The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Signing in to Vanderbilt ASL Club

ASL Club allows students to learn and practice sign language for a more inclusive and accessible future.
Abby Hoelscher
A graphic depicting a person viewing a large screen with another person teaching ASL. (Hustler Multimedia/Abby Hoelscher)

If you’re looking to learn a new skill and meet a great community, Vanderbilt’s American Sign Language club is one of the best ways to get involved in a fulfilling and rewarding organization.

The Vanderbilt ASL Club teaches students about the versatility of sign language while also fostering a deeper understanding of Deaf culture. Through initiatives like meeting with people from the Deaf community and providing resources that highlight their portrayal in the media, the club aims to raise awareness and appreciation for sign language while also teaching students how to use it. We spoke with members of the club, including senior Emily Gothelf, former president of ASL Club, to learn more.

“The only [ASL] class offered [at Vanderbilt] is small and hard to get into,” Gothelf said. “For people who just want to learn the basics, can’t fit the class into their schedule or have an interest in learning a little more, this club provides the option of stopping by once a week or coming after class for a fun and inclusive environment to learn a new language and engage in practicing.” 

Many students, like first-year Bri Woods, have found the club to be a great place to not only learn ASL but also meaningfully engage with the Vanderbilt community.

“I started going to ASL club because I’ve been interested in learning the language since fourth grade but never had a place to learn with other people,” Woods said. “I wanted to be in communication with others, not just learning on my own from YouTube videos and textbooks.”

When I attended one of their meetings, I encountered an unexpected yet captivating scene. To my surprise, the meeting started without a single spoken word. Instead, President Abby Hoelscher introduced the meeting’s agenda using ASL and proceeded to show the song of the day, “22” by Taylor Swift, teaching us how to sign the lyrics verse by verse. Hoelscher is the Deputy Photography Director for The Hustler. It was a unique and engaging experience, blending language and expressive motions with music. 

Other meetings also typically include ASL interpretations of popular songs and teaching ASL words pertinent to various themes, such as Valentine’s Day, colors or family. These meetings allow students to expand their linguistic repertoire while delving into relevant topics and engaging in fun activities.

“We have facilitated learning of useful, practical signs, and we play games sometimes too,” Woods said.

A big goal for ASL Club is to expand inclusivity and accessibility for all participants. The club is open to everyone who has a passion for learning ASL.

“My true favorite part has honestly been seeing Lucy Dean every week,” Gothelf said. 

Lucy Dean is a senior in Vanderbilt’s Next Steps program and ASL Club’s co-president. 

“She is so responsible, attentive, detail-oriented and passionate about ASL,” Gothelf said. “It was really rewarding for both of us for her to have that leadership role.”

Lucy Dean expressed a long-lived love for the language. 

“I have learned ASL in middle school, high school and in college,” Dean said.

With about 11 million Americans identifying as part of the Deaf community, ASL is a skill that is crucial to effective communication across barriers while also providing a link to the rich culture that exists among Deaf people.

“Communication is vital for connecting, and for the Deaf and hard of hearing it requires an extra skill set of understanding this language to be able to have those meaningful interactions,” Gothelf said. 

The communication aspect that ASL provides is highly regarded among members of the club.

“ASL is a good language to learn because so many people use it to communicate,” Woods said. “In a world where inclusivity is becoming a more important value for people, places and spaces, learning the language puts someone one step closer to putting that value into practice.”

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About the Contributors
Chloe Kim
Chloe Kim, Staff Writer and Photographer
Chloe Kim (‘26) is majoring in Psychology with a minor in computer science and Spanish in the College of Arts and Science. She is on the club tennis team and likes to write poetry and short stories in her free time. In addition to writing, Chloe loves to draw and take photographs for The Hustler! She can be reached at [email protected].
Chloe Whalen
Chloe Whalen, Staff Writer
Chloe Whalen (‘27) is from Herscher, Ill., and is studying communication of science and technology in the College of Arts and Science. She previously served as Deputy Life Editor. In her spare time, she enjoys running, listening to multiple genres of music and podcasts and doing jigsaw puzzles. She can be reached at [email protected].
Abby Hoelscher
Abby Hoelscher, Photography Editor
Abby Hoelscher (‘27) is from St. Louis and is an aspiring elementary teacher currently studying in Peabody College. She previously served as Deputy Photography Director. Outside of writing, she enjoys performing, learning Taylor Swift songs in American Sign Language and trying the seasonal lattes from the campus coffee shops. She can be reached at [email protected].
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