Milestones Through the Years

Since its creation, WCCDS has made notable strides toward achieving many of its original objectives, as well as new ones introduced over the years. To list the Centre's accomplishments in their entirety would be impossible; the following list highlights some of the milestones of our first quarter-century.

 November 2014: Dr. Lynn McQuarrie, David Peikoff Chair of Deaf Studies and Director of WCCDS
Dr. Lynn McQuarrie takes up a dual appointment as the David Peikoff Chair of Deaf Studies and the Director of the Western Canadian Centre for Deaf Studies (WCCDS). Dr. McQuarrie's primary research examines reading acquisition and development in children who grow up in a dual language environment (American Sign Language - English) and explores how these languages interact to support reading. Dr. McQuarrie will also lead further growth and development of a strong research to practice focus in the bilingual education of deaf students within WCCDS. 

2003-2014: Dr. Debra Russell, Director of WCCDS
Upon Michael Rodda's retirement in 2003, Debra Russell assumed the role of director of WCCSD. Debra's post-doctoral fellowship, beginning in 2002, allowed her the opportunity to work with Michael for more than a year prior to his departure, and she has drawn much of her inspiration from his work. "I have a great deal of respect for what [Michael]'s created, and allowed me to walk into," she says.

Debra's extensive experience with Deaf and interpreting communities made for a seamless transition into the position. While she has continued and further developed several long-term initiatives set in motion by Michael - the Ukraine projects, for example - Debra also introduced an array of new projects designed to bolster knowledge in the field of deaf studies and support the goals of the community and WCCDS. Dr. Russell reintroduced the Jones Memorial Lecture Series and joined forces with ACSD to establish the ASL Immersion Program.

September 2011: Working Towards Change public lecture

This lecture was presented by Chris Kenopic, CEO of the Canadian Hearing Society, and was part of the Deaf Alberta Expo that took place in Edmonton from September 26 to 30, 2011. View the lecture on our Research Lectures Page.

2011: WCCDS Celebrates 25th Anniversary

The Western Canadian Centre for Deaf Studies remains relevant and responsive as the only Centre in Canada focused on Deaf Studies initiatives and Deaf community partnerships, and the only endowed chair of Deaf studies in the world thorough leadership, partnership, innovation, and action. The Centre would not continue to exist and be relevant without the support and encouragement of so many, within the Faculty of Education, within the University, and within the Canadian and International Deaf and hard of hearing communities.

Patty Shores-­Hermann from the University of Zurich was a special guest, providing a public lecture for the community and giving the keynote address at the anniversary banquet. Patty was one of the original staff members with the centre.

WCCDS 25th Anniversary History (Monograph)

Patricia Shores-Hermann's Speech

Fall 2010: Creation of the Roger Carver Graduate Award

This award has been created by WCCDS in recognition of Roger's ongoing commitment to educational research, community advocacy and human rights, and will go to a deserving master's or doctoral student in the Faculty of Education. Click here to learn more about the Roger Carver Graduate Award and Donate.

2010: Another Name Change for WCCSD

After consultations with both the Deaf community and the U of A's academic personnel and administration, WCCSD - with the blessing of the Dean and Trustees - adopted a new name: the Western Canadian Centre for Deaf Studies (WCCDS). The updated label reflects a more current view of the Deaf community as a linguistic/cultural community.

Spring 2008: Launch of Lakeland College Sign Language Interpretation Diploma Program

The new interpreter education program began formal classes in August 2008, and the first SLIP cohort graduated in December 2009.

Summer 2005: Launch of the ASL Summer Immersion Program at the U of A

A collaborative effort by WCCSD and the Alberta Cultural Society of the Deaf (ACSD) produced the first ASL Immersion in Edmonton, a weeklong program that quickly became an annual event eagerly anticipated by participants. In 2007, the popular program expanded southward, offering sessions in Calgary as well.

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May 2004: First Canada-Ukraine Conference on Special Education in the Ukraine

For this innovative conference, a team of Canadian educators from the University of Alberta and MacEwan travelled to Kyiv to share their expertise in Deaf education with Ukrainian teachers of the Deaf and school administrators. The two-day event, marking the newly created partnership between WCCSD, MacEwan, and the Institute of Special Education of the Academy of Pedagogical Science of Ukraine, provided both Canadian and Ukrainian educators with a welcome opportunity for exchanging knowledge and ideas on educational inclusion of Deaf children.

