Interpreting is an exciting and in-demand career, and UWM’s Interpreter Training Program will give you the edge you need to succeed.

In general, the interpreting and translation field is growing much faster than other occupations, with job opportunities expected to increase 46 percent by 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau notes that ASL interpreters are especially sought-after.

Our extensive program goes beyond teaching students about language, culture and how to facilitate conversations. We work to develop well-rounded interpreters who value and consider others’ perspectives, who are culturally sensitive and empathetic practitioners who continually work to better themselves and the interpreting profession.

Why Choose Us?

  • Our program philosophy, “Deaf Heart Starts Here,” takes hold the moment you begin preparation, as the ITP requires a minor in American Sign Language Studies. Because the path to becoming an interpreter begins with ASL Studies, you can be confident that when you enter the program, you will be competent in ASL, knowledgeable about deaf culture and connected to the local deaf community.
  • We’re committed to diversity. We understand that the interpreting profession is under-representative of the diversity within the deaf community, and we strive to create a diverse community of interpreters fluent in language and culture, engaging in critical thinking and service learning. We actively seek input, counsel and involvement from many communities and from stakeholders who are under-represented in our field.
  • Service learning is infused throughout our program. Beginning with ASL courses, students are in the community, supplementing what is learned in the classroom. In fact, the immersion experience is so highly valued that UWM offers an ASL Living Learning Community in the residence halls. Service learning not only enhances a student’s language proficiency, it also fosters “Deaf Heart.”
  • You’ll connect with our highly qualified instructors. All ASL instructors are deaf and are experienced in providing a safe, comfortable immersion-like learning environment for students. Within the ITP professional course sequence, you’ll learn from nationally certified interpreters who bring not only their expertise in the field, but current, relevant work experience to the learning environment.
  • You’ll have access to a unique community of mentors, including your advisor, program coordinator, ITP instructional staff, peer mentors and professional interpreters from the community. Learn more about our faculty by viewing the ITP Faculty & Staff below.
  • We work hard to ensure that graduates reach their career goals, and we pride ourselves on the success our former students have achieved through their work in our community. In a recent survey of the past five graduating classes, 80 percent of ITP graduates were working as interpreters and 76 percent reported finding work within three months of graduation.

Program Outcomes & Options

Program Outcomes
Our program’s requirements are designed to prepare graduates for Wisconsin’s interpreter licenses. Upon graduation, you may choose to apply for one or both of the following:

  • Department of Public Instruction’s Educational Interpreter License, which allows an interpreter to work in K-12 educational settings.
  • Department of Safety and Professional Services’ Sign Language Interpreter License, which allows an interpreter to work in community settings other than K-12 education.

For students who are considering an out-of-state move, we can provide specific advice about transferring your skills and knowledge to meet another state’s standards.

Program Options
If you do not currently have a degree, you can complete your Interpreter Training Program Certificate as part of an undergraduate degree. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you can complete your interpreter training as a post-baccalaureate certificate. In either case, before you are admitted to the professional cohort, you must successfully complete six semesters of American Sign Language and other course prerequisites.

The amount of time required may seem overwhelming to some, but the fact is that interpreter education takes time. To become a competent technician, you must have language proficiency in both ASL and English. Learning to become an ASL/English interpreter requires commitment; a commitment to the time and energy required for language acquisition, as well as the commitment to a culture and a community of people.

Students may choose to complete the ITP as a full-time or part-time student. The outlines you can download reflect a full-time student plan. For students who would like to explore a part-time option, please consult with the ITP advisor.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Interpreter Training Program Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)

Is Interpreting Right For You?
American Sign Language interpreting is a unique career choice that may not be right for everyone who has an interest in ASL. Take a look at the list of questions below to determine if interpreting is the right career choice for you.

