describes one of her most gratifying moments as hearing from a UNCG student, after receiving captioning services: Finally, I can do this, what I knew I was capable of the entire time.
“Knowing that student’s whole world had changed for the better,” she says, “I realized I could do this work for a very long time.”
Maddie Driggers ’16, a graduate of the Interpreter Preparation program, works alongside Sprinkle and Bacarri at CSDHH, as the interpreter coordinator. She makes interpreting appointments for more than 28,000 hours of services annually, and she also provides interpreting herself.
“Being able to go to an appointment and provide equal access for both people, to each other, and to be the conduit for that – that’s rewarding,” says Driggers. “It’s rewarding to be a part of so many people’s lives.
CSDHH also hosts events with the Deaf community and offers ASL classes to the hearing community.
UNCG currently has a “two-plus” articulation agreement with five community colleges in North Carolina. This agreement means that students from five community colleges can smoothly enter the interpreting program and become licensed interpreters. This accelerated pathway to ASL interpreting certification helps these students enter the workforce sooner, in a career that has a critical need and direct impact in their communities.
Whether working in education, business settings, public events, for state agencies, or in personal contexts, PID graduates value the mentorship and academic community they find at UNCG, and subsequent professional communities they create. Those connections lead them to careers that allow them to make a tremendous impact for deaf people and the world at large.
“The Professions in Deafness program is so much more than just baseline knowledge,” says Matt. “It prepared us to navigate different situations and to continue improving. It’s a small group of students and teachers – it really does become very close-knit. All the professors helped us keep front-of-mind how important the work we do is.”
ASL is also part of UNCG curriculum and campus culture through the UNCG College of Arts and Sciences. In 2008, it was formally accepted by UNCG to satisfy foreign language requirements and was offered as a minor through the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures (LLC). Each semester, 300-400 students are enrolled in courses that are taught by LLC and PID faculty.
“It’s gratifying when the students finally get it all together with facial expressions and grammatical structures,” says LLC senior lecturer Karen DeNaples. She enjoys seeing them participate in ASL social events and learning about ways they have used sign language in real-world situations.
“They’re so excited to come in and tell me they helped a deaf person at work or out in the world. Even though they’re not studying to be interpreters, knowing they use what they learned in the class is very gratifying.”
Bob Wineburg’s “yarn lecture” is one his students never forget.
It’s a visual representation of systems theory as it relates to social work. To demonstrate the concept, the Jefferson Pilot Excellence Professor of Social Work walks his students through the final days of his mom’s life, and the different systems that were at play – the family dynamics, the health care providers involved, and the policies that impacted decision-making.
The end result is an intertwined mess of yarn throughout the classroom.
Tackling these complex systems head-on has been Dr. Wineburg’s mission since he arrived at UNCG nearly 40 years ago. And he’s inspired countless students to do the same.
Many former students have ended up in careers that don’t seem "typical” of social work graduates. They are nonprofit CEOs, fundraising executives, and economic development leaders, and they’ve landed all over the map – from Alabama to New York City to Pittsburgh.
Wineburg’s influence is expansive. If you look at his network, the students he’s mentored, and the ways in which they’ve gone on to shape their own communities, it starts to look like his yarn lecture: an entangled web, but one with incredible impact.
The year was 1980, and both Stacy Vogel ’84 and Wineburg were new to campus.
Stacy was a self-described troublemaker. Wineburg, in his first year as a professor of social work, taught her how to be an informed troublemaker – to cultivate her thinking.
“He was young and smart, and he wasn’t like everyone else. He was the kind of teacher who would help you find your path to success.”
His letter of recommendation helped her get accepted into graduate school in South Carolina. She then landed back in Greensboro for her first job at Guilford County Mental Health. From there, she spent time in Florida and New York, before settling back in her home state of New Jersey.
While Stacy spent most of her career in hospital social work, she now runs her own farm.
“I do social work with food now,” she says. “I grow food to help feed homeless, LGBTQ youth in New York City. I’m not a social worker anymore, but I want peace in the world.”
Through all the twists and turns of her life, both professional and personal, Wineburg was always a phone call away. Now, he’s become a close friend and colleague.
In 2005, Stacy and her husband, fellow alumnus Tristen Vogel '84, decided to give back to UNCG in honor of Wineburg. They created the Bob Wineburg Endowed Scholarship in Community Services - a scholarship to support nontraditional students studying social work.