January/February 2004: Visit to the U of A by Dr. Vitaly Bondar, Director of the Institute of Special Pedagogy, Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of the Ukraine

The purpose of Dr. Bondar's visit was threefold: to discuss special and general educational practices and perspectives of international research, to formalize the partnership between the Institute of Special Pedagogy and the University of Alberta, and to work on a program of collaborative research and academic exchanges involving the three CURT partners.

Winter 2003: Introduction of the Peikoff Chair Advanced Research Lecture Series

Dr. Terry Janzen had the honor of presenting the first lecture of the new series, entitled "Marking and a Topicality Hierarchy in ASL," in February of 2003. Thereafter the lectures typically ran twice yearly.

September 2003: Creation of the Canada-Ukraine Research Team (CURT)

This innovative partnership linked three major institutions: the University of Alberta's Department of Educational Psychology, MacEwan University, and the Institute of Special Pedagogy in Kyiv, Ukraine. CURT's primary goal? To carry out joint research and academic exchange in the fields of education, educational psychology, psychology and special education.

January 2002: First Appointment to Peikoff Post-Doctoral Fellowship

The first fellowship appointee was Debra Russell, who later became the new WCCSD director and Peikoff Chair holder following Michael Rodda's retirement in 2003.

Fall 2001: Report on Agreement on Mobility for Hearing Instrument Practitioners in Canada

Commissioned by the Consortium of Hearing Instrument Practitioners, Michael Rodda's report was based on his study of educational programs, entrance exams, legislation, and accredited programs related to the governance of hearing instrument practitioners across Canada. Recommendations and next steps were included in the report.

January 2001: Opening of Thibodeau's Centre for Hearing Health and Communication

With the opening of the new Thibodeau's Centre came the transfer of some of WCCSD's growing service activities, thus easing the load on WCCSD. Two WCCSD contract staff moved their base to the new centre, where the outreach office became a training facility for the University of Alberta. There, through mentorship and supervised work experiences, students were able to link theory with everyday practice to gain valuable experience in the field of hearing loss.

Close on the heels of Thibodeau's launch came the development of the Canadian Snowflake Charitable Foundation, a funder of "not for profit" research and service activities. The first beneficiary was WCCSD, which received funding designated for the newly formed Canada-Ukraine Alliance for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons (CUADHHP).

July 2000: First Summer Institute for Deaf Students in the Ukraine

Sponsored by CUADHHP, this innovative camp program - celebrating the theme, "We Are United" - represented a team effort by the Canada-Ukraine Institute of MacEwan University, WCCSD, and the Lviv School for the Deaf in the Ukraine. Videos from the CUADHHP Summer Camps

Spring 2000: Visit to University of Alberta by Dr. Liudmylan Fomychova of the Ukraine

In response to Dr. Rodda's invitation the fall prior, Dr. Fomychova of the Drahomanov State Pedagogical University in Kyiv made a visit to the University of Alberta. While here, she toured several programs for Deaf students at both the K-12 and post-secondary levels.

February 2000: Creation of Canada-Ukraine Alliance for Deaf & Hard of Hearing Persons

In 2000, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Rodda of WCCSD and Dr. Liudmyla Fomichova of the Drahomanov National Pedagogical University in Ukraine, CUADHHP was born. Established to foster social, educational and medical partnerships among organizations serving Deaf and hard of hearing individuals, the alliance has since organized a number of initiatives in both the Ukraine and Canada, including annual Summer Institutes for Deaf/hard of hearing participants.

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January/February 2000: Formal Review of WCCSD

At the request of Larry Beauchamp, Dean of the Faculty of Education, a formal review of WCCSD was initiated in 1999, primarily to look at the purpose of WCCSD and the role of the Peikoff Chair. The process began with the selection of a three-member review committee and preparation of the review mandate. The review itself, which began in early 2000, included a self-study report prepared by Dr. Rodda and his team, an overview of relevant historical files, personnel interviews, and on-site visits that allowed committee members to hear the perspectives of key stakeholders, including Deaf and hard of hearing community members.