  1. Do you believe that ASL is a complex language that requires years of dedication to learning with a community of people?
  2. Are you proficient in speaking and writing in English?
  3. Do you find yourself analyzing what people are saying and finding ways to clearly communicate your ideas or others?
  4. Are you comfortable standing and speaking or performing in front of a group of people?
  5. If you are presented with a problem, can you usually figure out multiple appropriate responses to solve the problem?
  6. Do you connect with other people in conversation easily? Would you consider yourself a “people person”?
  7. Do you value the differences of others and find ways to relate to people who are different than you and are able to empathize with them?
  8. Are you interested and passionate about learning more about the deaf community, American deaf culture and other minority groups?
  9. Can you easily maintain your attention and recall information when you are learning or having a conversation?
  10. If you are given a set of guidelines and a framework to understand professional behavior, do you feel it is important and of value to conduct yourself accordingly?

If you responded “yes” to all of the above questions, interpreting seems to be the right career path for you! If you responded “no” to any of the questions above, a conversation with the ITP advisor will help you determine if interpreting is the best option for you. In either case, we encourage you to contact the advisor with further questions about the interpreting profession.

Undergraduate Program Outline

Interpreter Training Program Undergraduate Four & Five Year Plan (PDF)

Post-Baccalaureate Program Outline

Interpreter Training Program Post-Baccalaureate Four & Five Year Plan (PDF)

Advising

For More Information

Exceptional Education
Advisor
Enderis Hall 610
(414) 229-5251
exed@uwm.edu

Jen Hayes, BS, NIC
ITP/ASL Studies Advisor
jrhayes@uwm.edu

Faculty & Staff

ITP Faculty & Staff

Pam Conine, ITP Coordinator; MS, CI/CT, NIC-Master
psue@uwm.edu

Pamela Sue Conine has been the Coordinator for the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee-Interpreter Training Program since 2007. She received her masters from UW-Milwaukee in administrative leadership and supervision in education and her BS Degree in education with a focus on interpreting. Mrs. Conine is an RID-NIC Master and works in a variety of settings including post-secondary, theatrical, and religious. She believes strongly in community involvement and service. It is through those rich experiences, interpreters develop the cultural and linguistic competence to serve all members of the community with compassion and quality. This is what she tries to bring to her teaching and interpreting every day.

Marika Kovacs-Houlihan, ASL Studies Program Coordinator; M.Ed.

Marika Kovacs-Houlihan, M.Ed., is a professor of American Sign Language (ASL) and Coordinator for the ASL Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She is a fourth generation member of a Deaf family. She has been actively promoting a positive image of Deaf professionals and inspiring others within such organizations as the Deaf Mentor Program, where she taught ASL and Deaf culture to hearing parents of deaf children. Her other valuable attributes are her theatrical experience and her passion for ASL Literature. Marika received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Marketing from Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, and a Master’s degree in Adult Education and Leadership from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Jen Hayes, ITP/ASL Studies Advisor; BS, NIC
jrhayes@uwm.edu

Jen Hayes has experienced the UWM ITP from all angles. She graduated from the UWM ITP in 2004, worked as the Advisor/Interpreter for Exceptional Education, taught ITP courses from 2008 to 2013, has mentored ITP students and is back currently advising current and prospective students for both the ITP and ASL Studies programs. Jen has been working as an interpreter since graduation in a wide variety of settings, thus, she is very knowledgeable about both the academic aspects of this program, as well as the professional career options for post-graduation. Jen promotes community and campus involvement to enhance language acquisition and student success. She believes that the UWM ITP is using cutting edge educational techniques and philosophies to prepare strong interpreters with “deaf heart” for the professional community.

Jill Doering, ITP Insructor; MS, NIC, DPI Licensed D/HH Teacher

Jill Doering received her Bachelor’s degree from UW-Milwaukee in May of 2004 in elementary education grades one through eight. Upon graduation she entered the Interpreter Training Program (ITP) at UW-Milwaukee and graduated with a post-baccalaureate degree in Interpreting in May of 2006. After that she started working as a general education teacher in the Milwaukee Public Schools at the Milwaukee Sign Language School (MSLS) and has experience working at the primary and elementary levels. During her time as a general education teacher, she always worked in a framework classroom that had both hearing and deaf and hard of hearing students as well as a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing and several interpreters.