The scholarship is yet another string of yarn – another way Wineburg continues to make a difference through the lives of his students.
“It’s a crazy web if you follow that thread,” Stacy says. “His net casts wide. It’s fantastic.”
Wineburg knew early on that Drew Langloh ’88 thought too big to be a social worker. He wasn’t meant to work one-on-one with individuals – he needed a career that would allow him to make sweeping changes to systems.
So Wineburg helped open a door for Drew to work as an intern at the United Way of Greater Greensboro during his senior year at UNCG. The internship led to a full-time position, and ultimately a 31-year career with United Way.
Today, Drew is the CEO of the United Way of Central Alabama in Birmingham. His social work degree combined with an MBA is the perfect combination for his leadership role, and it shows. When Drew started in 2008, the organization was bringing in $31 million in revenue. Eleven years later, revenue has grown to $78 million – a big number that has brought about big changes for Birmingham.
“The end game isn’t raising money, it’s changing lives,” says Drew. “That’s the social worker in me.”
Drew and Wineburg have stayed in touch. When Drew was working for United Way in Delaware, he hired Wineburg as a researcher for one of his projects. The two also traveled together to Washington, D.C., to meet with leaders at United Way’s headquarters – an opportunity that opened doors for Wineburg.
The professor-student relationship was thrown out the window a long time ago.
Now, it’s two colleagues and old friends working together to make a difference in their communities.
“I still talk with him on a regular basis,” Drew says, “and I always hang up the phone a little
more challenged than when I called him.”
Veronica Creech ’97 will tell you she was “blessed beyond measure” to have met Wineburg.
As an adult student who had immigrated to the United States from Guyana as a young child, she found navigating the system to be daunting. Money was tight and navigating the system was daunting.
“For me, to scale that wall and get accepted to UNCG, and then to have someone as wonderful as him to meet me and challenge me – it’s incredible.”
Wineburg’s teaching tactics were – and still are – unlike any other. She describes a grant-writing class in which he invited his young daughter to listen to student presentations and give feedback.
“He wanted to drive home the point that you have to write a grant request so that a 10-year-old can understand it.”
After graduation, Wineburg helped Veronica launch her career at the Center for the Study of Social Issues at UNCG. Her professional and academic pursuits soon led her out west, back to North Carolina – with a master of public administration degree in hand – and then to Washington, D.C. After working in executive management for a national nonprofit, she returned to her home state, where she leads economic development for the City of Raleigh.
Veronica is the boots on the ground for equitable economic development, working to create a community where all people can experience economic prosperity.
“When we came to this country, I watched my mom struggle with being accepted,” Veronica says. “I want to make sure that everyone here has a chance.”
To do this, she’s focused on rebuilding systems – finding a better way forward in the entangled mess of yarn.
“Big solutions are what excite me. I think that’s all framed and built on the fundamentals of social work.”
When Michelle Schneider ’91, ’02 MPA sent her son off to college last fall, she reflected on what she wanted him to get out of the college experience. Of course the degree and job opportunities are critical. But is he going to find his person? A faculty member who will support, guide, and inspire him?
For Michelle, that person was Wineburg. She ended up in his Introduction to Social Work course because her roommate was a social work major.
“The truth is, I didn’t even know what a social worker was. I had been fortunate enough that I wasn’t familiar with that career path,” she says. “But I remember thinking, probably for the first time, that a job could help make a difference in the world.”
As she learned more of what a social worker was, she realized that it probably wasn’t for her. Turns out Wineburg had other plans for her as well.
“I told him I needed to do something that fixes the system, not the person. That’s how he got me into United Way,” she says.
Her internship with United Way exposed her to fundraising. After graduation, she spent time at small nonprofits and at United Way, and then was hired as a development officer back at her alma mater. She spent what she calls “the best 10 years” at UNCG in various positions, and ended up as the campaign director for the Students First Campaign, which raised $115 million and ended in 2009.
Michelle is now interim leader of institutional advancement at Cone Health.
She credits Wineburg for introducing her to the fundraising profession. The two still talk often, usually via email or text.
Michelle will tell you that she doesn’t always agree with Wineburg. But she knows he’s someone she can always go to.
“A lot of times, he’s a troublemaker. But he does that pot-stirring because he wants people to think,” she says. “He gets in your business, but he always means it in a really positive way.”
You don’t do that for acquaintances, she says.
“You do that for close friends and family, and that’s what our relationship is. It’s like family.”
