Russell Milazzo, a Senior B.S. in Professions in Deafness candidate in the Special Education Services department in the UNCG School of Education, discusses how his military experience influenced him to pursue a career in interpreting, and what he loved most about performing in ASL Idol.
1). You are currently in the Professions in Deafness (PID) program in the Special Education Services department in the UNCG School of Education. What inspired you to pursue this career?
While I was earning my first degree several years ago, a few of my friends were pursuing degrees in interpreting and advocacy for the Deaf. I was able to join them regularly at social outings with their Deaf friends. This gave me an opportunity to learn about the Deaf community and pick up a little American Sign Language. Through these events, I gained an appreciation for the Deaf community as a diverse group of people who have a unique culture and perspective on the world. I always thought that working with the Deaf community in a professional capacity would be rewarding. I was also aware that it would be challenging, due to the hard work needed to master American Sign Language.
I chose the profession of interpreting specifically, over other careers in Deafness, because of my experience in the military. While deployed to Iraq, I had the opportunity to work with an Arabic language interpreter on a daily basis for 15 months. This man was from the US and had changed his career late in life because he wanted a more dynamic workplace that allowed him to interact with people on a personal level. Throughout the deployment, he told me about his work as an interpreter and it sounded like a fascinating career that matched my interests and temperament. When I left the military, I chatted with my friends who work as sign language interpreters and I decided to pursue my interest in interpreting work more seriously. Fortunately, I found that I was able to combine my aspiration to be an interpreter with my esteem for the Deaf community by studying to become a sign language interpreter.
2). What do you enjoy the most about the Professions in Deafness program at UNCG?
During my time at UNCG, I have enjoyed the people involved in the PID program most of all. The PID instructors are all knowledgeable and engaging; and, in my experience, the students are all motivated to learn as much as they can about their respective fields. The PID department is relatively small and my class has gotten to know each other fairly well over the course of three years. This is another aspect of the PID program that I enjoy; during my previous college career, I was enrolled in a large program and I did not have as personal of a connection with other students as I do at UNCG. Additionally, meeting members of the Deaf community in the Greensboro area has been a great privilege; I have been able to learn so much from the Deaf community and have met people that I’m sure will be my friends far into the future.
3). Prior to your studies at UNCG, you served in the military. Could you please talk a little about the perspective and background that your military service gave you when you began your studies in the PID program?
There’s no doubt that service in the military was a life-changing experience for me; not only did it help me unlearn some of the bad habits I formed prior to joining, it also helped teach me what is truly important in my life. I think this translated into a great appreciation of the opportunity to return to school. The Army helped me realize that continuing one’s education and pursuing a worthwhile career is a break that many people around the world never get. The Army also gave me a better understanding of what it means to work in a team effectively. This is especially important for interpreters who often have to work in groups while on assignment.
4). You are currently a senior and will begin your internship in the fall. Where will you be conducting your internship, and what do you hope to gain from this experience for your future career?
The UNCG interpreting internship focuses on exposing interns to as many different interpreting scenarios as possible. As such, we will be placed at locations as diverse as public schools, hospitals, social service offices, etc in and around Greensboro. I am looking forward to gaining as much experience as I can in all of these environments and forming a more concrete idea of where I want to work in the future. I am also looking forward to learning as much as I can from the professional interpreter mentors that the PID interns work with on a regular basis.
5). In May, you participated in the SES department’s American Sign Language Idol. What was challenging about preparing for that event, and what did you enjoy most about that experience?
I had been nervous about performing in ASL Idol since enrolling at UNCG three years ago. However, when it was my turn, it turned out to be a great experience. There were definitely some challenges, primarily related to accurately translating a song typically performed in English into ASL. However, doing the translation work was part of the fun of the event and I enjoyed working with my group. The part of ASL Idol that I had the most fun with was the actual performance in front of the audience. I was thrilled that the Deaf audience enjoyed our costumes and actively participated in our performance. Like so many other assignments in the PID program, I am grateful that ASL Idol is included in the curriculum. Once I stopped being nervous about the performance, it was a valuable experience and genuinely fun.