American Sign Language students get ready for Oct 23 Interpreters Conference

William Woods ASL

ASL program director Barbara Garrett

In 1994, when American Sign Language Program Director and professor Dr. Barbara Garrett saw a need for an interpreters conference in the state of Missouri, she worked with a few other professionals and grant money from William Woods University to get it started.

“We expected maybe 100 people, and over 350 came the first year. The second year we had nearly 600 people,” said Garrett, “by the third year it had grown so much that we asked the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to take it on.”

Today, the Missouri Interpreters Conference is one of the largest interpreting conferences in the country. It’s a weekend of workshops, exhibits, discussions and getting to know other interpreters from across the state and the Midwest.

The conference is held every year at the Tan-Tar-A Resort at the Lake of the Ozarks. This year’s conference will be from October 23-25.

This year’s workshops will cover topics such as consecutive interpreting, K-12 interpreting, legal interpreting, holistic practicing, mentoring and more. Conference attendees can earn Continuing Education Units for the Missouri Interpreters Certification System (MICS) — learning more about current issues and topics, ethics and professional development skills.

The conference is open to students. Some may be selected as student representatives to volunteer during the conference, really getting to network and meet a lot of people. Other students go to workshops, meet alumni and start building their professional network as well.

“We always take a group of at least 20 students with us,” said Garrett. “In fact, Student Life budgets funds for this through the student club Hands Up!

What makes Garrett most proud are the educational and professional development opportunities, but also the sense of community that comes with being at the conference.

“There really is a sense of community among the Missouri interpreters that I think brings them coming back every year.”

For William Woods University alumni, the conference is both a way to continue their education and also catch up with former classmates.

“People go every year and know each other,” said Garrett, “It’s like a reunion every year.”

Dr. Garrett was highlighted in Kansas-City-based Ingram’s list of “50 Missourians You Should Know.”