School of Health Sciences & Education

American Sign Language, Minor


Add Major Impact to Your Resume with an ASL Minor from Saint Francis University

American Sign Language is a powerful visual language used by the Deaf community. Parents and educators also use this language to enhance communication with children with autism and even promote early language skills in infants. In our ASL minor program, you will learn by doing. Our learning opportunities will immerse you in the language and Deaf culture. Experiences include deaf hospital simulation, ASL Club, Sign Jam, and service-learning projects abroad.



Offered: On-Campus

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work with the Deaf Community by joining the ASL Club to create awareness of Deaf Culture and American Sign Language
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ASL offers some courses within the minor online


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study abroad opportunities with the American Sign Language Immersion trip each semester to a variety of places

The SFU Learning Experience

American Sign Language the Saint Francis Way

A minor in American Sign Language enables students to develop the necessary knowledge of the cultural norms, values and traditions within the Deaf community, as well as the ability to use ASL in a one-on-one setting at a conversational level.  Students will be aware of the pathological perspective of deafness that is typically held by the dominant American hearing culture and possess the ability to navigate between both the cultural and pathological perspectives.

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Did you know?


The ASL minor can be taken by any major at Saint Francis University. It is extremely popular with students pursuing careers in health care and education.  




Immerse Yourself and Build ASL Skills

As a minor in the ASL program, you will develop strong conversational skills in ASL and build relationships within the Deaf community. Here are some of the experiences that our students have.

Deaf Hospital Simulation: This interactive experience exposes the communication barriers endured by the Deaf as they interact with health care providers. Hearing students and faculty are encouraged to immerse themselves in the Deaf Hospital, escorted by ASL students, to get an understanding of what it's like to communicate when your doctor uses a different language.

Sign Day: This annual activity is a fun introduction to American Sign Language for students in grades K-12! 

ASL Club: One of the first steps in breaking down walls of oppression or discrimination is to create awareness. Many people have few experiences with a person from the Deaf community and often view deafness as a disability.  The ASL Club, with support from the Deaf Community, spreads awareness and allows people to realize that Deaf individuals are highly successful just like any hearing person.


Honor Society: SFU has an official chapter of the ASL Honor Society.


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Study Abroad: The ASL minor includes an American Sign Language (ASL) immersion experience to increase ASL skills while implementing their Franciscan values through service. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that students will only find at SFU. The immersions vary, but they always include the students turning off their voices so they can increase their ASL skills.



What You’ll Learn in the American Sign Language Program

ASL is an integral part of the Deaf community and Deaf culture. Through a minor in ASL, students will have the opportunity to acquire a respect for the diverse deaf population, appreciate the uniqueness of the culture and understand the ethical issues that the Deaf community faces. Students will develop a relationship with the Deaf community through their knowledge of Deaf culture and strong conversational skills in ASL. Their educational experience will grow through interaction, and their careers will be enhanced by having the unique ability to use ASL.

American Sign Language Minor

Enables students to develop the necessary knowledge of the cultural norms, values, and traditions within the Deaf community, as well as the ability to use ASL in a one-on-one setting at a conversational level.  Upon successful completion of the ASL Minor, students will have Deaf cultural awareness and ASL conversational skills.

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Ready to Learn More about ASL at Saint Francis?

If you are looking for more information on pairing ASL with your desired major please reach out to one of our admissions counselors.

Program Roots

Karen Walkney-Mrdjenovich


The growth of American Sign Language at SFU started with Karen Walkney-Mrdjenovich’s vision to implement a comprehensive curriculum of ASL linguistics and Deaf Cultural Studies. Deaf since birth, Karen was an experienced teacher motivated by a strong desire to preserve her native language and implement a widespread awareness of Deaf Culture to the hearing population. 


Like other cultures, Deaf culture in the US has many nuances and regional differences that are critical to the study of ASL. Important to Walkney-Mrdjenovich was the development of an ASL minor that offered students an in-depth knowledge and exposure to the culture, arts, and linguistics of the Deaf. Students who minor in ASL at Saint Francis will learn much more than the language itself: an innate understanding of a non-verbal, visual language such as ASL requires the academic research and sociological and cultural study offered through SFU’s robust curriculum. 


Karen Walkney-Mrdjenovich’s vision was accomplished in 2011 when American Sign Language, initially implemented as an Honors Program elective, was officially approved as a minor and rapidly grew to a University-wide language option. —Don Mrdjenovich


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Experienced faculty who love to teach


Department Contact: Dean Papalia, ASL Coordinator,


Frequently Asked Questions About American Sign Language and Saint Francis University

  • I have taken some ASL courses already, which class should I take?

    If you have previous experience or coursework in ASL, an ASL skills assessment will be conducted in our office under the direction of ASL Coordinator, Dean Papalia. The skills assessment is an informal 15–20 minute interview in conversational format. The skills assessment determines placement in the appropriate level language class (ASL 112, 201, or 250).

    Admission to the Saint Francis University is separate from the academic departments. The skills assessment would determine class placement, but will have no bearing on your admission status.

  • Can I take ASL class without declaring the ASL Minor degree?

    You can take the ASL-112 Beginner’s course to meet the General Elective requirement. 

  • Will we have virtual ASL classes?

    Yes, we will have online ASL-112 Beginner’s and ASL-201 Intermediate classes. The remaining classes in our curriculum emphasizes the learning of the visual language through ongoing classroom interaction between students and teachers.

  • What will I receive after completing the ASL Program?

    Yes, you will receive the ASL Minor degree. You will be able to gain valuable skills and knowledge about the Deaf literature, culture and community. That can lead you to better job opportunities with ASL strong foundations.