Use your degree to connect with the world

Founded in 1975, The Sign Language Studies (SLS) department at Madonna University offers students an opportunity to develop American Sign Language (ASL) skills while providing an understanding of the language and its community. Through extensive training and practice over four years, students will develop the interpreting skills needed to become a professional sign language interpreter.


Student Success: Interpreting Studies


Tess Wenderski

After earning her BA in Sign Language Interpreting and AA in English, Tess Wenderski ('17) attended Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. to pursue her Masters of Arts in Interpretation and Translation. There she researched the culture of Interpreter Training Programs and the impacts of culture on the eduction of interpreters. 

After graduating, Tess remained in the DMV area. She works primarily in VRS and community settings, and has experience in medical settings through an internship at Washington Hospital Center.

Regarding her time at Madonna, Tess looks back fondly on her experience with the faculty. "Madonna provided a foundation I couldn't have gotten anywhere else. The faculty were always supportive, both when I was a student and after I graduated." As an eternal student of the world, Tess started her journey as an interpreter through her time at Madonna. "I'm forever grateful for my time at Madonna and learning from the Michigan deaf communities. I wouldn't be where and who I am today with out them."  


Sign Language Department News & Events

Full-time Faculty and Staff

Danny McDougall, PhD, CSCChair and Professor

B.A., Madonna University

M.A., Oakland University

Ph.D., Heriot-Watt University


734-432-5618, 1405

Danny McDougall, PhD, CSC

Danny McDougall, PhD, 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.

Danny 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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Bretagne WhitfordAssociate Professor

B.S., Gallaudet University

M.A., Gallaudet University


VP: 734.666.3071, 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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Jennifer BerriganAssociate Professor

B.S., Gallaudet University

M.A., 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.

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Katie Fitzpatrick

Assistant 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 with 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 understanding of the technical considerations of language, but 16 years of professional experience as a nationally certified interpreter has helped them recognize the realistic applications of everyday language use as well.

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Photo of Zachary Cebulski

Zachary CebulskiCoordinator

A.A., Schoolcraft College

B.A., Madonna University


734-432-5616, 1405

Zachary Cebulski

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Adjunct Faculty

Father Michael Depcik headshot

Fr. Michael DepcikSLS Instructor

B.A., Gallaudet University

M.A., Gallaudet University

M.Div., Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary


Fr. Michael Depcik

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Leslie PertzSLS Instructor

B.A., Central Michigan University

A.S., Oakland Community College


Leslie Pertz

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Stephanie BeattySLS Instructor

B.S., Madonna University

B.A., Madonna University

M.A., Walden University

Ph.D., Walden University


Stephanie Beatty

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