BS in Deaf Studies

Effective fall 2022, undergraduate students interested in applying to Wheelock College will be admitted to its BS in Education & Human Development and will no longer be admitted to the BS in Deaf Studies program. Continuing students will continue to complete the degree program that they entered.

The Deaf Studies program at Boston University affords students the opportunity to develop insights into, and genuine appreciation for, the culture, contributions, and contemporary issues related to Deaf people in the United States.

Learning Outcomes

Demonstrate proficiency in ASL as evidenced by:

  • Achieving a rating of intermediate or better on all parameters of the SLPI Interview Scale.
  • Effectively engaging in social and academic conversations in American Sign Language, both expressively and receptively, in a variety of settings (field placement, classroom/professional presentations).
  • Using and comprehending ASL texts in a variety of topics and settings (recorded (video) and face-to-face contexts).
  • Describing the nature and structure of language through comparisons of ASL and English.

Demonstrate knowledge about significant matters related to history, culture, literature, language, education, and politics of the Deaf World by:

  • Articulating cultural and linguistic parallels of the Deaf World in the wider context of multiculturalism and reframing orientations from a pathological standpoint to a rich sociocultural and linguistic minority.
  • Identifying salient issues regarding oppression, power arrangements, privilege, minority status, and psychosocial implications for Deaf people in past and present contexts.
  • Articulating bilingual education and bilingualism issues related to (ASL/English) for Deaf and hard-of-hearing people and their historical significance.
  • Describing how knowledge of the Deaf World (visual learning, visual language, and Deaf art forms) can contribute to a better understanding of the human condition, science, and technology.

Demonstrate the ability to partner with and advocate for the Deaf World as evidenced by establishing competence in:

  • Planning and implementing a series of successful in-class or community/stakeholder presentations.
  • Engaging in social and academic conversations in Deaf-related agencies/institutions during term-long field placement.
  • Planning and implementing at least three Deaf Studies events per academic year. Roles, responsibilities, and overall activities will be monitored and evaluated by Deaf Studies faculty using clearly articulated guidelines.


All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in Deaf Studies will ordinarily, through coursework taken in the Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, satisfy BU Hub requirements in Diversity, Civic Engagement, and Global Citizenship; Communication; and some elements of the Intellectual Toolkit. Additional requirements may be satisfied through required Arts & Sciences coursework, and it is important that students keep Hub requirements in mind when selecting these courses. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or, in some cases, cocurricular experiences.

Core courses detailing the history, education, literature, and language of the Deaf will be taught by both Deaf and hearing faculty and will be conducted in American Sign Language. (American Sign Language courses are required prior to entering advanced core courses in the Deaf Studies program.) Students will participate in field experiences, enabling them to put into practice knowledge gained through academic courses. Competence in American Sign Language (the language of the Deaf) is fundamental to gaining an in-depth understanding of the Deaf community, and is a requirement of the program.

Junior Year Spring Term at Gallaudet University

The option of doing a full term of electives at Gallaudet University, a world-known Deaf university, is offered. Arrangements for study at Gallaudet need to be made in advance with the faculty advisor (at the earliest, fall term of junior year) in order to coordinate course requirements and units.

Competency in American Sign Language

The coursework offered is intended to develop performance and proficiency in American Sign Language. Demonstrated competence in American Sign Language is required for completion of the program. Students are required to take an ASL proficiency exit test before graduation.

Field Placement

All Deaf Studies majors are required to participate in a field placement senior year. This placement involves students working on Fridays in an agency (including schools) serving Deaf people. Placements will be determined by the Deaf Studies major’s advisor. Senior year spring term students should not enroll in courses that take place on Friday in order to allow time for their field placement course. Specific placements may be tailored to each student’s interest in a particular area or setting. The program director has final say regarding field placement preferences.

Community Service

A Deaf community service component is a requirement for undergraduate study. Students are encouraged to seek out volunteer opportunities in consultation with the undergraduate advisor. Students must perform a minimum of 15 hours of service each year (totaling 60 hours).

Deaf Studies (total units: 128)

BU Hub Requirements or Electives Outside the Major (62 units)

Many Arts & Sciences courses satisfy BU Hub requirements. Be sure to work with an advisor to ensure you are meeting all requirements.

Subject Matter Requirements (52 units)

  • CAS LX 250/WED LS 565 Introduction to Language and Linguistics (4 units)
  • WED DE 300 Introduction to the Deaf World (4 units)
  • WED DE 350 Deaf History and Culture (4 units)
  • WED DE 351 Deaf Literature and Visual Arts (4 units)
  • WED DE 352 Capstone—Deaf Studies (4 units)
  • WED DE 372 Social Psychology and the Deaf World (4 units)
  • WED DE 381 American Sign Language I (4 units)*
  • WED DE 382 American Sign Language II (4 units)
  • WED DE 383 American Sign Language III (4 units)
  • WED DE 384 American Sign Language IV (4 units)
  • WED DE 385 Academic ASL (2 units)
  • WED DE 386 Applied ASL (2 units)
  • WED DE 472 Sign Language Structure (4 units)
  • WED LS 566 Language Acquisition (4 units)

Professional Studies Requirements (14 units)

  • WED BI 570 Issues in Bilingual Education or WED SE 250 Disability, Education & Public Policy (4 units)
  • WED DE 554 Field Experience: Deaf Studies (4 units)
  • WED ED 225 Project Citizen: Promoting Civic Engagement (2 units)
  • WED ED 410 Social Context of Education (2 units)
  • WED ED 412 Civic Context of Education (2 units)

*Students must pass this class with a grade of a B– or higher in order to continue in the program. The course may be repeated one time.