Earn a degree in Deaf Community Studies

As a student in Madonna’s Deaf Community Studies program, you will be part of a community dedicated to Deaf cultural studies in Michigan. In addition to studying a rigorous language curriculum, you will gain an in-depth understanding of the unique features and needs of the Deaf community, which will make you an invaluable asset in any field where Deaf services are provided. As the first and only university in Michigan to offer a bachelor’s degree in Deaf Community Studies, when you choose Madonna, you are choosing the leader in the field.

Founded in 1975, The Sign Language Studies (SLS) department at Madonna University was one of the first baccalaureate programs of its kind in the United States. The program boasts an international reputation and serves as an academic and cultural resource for both Deaf and hearing people throughout Michigan. A signature Madonna University program, SLS is one reflection of the institution's value of education for service. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to common questions about this program

Your Questions Answered


Student Success 

Karen Whalen

Karen Whalen 

After earning her BA in Sign Language Interpreting with a minor in Deaf Community Studies (’19), Karen continues to work in the Toledo area as a freelance interpreter primarily in religious settings, but also remains involved in the Deaf Community and its organizations in both Michigan and Ohio.

While interpreting was to be the primary focus at Madonna University, a conflict of personal schedules led her to add Deaf Community Studies as a minor which “led me to the most wonderful experiences, classes, organizations and people.  My minor has allowed me to work for and along side amazing Deaf professionals and organizations.  Because of my minor and its practicum, I worked with The Holley Institute, Toledo Catholic Diocese, and Madonna University Sign Language Studies Department.  I made valuable contacts and gained insight and experience I would not have gotten without the Deaf Community Study minor.  However, it is just not the experience, but the wealth of knowledge and depth of understanding that the additional classes provided.  I must admit that the required Deaf Community Study classes were my favorite classes!’ 

Karen continues to volunteer with several organizations serving the Deaf Community and attributes her involvement to Madonna University’s Deaf Community Studies curriculum.

Sign Language Department News & Events

Full-time Faculty and Staff

Daniel McDougall, Ph.D,  CSCChair and Associate Professor

Ph.D., Heriot-Watt University

M.A., Oakland University

B.A., Madonna University


734-432-5618, 1405

Daniel McDougall, Ph.D,  CSC

Dan McDougall, CSC, is the chair of the Sign Language Studies department. He joined the full time faculty of Madonna University in 2007. He has been a certified interpreter since 1986, specializing in shadowed interpreting for the theatre.

Dan founded TerpTheatre, and is an internationally recognized authority on interpreted theatre (see www.terptheatre.com). He has an extensive background in nonprofit program development and fundraising. He is an alumnus of the SLS department (1986), and holds an MA in Linguistics from Oakland University (1991).

The SLS department awarded him Distinguished Alumnus in 2005. He teaches in the areas of interpretation, advanced American Sign Language, and linguistics.

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Jennifer Berrigan Assistant Professor

M.A., Gallaudet University

B.S., Gallaudet University


VP: 734.666.3071, 1405

Jennifer Berrigan 

 Jennifer Berrigan is an Assistant Professor in the Sign Language Studies department. A Michigan School for the Deaf alumni, Jennifer attended Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. In 2005, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. She continued for her master’s degree in Sign Language Education at Gallaudet University and graduated in 2017.

Amongst her education, she worked as an intern at Tufts University and James Madison University. She also has worked as the SLPI Coordinator for the MI Department of Education LIO. In 2015, Berrigan competed as a snowboarder at the Winter Deaflympics. Berrigan is no stranger to teaching higher education, working most recently as an ASL instructor in Arizona and Michigan.

Berrigan’s goal is to promote better communication access to foster a stronger educational based future for Deaf children.

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Bretagne WhitfordAssistant Professor

M.S., Rochester Institute of Technology

B.S., Rochester Institute of Technology


VP: 734.237.3058, 1405

Bretagne Whitford

Bretagne Whitford is an Assistant Professor in the Sign Language Studies department. Bretagne went to Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. and Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY. In 2009, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Business Administration and Public Policy. She continued on for her master’s degree in Deaf Education, acquired in 2011.

Amongst her education, she worked in a research lab and acquired her research interest in deaf children and the familial characteristics that would have an impact on their literacy. She also takes a fascination with ASL assessments and how to accurately document an individual’s ASL proficiency. She had a paper published in 2011 titled Deaf Individuals’ Bilingual Abilities: American Sign Language Proficiency, Reading Skills, and Family Characteristics in Psychology Journal (Vol. 2, No 1, 18-32).

She takes pride teaching sign language particularly, keen to the fact that she is their Deaf role model and provides the students with the appropriate mental and language framework as they enter the Deaf community.

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Katie FitzpatrickAssistant Professor and Interpreter

NIC Advanced, BEI III

B.S., Ferris State University

M.A., Gallaudet University


734-432-5617, 1405

Katie Fitzpatrick

Katie Fitzpatrick, MA, NIC-A, BEI III, is the newly christened embedded interpreter within the SLS Department, and an Assistant Professor for the interpreting courses in the program. Katie has been wtih the program for years as an adjunct and recently expanded the role into full time status here at Madonna.

Katie has founded ASLVillage.com and is an accomplished teacher, presenter, mentor, and guide - focusing on helping students and interpreters develop their linguistic skills and prepare for certification with a focus on growth and grace.

Earning a M.A. in Linguistics from Gallaudet has greatly influenced their understadning of the technical considerations of language, but 16 years of professional experience as a natinoally certified interpreter has helped them recognize the realistic applications of everyday language use as well.

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Zachary CebulskiCoordinator

B.A., Madonna University

A.A., Schoolcraft Community College


734-432-5616, 1405

Zachary Cebulski

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Adjunct Faculty

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Cheryl A. AirgoodSLS Instructor

M.A., Eastern Michigan University

M.A., Wayne State 

B.A., Madonna University


Cheryl A. Airgood

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Fr. Michael DepcikSLS Instructor

M.A., Gallaudet University

M.Div., Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary

B.A., Gallaudet University


Fr. Michael Depcik

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Mary Ann DeVos, BEI ISLS Instructor

M.Ed., Lewis and Clark College

B.S., Eastern Michigan


Mary Ann DeVos, BEI I

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Barbara Hinson, CSCSLS Instructor

B.A., University of North Florida


Barbara Hinson, CSC

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Miriam Horwitz, NICSLS Instructor

M.A.I., Gallaudet University

B.A., American University


Miriam Horwitz, NIC

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Michael Meldrum, NICSLS Instructor

M.A., Gallaudet University

B.S., Eastern Michigan University


Michael Meldrum, NIC

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Sharon MeldrumSLS Instructor

M.A., Eastern Michigan University

B.A., Gallaudet University


Sharon Meldrum

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Bridget Mangiardi, BEI IISLS Instructor

M.A. TESOL, Madonna University

B.A., Madonna University


Bridget Mangiardi, BEI II

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Leslie PertzSLS Instructor

B.A., Central Michigan University

A.S., Oakland Community College


Leslie Pertz

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