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Fresno State professor Rosemary W. Diaz delivers her Fresno State Talk, “Building Bridges Between the Deaf-World and Hearing Allies," Wednesday, February 19, in the Satellite Student Union. Katie Eleneke/ The Collegian

Fresno State Talks: Professor advocates for deaf awareness, equality

Fresno State professor Rosemary W. Diaz delivers her Fresno State Talk, “Building Bridges Between the Deaf-World and Hearing Allies," Wednesday, February 19, in the Satellite Student Union. Katie Eleneke/ The Collegian

Fresno State professor Rosemary W. Diaz delivers her Fresno State Talk, “Building Bridges Between the Deaf-World and Hearing Allies,” Wednesday, February 19, in the Satellite Student Union. Katie Eleneke/ The Collegian

Fresno State professor Rosemary W. Diaz hoped the audience went home with a central message Wednesday night: there are proactive ways to communicate with people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Diaz, a communicative disorders and deaf studies professor and the second of three student-nominated professors featured in this year’s Fresno State Talks series, delivered her presentation – “Building Bridges Between the Deaf-World and Hearing Allies” – to a packed crowd Wednesday night at the Satellite Student Union.

She gave advice on bridging the communication barrier between the deaf and the hearing, advocating that both sides act proactively to decide which method accommodates both persons’ needs, whether it be communicating via translator or note exchange.

American Sign Language and English, Diaz said, are two different languages. A willingness to adapt and communicate demonstrates respect.

“The important thing is to meet the deaf person where they are and show by your allied behavior that you have a good attitude.”

Diaz walked back and forth onstage, presenting her lecture in sign language while interpreters recited her speech in English through the loudspeaker to the audience – topics all centered on the theme of celebrating “the beautiful culture and beautiful language of deaf people.”

“There are many diversity classes here,” Fresno State social work student Dovie Beard said, “but to be able to sit and get that exposure in a smaller setting and seeing how thrilled she was talking about deaf culture, I appreciated that.”

Diaz cited Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman, a member of this year’s Super Bowl-winning championship team, as an example of someone who has been able to persevere despite being deaf.

The discrimination against and stigmatization of people who are deaf or hard of hearing remains prevalent, Diaz said.

“Until the day those things don’t happen anymore, my work, your work, our work is not finished,” she told the audience.

Fresno State Talks, in its second year, is modeled after TED Talks, the popular set of conferences centered on brainstorming and spreading ideas in technology and design.

Students nominate professors, who are then asked to submit an abstract on what they would discuss. The speakers for the series are selected by the Fresno State Talks planning committee based on their abstracts.

The idea for the series was conceived in summer 2012, after the university debuted its new logo and slogan: “Discovery, Diversity, Distinction,” the three characteristics that served as the planning committee’s criteria when selecting the professors for the series.

“It’s really tough,” said Andrew Esguerra, director of University Student Union Productions, part of the Fresno State Student Involvement umbrella that helps organize the series.

“We really tried to showcase professors that represent the university’s values to the fullest.”

 At the end of Diaz’s presentation, audience members fluttered their hands up high – translated as applause in ASL. She was presented with a $500 professional development stipend.

Diaz’s presentation represented the “diversity” part of the university’s slogan, Esguerra said.

“This has been quite a learning process for us because we’ve never really facilitated a lecture with a deaf speaker,” he said. “The experience was more exciting for me personally because her message was so tuned for this audience.”

The series concludes Wednesday with Dr. Jenelle Gilbert’s lecture, “The Psychological UNIFORM: A Blueprint for Peak Performance.”