Deaf student trail-blazing her way to a chemistry degree

Posted: April 14th, 2017

By Anne Ju Manning

Evie Bangs was 5 years old when she started to lose her hearing. At age 8, her hearing plummeted, and she could no longer understand her teachers.

Now she’s about to graduate from Colorado State University. And she’s gotten here not by dwelling on what she has lost, but focusing on what she could gain – and soon, that will include a degree in chemistry from the College of Natural Sciences.

Bangs may be CSU’s first deaf chemistry major – at least in anyone’s institutional memory. It’s taken Bangs an extra year to finish her degree, in part because of the uniquely time-consuming way she must absorb challenging course material, with the help of sign language interpreters.

“When I’m in my classes, it’s kind of overwhelming,” said the Estes Park native. “I realized that in order to do well grade-wise, I needed to take fewer credits.”

Bangs has also spent that extra time working toward an American Chemical Society-certified degree, which requires additional training and lab work. Evie aspires to attend graduate school, and become a professional chemist.

For every class, as well as for group projects, Bangs is accompanied by two American Sign Language interpreters and one class transcriber from CSU’s Resources for Disabled Students (RDS). Her teachers joke that Bangs has an “entourage.”

The two interpreters are necessary due to the complexity of the material; sometimes, while one is working with Bangs to quickly make up signs for words like “stoichiometry” or “adiabatic process,” the other is continuing to listen to the instructor, so that Bangs misses as little as possible. Halfway through class, they switch roles. It’s called “teaming,” says RDS interpreter Dede Kliewer, and through the years of working with Bangs, everyone – including the interpreters – has learned a lot about chemistry.

Bangs says her family, teachers, classmates and friends have played active roles in her journey. But perhaps most of all, the RDS interpreters have helped her succeed as a student. “They were a bright spot on the bad days,” she says. “Sometimes I was not looking forward to class, but I looked forward to seeing my interpreters.”

While being deaf sometimes requires special assistance, it is only part of a bigger story, she says.

“I’m not remarkable,” Bangs insists. “I am just like everyone else. My story is just a little different; being deaf is a tribulation that I had to get over. My cards were dealt, and others have their own challenges that they need to get over, too. Deafness, anxiety, anything at all – everyone has a story.”

Congratulations Evie on all of your accomplishments!

To read the full article, please visit the SOURCE!