Student Bronwyn Schlaefer is mapping out where ASL alumni end up—one postcard at a time.
In the hallway of the American Sign Language (ASL) Department, you’ll see a map of the United States surrounded by smiling faces. Each photo is part of an alumni “postcard,” which includes a career update connected by a colored string and a pin on the map. All the strings branch from the same starting point: Chicago, where they began their careers at Columbia College Chicago.
Just in time for the ASL Department’s 25th anniversary, student Bronwyn Schlaefer is organizing the “Awesome ASL Alumni” map—managing everything from reaching out to alumni to designing the postcards on display to pinning everything up on the wall. Working alongside ASL Assistant Professor Angela Malcomson, Schlaefer hopes to pin the locations of every ASL alum across the country—and eventually the world.
How do you describe the alumni map?
I describe it as a “Where are they now?” project. I described it to one of my friends and he was like, “Oh, so you’re making a crazy wall from one of those detective movies!” I was like, “Sure! But it’s with pretty faces instead of conspiracy theories.” I created a little ASL stamp and a postcard [template] on PowerPoint, so that way when people send me updates I can just keep adding slides.
My goal is to hopefully fill the entire wall, and have it spill around and take over this section of the hallway. There’s 870 graduates. I’ve only heard from 20 or so. I’m trying to get everybody. I’ve had people who graduated before me contact everybody they know. We’ll see what happens. I hope whoever comes after me will keep it going. I want to have a postcard up there one day, eventually.
Have any responses surprised you?
Yasmine Austria ’15 is working for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and she’s stationed in the Virgin Islands—I was kind of jealous about that. Then the whole top-secret clearance that Tiffany Sersen ’08 has—that’s really cool. Her bio says that she interprets in DC and she freelances and she also has top-secret clearance to work in the government. What interests me the most is the fact that everyone has their interpreting jobs, but they also do freelance things on the side.
The ASL Department is celebrating their 25th anniversary. How does it feel to be a part of that history?
It’s really cool. Most of the education seems to be on the coasts, and it’s really nice to have someone who’s in the middle of everything.
As a current student, why do you think it’s important for alumni to connect back to Columbia?
I think it’s really important to show current students what is possible. There’s only so much you can cover in the classroom. There are also more and more people every year who want to do their second practicum, which is out doing freelance work in a location where they plan to end up after graduation. The more people that stay in contact with Columbia, the more that possibility can be fostered and grown. Also, it’s just nice to know where everybody goes, so we can give examples to the next generation.