Thumbs Up for UNC Center on Interpreter Training

DO IT Center Assistant Director Anna Witter-Merithew

DO IT Center assistant director Anna Witter-Merithew plays the role of a judge while an ASL student interprets during a mock trial. Photo courtesy of the DO IT Center.

A University of Northern Colorado center continues to gain global attention for its prominent programs and role as a leading authority in the field of American Sign Language-English interpreter training and practices.

Earlier this year, the DO IT (Distance Opportunities for Interpreter Training) Center was one of three U.S. sites and the only public university visited by representatives from Japanese universities looking to implement and improve interpreter training programs in their country.

According to center director Leilani Johnson, the center recently granted permission to the group to translate and use selected center materials in Japan.

"We’re always glad to share our experience and expertise with others," said Johnson, noting that the center is one-of-a-kind in that it offers degree and professional development programs in ASL-English Interpretation through a combination of online learning and intensive summer onsite training.

The center has also carved a niche in the legal field.

Assistant director Anna Witter-Merithew led a team of educators from six universities in a three-year, federally funded national effort to define the competencies and best practices of ASL-English interpreters working in legal settings. The resulting publication has been widely acclaimed, not only by ASL-English interpreters and organizations, but also by other legal and spoken language interpreter organizations.

The publication is included on the websites of two professional organizations - the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators and the National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers. The National Center of State Courts has asked the team to convert the publication into one-page information sheets that will be supplied to state court administrators around the country.

The best practices also will be shared with administrators representing 74 of the nation’s 94 federal courts at an upcoming meeting in Washington, D.C.

"We’re seen as leaders in the field of legal interpreting," Witter-Merithew said. "We’re the only university in the country with a bachelor’s degree program in ASL-English interpreting in the legal system."

In addition to a bachelor’s degree program that includes an emphasis in legal interpreting, the center offers a four-semester professional certificate program and specialized advanced training in legal interpreting.

As part of that specialized training, Witter-Merithew will lead a two-week course July 19-30 in ASL consecutive interpreting in legal settings. In consecutive interpreting, the interpreter translates after the person being interpreted has finished speaking, rather than simultaneously. Students will hone their skills during mock cases held in Greeley court rooms.

Students in the legal interpreting degree and certificate programs will also receive practical training this month as part of their annual on-site learning experience, before working with mentors during real and mock cases in court rooms in Denver and Aurora.

- Gary Dutmers

The DO IT Center
Located at UNC’s campus in the Lowry neighborhood in east Denver, the center’s programs are offered through the Division of Continuing Education’s Office of Extended Studies. In addition to the legal interpreting emphasis, the bachelor’s program offers emphases in educational interpreting and community interpreting. The four-year degree prepares students for certification as an ASL-English interpreter. In addition to the Legal Interpreter Training certification program, the center also offers a certification program in educational interpreting for working professionals and a certificate program in interpreting leadership and supervision.

For additional information, visit the center’s website.