The American Sign Language (ASL) Studies program at UW-Milwaukee strives to provide a rich educational experience that allows for students to develop both linguistic proficiency and a deep respect for the Deaf culturo-linguistic community. All courses in the ASL Studies program are taught by native ASL users, which allows for language learning via immersion.


The ASL Studies Program aspires to foster a sense of “Deaf Heart” in the individuals who study this language and culture. These individuals then become allies to the Deaf community and carry the skill and knowledge necessary to inspire change in their chosen careers.

Undergraduate Program

American Sign Language is widely used in the United States and Canada, Due to its distinct difference in how it is conveyed, in comparison to spoken languages and its recognition as a World Language, it has become one of the most popular language courses on college campuses across the U.S. The UW-Milwaukee ASL Studies program provides a strong language foundation for the students who have a passion for working in the Deaf community or the field of ASL linguistics.

If the student is new to ASL, he/she/zie should begin with ASL 1. However, in the case a student has a background in using ASL, the first step is to take the American Sign Language Proficiency Interview (ASLPI) to determine the level of fluency. Depending on course placement, a student can be eligible for a maximum of 12 retroactive credits by successfully completing the course with a B or better.

ASL Studies Major
A major in ASL Studies provides students a strong language foundation to pursue careers in which they will work directly with deaf people. The ASL Studies Major is 45 credits:

  • ASL courses: 18 credits
  • Deaf Culture & Deaf History: 6 credits
  • ASL linguistic studies and advanced skills courses: 18 credits
  • Education Elective (career exploration): 3 credits

Students who choose the ASL Studies major are required to complete service learning experiences in the deaf community and will learn of the value in collaborating with the community of people who use ASL as their first language.

ASL Studies Minor
Students who decide to add the ASL Studies Minor onto their major program of study will develop an understanding of the Deaf community that will allow for collaborations and possible job opportunities as an ally to this Cultural-Linguistic group. Included in the minor are language and cultural enrichment courses, which will enhance a future career by increasing cultural awareness and advocacy where appropriate.  An ASL Studies minor will not provide fluency in the language, but will provide a foundation language skill set and combined with the right major, can create job possibilities and collaborations that may not have existed before.

The ASL Studies Minor is a total of 30 credits.

  • ASL courses: 18 credits
  • American Deaf Culture & Deaf History: 6 credits
  • Semantics: 3 credits
  • Classifiers or ASL Literature: 3 credits
Interpreter Training Program
The mission of the UWM Interpreter Training Program (ITP) is to educate students to be competent bilingual/bicultural interpreters by emphasizing service learning experiences in the Deaf community. Our program philosophy “Deaf Heart Starts Here”, takes hold the moment a student begins her/his/zir preparation because the path to becoming an interpreter begins with ASL Studies. Students can be confident that when they enter the ITP, he/she/zie will be competent in ASL, knowledgeable about Deaf Culture and connected to the local Deaf Community.
ASL World Language Teacher Certification
Students interested in teaching ASL as a World Language in a K – 12 educational setting should pursue this program. This teaching certification program is a collaboration with the Curriculum & Instruction department in the School of Education. Students gain their ASL fluency and immersion experience via the ASL Studies Program and the teacher training with the World Language Program. All along, students receive support from the teaching staff within ASL Studies. For more information, please visit the Second Language Education: Early Childhood – Adolescence webpage.
Deaf/Hard of Hearing Program
Offered as a Master’s Degree program, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing program provides a teaching certification to teach Deaf or Hard of Hearing students in K – 12 educational settings. Students who complete the ASL Studies Undergraduate program are great candidates to work with Deaf children, and upon completion of both the ASL Studies and Deaf/Hard of Hearing programs are well-rounded professionals.

ASL Studies Staff

ASL Studies Staff
The ASL Studies Program is unique in that native users of the language teach the courses, so by design, students are having immersion experience from day one learning American Sign Language. These staff members not only are language experts, they provide the Deaf prospective on the community of people who use ASL.

Marika Kovacs-Houlihan
ASL Studies Co-Coordinator

Erin Wiggins
ASL Studies Co-Coordinator

Catherine Giuntoli-Dubois

Tammy Hartmann

Theresa Heyrmann

Ashley Hofkamp

Dan Houlihan

Joel Mankowski

Cookie Roang

Katie Voss

Contact Us

For more information or questions about the program

(414) 229-4721

Living Learning Community

The purpose of the American Sign Language LLC is to establish a community for Deaf students and students who know or are learning ASL. This unique ASL LLC program will enhance students’ knowledge and skills in American Sign Language (ASL) and an understanding of and respect for ASL and its linguistics, culture, history, and literature. The ASL LLC also emphasizes the social and cultural diversity of the signing community.

American Sign Language Proficiency Interview (ASLPI)

The American Sign Language Proficiency Interview (ASLPI) is a holistic language evaluation used to determine global ASL proficiency. The basic precept in this type of evaluation is to find out through a face-to-face interview what an individual can do with the target language at a given point in time. THE ASLPI is a 20 – 30 minute video recorded interactive dialog between the examinee and the interviewer. The interview is rated by a team of evaluators and examinees are awarded an overall proficiency level on a 0 – 5 rating scale.

Language proficiency  evaluation was originally developed by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the US Department of State and has been used by the government for decades. Adaptations to the language proficiency evaluation were made with respect to ASL and the ASLPI was born. The ASLPI is utilized by agencies, schools, universities, programs and employers.

UW-Milwaukee Proctor Site

We offer the ALSPI as an assessment tool and placement exam by appointment. The total cost for the ASLPI is $185. The evaluation fee is $165 and the proctor fee is $20. To register for the ASLPI, the fist step is to contact the ASLPI proctor directly to discuss availability for the evaluation. After the ASLPI proctor confirms the site availability, you will register and pay the $165 fee online directly to the ASL-DES testing site.

The day of the ASLPI evaluation, you will pay the $20 proctor fee in the form of a check payable to UW-Milwaukee. Questions and evaluation availability can be directed to soeinfo@uwm.edu or (414) 229-4721(v).