"He was young and smart, and he wasn’t like everyone else. He was the kind of teacher who would help you find your path to success."
"The end game isn’t raising money, it’s changing lives. That’s the social worker in me."
"His teaching style is so different. He’s so in tune with what’s going on in the field and keeps students engaged with current
"Big solutions are what excite me. I think that’s all framed and built on the fundamentals of social work."
"A lot of times, he’s a troublemaker. But he does that pot-stirring because he wants people to think."
"Bob has been there with me through a lot. He’s a genuine guy who is really passionate about what he does and who he works with."
By Victor Ayala and Avery Campbell Photography by Martin W. Kane
For more than a century, one idea has been at the heart of UNC Greensboro’s mission as both an institution of learning and a force for positive change in North Carolina and beyond. “Service,” the University motto, is more than a slogan. It’s a charge given to every student, past and present, to make a meaningful mark on the world. Behind this simple word is a wealth of work and passion as diverse as the University’s students and alumni themselves.
After retiring from a 37-year career as a chemist, Laura Tew ’69 (in center, in brown jacket) returned to UNCG for a graduate certificate in nonprofit management because she wanted to make a difference.
Combining her years as a chemist, work in corporate philanthropy, and time at UNCG, Laura has spent the last 10 years addressing challenges facing women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers.
In partnership with the American Association of University Women, Laura has been planning and leading programs designed to engage, encourage, and prepare young girls interested in STEM careers. Programs such as Tech Savvy, which engages girls between the fifth and eighth grade, address issues Tew has seen firsthand, such as pay equity and perceived limitations of women in the field.
Kevin Graves ’04 (in center surrounded by four mentees) was first introduced to service work in 1991 when he pledged Kappa Alpha Psi, and he’s been non-stop ever since.
After graduation, Kevin served eight years in the U.S. Air Force, where he volunteered for the Fisher House Foundation, a nationwide service organization for the families of wounded and convalescing veterans and service members.
In 2009, with support from the Burlington Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, he created the Karolina Diamonds, an Amateur Athletic Union basketball team designed to provide athletic, professional, and cultural education to underserved youth. And Kevin has continued to mentor these young men over the years.
Creative writing graduate student Wesley Sexton is a civic engagement fellow through the Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement. When he’s not working on his poetry, you can find him at the Farmer Foodshare Donation Station at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market, managing interns and running the day-to-day operations of the station.
The Donation Station, a program organized by North Carolina nonprofit Farmer Foodshare, collects money and food donations. It uses these contributions to buy food from the farmers market and distribute it to charitable partners.
In 2017, UNCG became one of 117 universities across the country to host a chapter of Camp Kesem, a program that operates free summer camps for children impacted by a parent’s cancer.
To make this possible, students Savanna Thomas and MaryKent Wolff had to pull off an ambitious voting campaign to compete with dozens of other universities across the country vying to start their own chapters. Now juniors, Savanna and MaryKent co-direct Camp Kesem at UNCG, a 501(c)3 nonprofit and student organization of more than 30 UNCG volunteers.
In 2018, they raised more than $30,000 to bring 32 children to the weeklong camp, completely free of charge. In 2019, they hope to raise $45,000 to host 45 campers.
Student Wesley Sexton (center) volunteers every weekend managing the Donation Station at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market, collecting food and distributing it to people in need.
Students document an important exhibit at the Greensboro History Museum, removing written notes left by visitors, photographing them, and organizing them in scrapbooks.
Students help clear trails, put up fences, and paint at Horsepower Therapeutic Learning Center’s new location.
Camp Kesem co-directors Savanna Thomas (bottom left) and MaryKent Wolff (far left) bring together fellow students to provide free summer camps to children who have a parent with cancer.
Students weed and clean up near the Greensboro Science Center.
Students make fleece blankets for children at hospitals or hospice programs as part of Project Linus.
After serving two years in prison for resisting arrest on drug-related offenses, Jeff Bacon ’98 (in center) came to UNCG to start over. He pursued a degree in nutrition and combined his education with his experience as a chef to pay forward the second chance he’d been given.
Now, 20 years later, Jeff is fighting job and food insecurity in the state by sharing his love of cooking through Providence Culinary Training Program and Providence Restaurant and Catering, an intensive, 13-week culinary training experience for individuals struggling to find employment. Jeff started both nonprofit ventures in partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina.
In 2018 alone, the Providence Culinary Training Program conferred 66 diplomas and provided 65,000 ready-to-heat meals to soup kitchens and meal sites.