In addition to teaching, she has experience as a professional sign language interpreter. She received her national certification through the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) in January of 2009. She has worked in post-secondary, religious, business and video-relay settings as a professional interpreter. She returned to school at UW-Milwaukee to earn her certification in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education and Special Education (Cross-Categorical). At the same time she transitioned to the deaf and hard of hearing resource teacher in the middle school at MSLS. Jill graduated in August 2011 with a Master’s degree in special education including a focus on deaf and hard of hearing education. Currently, she is starting her fourth year as the Supervisor/ Itinerant teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing department in the Grafton School District. She is also starting her fourth year as an Associate Lecturer for UW- Milwaukee in the ITP; teaching “Issues and Trends for Educational Interpreters”.

Steve Smart, ITP Instructor; MA, CI/CT, SC:L, QMHI

Steve is an ASL interpreter and the owner/President of Professional Interpreting Enterprise (PIE). PIE is a community based sign language interpreter coordination firm headquartered in Milwaukee. He also works as a Video Relay Service Interpreter with Sorenson Communications. Steve received an Associate’s Degree from Northcentral Technical College’s Educational Interpreter Training Program, a Bachelors of Business Administration and a Masters of Arts in Servant Leadership from Viterbo University. He holds the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) Certificate of Interpretation (CI), Certificate of Transliteration (CT), and Specialist Certificate: Legal (SC:L). He also holds the Alabama Qualified Mental Health Interpreter certification (QMHI). Steve maintains a license to practice as a professional interpreter in Wisconsin and Illinois and is a Certified Interpreter with the Wisconsin Court System.

In addition to his work at PIE and Sorenson, Steve is also an Associate Lecturer in the Interpreter Training Program at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and is part of the faculty team for the Wisconsin Court Orientation for Interpreters. He also serves on the Sign Language Interpreter License Council for the State of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Governor’s Council for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Wisconsin Mentoring Program/Wisconsin Interpreter Transliterating Assessment Advisory Board, and the Milwaukee Area Technical College Interpreter Training Program Advisory Committee.

When Steve is not at work he enjoys his greatest hobby, loving and experiencing life. He is a seeker that wishes to know better so he can do better. He believes that wisdom comes from curiosity as each minute is packed with valuable lessons. His greatest joy and inspiration comes from his family. Steve and his wife Heather have three beautiful daughters, Greta, Cora and Celia.

Kate Block, ITP Instructor; MBA, MM, CI/CT, LITC, QMHI-S, SC:L

Kate is a freelance interpreter who works mainly in Wisconsin. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an Interpreter Technician degree from Milwaukee Area Technical College. Kate spent two summers at Gallaudet University, taking interpreting workshops and ASL classes. She also attended a workshop at Julliard University in New York focusing on theater interpreting. Kate continued her education with a Master’s degree in Business Administration and Masters in Management degree with an emphasis on leadership in a nonprofit organization. Kate also attended the State of Alabama Mental Health Interpreting workshop and received her “Q”. She was recently chosen as a “Q” Internship supervisor by the State of Alabama. Kate is a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado Legal Interpreter Certificate Program. Kate is currently attending the National Technical Institute for the Deaf Certificate in Healthcare Interpreting program.

Leia Sparks, ITP Instructor; MS, NIC Master

Leia Sparks holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Iowa in early childhood/special education and a master’s degree in Deaf education from McDaniel College; formerly known as Western Maryland College. She received her national certification master rating in 2010. Leia is a candidate for the RID Special Certificate: Legal qualification. She collectively has 12 years of teaching experience within grades K-12 in the public and residential school settings. Leia teaches ASL and ASL to English classes for various colleges and interpreter training programs. She is currently the manager for the Milwaukee Sorenson VRS call center in Milwaukee, WI. Teaching interpreters is her passion and has presented workshops such as: “911, 911, Don’t Have a Heart Attack!”, “Interpreting: So Many Pieces”, “Professionalism: Our Code” and “Register, Lingo and Vocabulary Choice” and “Bullying in the Interpreting Field”. In her spare time, Leia is an avid scrap booker, singer and enjoys reading. She is a pet owner and a snow baby!