Thursday, September 23, 2021
  Around Campus

By News and Internal Communications

By Renata Perez


RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – The American Sign Language Interpretation program at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley marks this year’s National Deaf Awareness Week, Sep. 20-24, with various activities to promote positivity, inclusion and understanding of deafness.

Dr. Brian A. Cheslik, assistant professor and program coordinator for the ASLI program, who is Deaf himself, emphasizes it is crucial to use this week’s events as an opportunity to shine a light on this frequently underrepresented population.

“Accessibility for Deaf and hard-of-hearing people is often not a consideration until someone speaks up,” said Cheslik. “So, this week is a way for us to spread knowledge and awareness about our culture and language to help people understand us more.”

Young woman plays two loteria cards
UTRGV's American Sign Language Interpretation program held an ASL Lotería activity on Wednesday as part of National Deaf Awareness Week, Sep. 20-24. The week continues Thursday night with guest speaker Sandra Mae Frank, a Deaf actress on NBC's New Amsterdam. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

A Virtual Trivia Night kicked off the week followed by in-person events including a Movie Night, featuring A Quiet Place Part II, on Tuesday and an ASL Lotería on Wednesday in Edinburg.

The week continues with the following events:

  • Thursday, Sep. 23 – Guest speaker Sandra Mae Frank, a Deaf actress on NBC’s New Amsterdam, 7 p.m., Health Affairs West Building, Edinburg Campus
  • Friday, Sep. 24 – Virtual ASL Class / Deaf Coffee Chat at MoonBeans Coffee in McAllen / Deaf Night Out at Main Event in Pharr, starting at 5 p.m.



Although UTRGV has celebrated Deaf Awareness Week since 2016, and ASL classes have been offered to students for more than 15 years, an increase in student demand resulted in the development of the ASLI minor in 2019. Implemented in 2020, the Bachelor of Science in American Sign Language Interpretation program, under the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, prepares students to become adept in all areas of the language, Deaf culture comprehension and valued professional skills in the American Sign Language field.

This program, which began with one instructor, is now composed of five full-time instructors and six part-time lecturers.

“Our goals include growing our program, welcoming more students into the interpreting major, collaborating with other departments and programs to raise awareness about deafness, accessibility issues on campus and to become a staple in the UTRGV family as well as the surrounding RGV community,” said Cheslik.

He said everyone can become more informed, inclusive and accommodating to Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals by these simple acts – by using your phone’s notes app to communicate with our Deaf peers or learning basic sign language through the ASLI program’s free ASL classes.

“Do not think that we are less, broken or need to be fixed,” said Cheslik. “We are just like everyone else; except we cannot hear.”

For more information about the ASLI program, visit


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.