While the review confirmed WCCSD's positive reputation in the community, and the value of both WCCSD and the Peikoff Professorship to the Faculty of Education, concerns were raised in terms of staffing limitations and the financing of the Centre's activities. Recommendations included the development of a focused mandate for WCCSD, a fresh look at how best to achieve the purposes of the Peikoff Chair, and renewed promotion of the master's program in Deaf Studies Education.

October 1999: Visit to Ukraine by Dr. Rodda (WCCSD) and Dr. Petryshyn (URDC)

During their initial visit to the Ukraine - prompted by the invitation of teacher Ihor Kobel - Dr. Rodda and Dr. Petryshyn toured Deaf institutions in Lviv and Kyiv. This visit led to three proposed Summer Institute initiatives in the Ukraine: a social learning camp for Deaf children, a teacher training program in Deaf studies, and a parents' course.

April-August 1999: Protection Against Family Violence Act (PAFVA) Project

WCCSD and Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services (DHHS) in Calgary joined forces on this project to address the issue of family violence. Project initiatives included educational workshops for Deaf and hard of hearing participants, focus groups for professionals, a webpage, information about PAFVA for stakeholders and consumers, and a final report with proposed follow-up strategies.

Fall 1997: Launch of the First WCCSD Web Page

As exciting as it was for WCCSD to join the electronic age of online communication in 1997, the Centre's web presence has evolved significantly since those early days. The current site provides a strong communicative link to the stakeholder community by offering regular information updates in both English and ASL. The site is continually revised with additions of new event notices and videos of public lectures.

1997-1999: Alberta Deaf Literacy Project

This province-wide project grew from a collaborative effort by AAD, WCCSD and the U of A, Alberta Vocational College, and MacEwan. The positive response and enthusiasm from ADLP participants set the stage for further literacy programs in the province.

Summer 1996-1998: Oral Interpreting Workshops in Edmonton

WCCSD provided support to Continuing Professional Education, Faculty of Education, in offering weeklong educational workshops on oral interpreting during the summer. Once interpreters were trained in delivering the service, oral interpreting offered hard of hearing individuals an alternative to speech-reading and assistive listening devices.

Fall 1996: Introduction of the Elaine Kramer Lectures in Communication Disorders

October of 1996 heralded the first of this new endowed lecture series, which ran in place of the Jones Memorial lectures for several years.

1994-1997: Study of Pragmatic Language Competence of Individuals with Hearing Losses

This three-year research project, conducted by Dr. Rod Beattie, received funding through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

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Fall 1993: Release of Interpreting Standards Document

The long-awaited document, Standards for Interpreting in Educational Settings: Early Childhood Services to Grade 12 in Alberta, was released by the Premier's Council on Disability. Dr. David Stewart, Peikoff Chair holder at the time, served on the Advisory Committee to the Premier's Council, which helped to produce the document.

1992: Name Change for WCCSD

In 1992, the Western Canadian Centre of Specialization in Deafness underwent a name change, becoming the Western Canadian Centre of Studies in Deafness. The acronym remained the same.

1990-1992: Studies of Communication Support for Elementary & Secondary Deaf Students

In the first of two Alberta studies funded by the Alberta Advisory Committee for Educational Studies, Dr. Schein's research team addressed various aspects of a communication aide's work with Deaf students in mainstream classrooms in Alberta (1990-1991). A follow-up study (completed in March 1992) focused on the attitudes of parents and the experiences of Deaf students working with communication aides in mainstream schools, and generated ideas for improvement.

February 1990: "Visions 2000" - National Deaf Literacy Conference

This national Deaf literacy conference, celebrating the theme "Visions 2000: The Literate Deaf Person" drew a number of renowned speakers to the Ramada Renaissance in Edmonton. Presentations included "Deaf Education: Shall it be Teacher-Centred or Student-Centred?" (Dr. Harlan Lane); "Sociolinguistics and Deaf Bilingualism" (David Mason); and "Liberation, Literacy, and the Method of Paulo Freire Applied to Deaf Persons" (Tanis Doe). Dr. Schein, the Peikoff Chair holder at the time, delivered the keynote address: "Literacy is No Gift."