Kathryn Foster ’84, ’92 MSN (in blue blouse) has been dedicated to improving the quality of and access to health care in the community for more than 30 years.
During her career at Cone Health, Kathryn spearheaded the opening of Community Health and Wellness and Renaissance Family Medicine, clinics that provide care regardless of patients’ ability to pay.
Today, she is a quality improvement specialist at Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro, where she trains and empowers fellow nurses to provide the best possible care to patients. She also serves on the board of directors of the North Carolina chapter of the ALS Association.
With her husband, Wayne ’01 PhD, she created the Wayne A. and Kathryn S. Foster Scholarship to support UNCG School of Nursing undergraduates with financial need.
"Service" has been UNCG’s motto since 1893 when the school’s first alumnae formed the Alumnae Fellowship. Service to the community and the state of North Carolina has played a constant role in UNCG’s mission, from its founding through today.
Archival photography and text courtesy of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives.
By Susan Kirby-Smith '06 MA • Illustration by Tristin Miller '10
UNCG’s newest MacArthur “genius” grant recipient Kelly Link ’95 MFA likes to “keep the ground shifting beneath the reader’s feet,” as she says.
She is the author of four books of stories in which ordinary people fall into conversation with the extraordinary, mythical, and fantastic.
A handbag that devours things, including the narrator’s boyfriend. A house where unseen vacationers demand constant care. An ex-vampire nursing heartbreak on the set of a nudist ghost-hunting show. A family haunted by rabbit statues. A grave-robbing poet who unearths the wrong ghost.
Link’s stories, however, are more than a fanciful parade. They ponder interior life as they keep characters between two worlds, what Link describes as “daytime logic” and “nighttime logic.”
Her first two books, “Stranger Things Happen” and “Magic for Beginners,” were first published through Small Beer Press, which she runs with her husband, Gavin J. Grant. Link’s third book, “Pretty Monsters,” was released by Penguin and her most recent, “Get in Trouble,” comes from Random House.
What do we learn by combining the mythical or fantastic – “nighttime logic” – with the post-post-modern realism – “daytime logic?”
The way that I think of daytime logic is that, whether or not it’s at work in a genre like science fiction or in a realistic novel about a failed marriage, it maps onto the reader’s sense that the world works in a way where we feel at ease with the rules by how life ‒ or magic ‒ operates.
Consequences and actions have power because we can see how they will play out. Nighttime logic has a more nightmarish quality ‒ the reader is a little more at sea. Fairytales have a nighttime logic to them.
Most stories probably have both kinds of logic at play, because this is how we experience the world and therefore how we represent it when we write. We go about the world, trusting that the rules that we live by will hold. But in life, and also in fiction, there are moments when a great chasm of strangeness and dislocation seems to open up in front of us.
What are some of your characters’ favorite emotions? Least favorite?
Longing is such a powerful engine. Spleen and self-interest too. I like complainers and worriers and equivocators and even more so, characters who give in to pettiness or greed. And I also dearly love characters who wish to be better people and do the right thing. I don’t know that I have a least favorite emotion in fiction. I’ll take the selection box. (She said greedily.)
What’s your philosophy on connecting with a reader?
Perhaps this goes back to the question of nighttime logic ‒ as a reader, I’m very happy to be immersed in something strange and pleasurable that I can continue to mull over. I’m interested in questions and a little dubious about answers. With the more difficult stories, I try to make sure that there are enough pleasures on the level of sentence sound and imagery and dialogue and character to buy space to ask questions that I have no intent of answering. Which is not to say that the reader shouldn’t come up with their own answers and their own questions.
Young writers who come through the UNCG MFA program, and other MFA programs, cite you as an influence. Is there any word of advice you’d like to offer?
My feeling about influence is that you should read the writers who your influences were influenced by. And you shouldn’t lose sight of the things that you are most interested in pursuing that are going to lead you off on your own wild goose chases. Chase those geese! Pay attention to the things that bring you pleasure, not the things that are “good.” Pleasure is the greatest source of material.
How is your novel going? It will be published by Random House?
I’m currently on a writing retreat somewhere so warm that my fingers get sweaty when I type. Which is a useful thing to focus on, because then I can be irritated by that instead of by the sentences themselves. I’m beginning to hit the beginning of the end, I think. I hope that I’m discovering that there’s something I can do at novel length that would be impossible to do at short-story length. But what? Not sure yet.
And yes, Random House will publish it.