1989-1990: Facilitating Communication for Post-secondary Students with Impaired Hearing

Contracted by Alberta Advanced Education and led by Dr. Schein, this comprehensive study focused on improving communication options for post-secondary students who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Six sub-projects were completed: a survey of Alberta's post-secondary institutions, a survey of Alberta post-secondary students with hearing impairments, estimation of future numbers of post-secondary Deaf/hard of hearing students, interviews with Alberta interpreters, a survey of post-secondary settings serving Deaf/hard of hearing students in the US, and a review of useful technology for Deaf/hard of hearing students in educational settings. The study, along with detailed results and recommendations, wrapped up in August 1990.

October 1989: International Conference on the Post-secondary Education of Deaf Students

Organized by the Peikoff Chair of Deaf Studies in conjunction with Gallaudet University, this first-ever conference of its kind brought representatives from 15 countries to Edmonton for a landmark exchange of information and ideas on improving post-secondary education for Deaf and hard of hearing students worldwide

Fall 1988: Creation of the Michael Rodda Scholarship Fund by AAD

In honour of Michael's commitment to raising awareness and developing supportive educational programs for Deaf students, the Alberta Association of the Deaf established a scholarship fund in his name. This scholarship fund, intended to assist Deaf students pursuing studies at the University of Alberta, is administered through Specialized Supports and Disability Services (SSDS) at the university.

Fall 1988: Inception of the Endowed Jones Memorial Lecture Series

In October of 1988, Dr. Jerome Schein kicked off the new lecture series with a presentation entitled "The Hidden Minority: Secrets of Demography and Deafness."

March 1988: "Sound Off" - A Voice for the Silent Minority

The first major conference co-sponsored by the newly established Western Canadian Centre of Specialization in Deafness, "Sound Off" exemplified the collaborative approach that marked all of the Centre's subsequent events. This two-day conference, planned and organized in partnership with AAD, celebrated the accomplishments of the Deaf and hard of hearing community, offered informative presentations on various aspects of hearing loss, and promoted dialogue on controversial issues. Topics included employment, human rights, and cross-disability issues. The conference also provided public information and awareness opportunities for those interested in hearing loss.

The conference was held again a year later, in 1989. From that point forward, the "Sound Off" conferences were organized solely by Deaf organizations

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1987-1990: Health Awareness and Health Care Facilitation for the Deaf Community

Funded by Health and Welfare Canada, this large-scale project was a collaborative venture by WCCSD and AAD. Designed to promote Deaf awareness about health services and programs, educate medical professionals on the needs of Deaf and hard of hearing individuals, and address the Deaf community's concerns about health care delivery, the project ran for a 30-month period and was well received by the Deaf community. Roger Carver, project coordinator, and Nancy Keating, project worker, arranged several health awareness events during the project, including a workshop series and panel discussion.

May 1987: Official Launch of the David Peikoff Chair of Deaf Studies

In attendance at this historical event were special guests from Gallaudet University, Dr. David Peikoff, his wife Pauline (Polly) Peikoff, and historian Jack Gannon, who joined the Edmonton community in celebration of the newly endowed Chair of Deaf Studies.

1987-1988: A Partnership in Advocacy & Networking - A Model for the Deaf Community

First proposed in 1986, this formalized agreement between the University of Alberta and the Alberta Association of the Deaf (AAD) was developed to facilitate WCCSD's ongoing advocacy and networking relationship with consumer organizations.

May 1986: Sign Language Instructors Certification Organization (SLICO) Conference

The first national SLICO conference, a team effort by WCCSD and SLICO, focused on creating a formal evaluation process for sign language instructors that would lead to certification in sign language instruction. Dr. Mike Kemp, a professor in Gallaudet's Sign Communication department, was one of the guest speakers at the event.

October 1985: Decade of the Disabled Conference, Las Vegas

Sponsored by the Council of Exceptional Children, this conference addressed post-secondary opportunities and career preparation for disabled individuals. Along with the Atlantic Centre and the University of Western Ontario, WCCSD participated in a joint Canadian presentation on post-secondary opportunities for Deaf and hard of hearing students in Canada.

1980: Launch of Teacher of the Deaf Program at the U of A, Dept of Ed Psych

Although the advent of the teacher-training program predated the founding of WCCSD, the Centre's professorial staff and associates provided much of the teaching talent and expertise in deafness that made the program a success. Dr. Rodda, Dr. Bibby, and Dr. McQuarrie, among others, devoted considerable instructional time to the program (later known as the Deaf Studies Education Master's Program).