Journey to IEDP series: Throughout October, the IEDP admissions blog will publish a series of posts on our cohort’s distinct experiences that brought us to IEDP. Many of you reading this blog probably have myriad of questions: “should I go to graduate school?” “if so, which program should I apply to?” “how would my experience fit in IEDP?” “why would I want to be in IEDP” are probably only SOME of the questions boiling in your minds. This blog post series will show how some of our cohort mates have explored those very questions and came to our conclusions.

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Thank you, Josh, for a great conversation!

This week, I was fortunate to sit with Josh Green, a first-year student at IEDP, to learn about what brought him to IEDP and what that process looked like. Josh is from Kentucky and received his bachelors in Signed Language Interpreting from the University of Cincinnati. He has since worked as a Sign Language Interpreter in seven US states and 11 countries. Below is the edited transcript of the conversation we had in the common area of the fourth floor of GSE building:

Hannah: To start with, I want to ask what kind of thoughts, moments, experiences from your previous work experience that got you decide to apply to a grad school?

Josh: When I started to interpret for Royal Caribbean, I got to visit deaf schools in Panama, Guatemala and Costa Rica and other places in Central and some places in South America. And those experiences led me to see what deaf education exists on a broader level. And I was able to take a lot of those experiences back with me to the States and then compare with how deaf education operates domestically. So I felt like “if I wanna get more involved in elevating access to quality education [for deaf people,] I’m not gunna be able to do that work on a cruise ship.” So what can I do? And my degree in sign language interpreting only lets me be the middle man and I wanted to be more than the middle man. So that’s why I came to the grad school.

Then we talked about dire need for chocolate at this time of the semester with another friend of ours passing by. #midterms

Hannah: Could you share one imagery or anecdote during your time at Royal Caribbean, that you vividly remember? It can be something you irked you greatly about the status quo of deaf education there, or anything really!

Josh: There is one deaf school in the whole entire country of Guatemala. The deaf school is owned and operated by a deaf man, who came to the States to get his MBA. So when he came to the States and saw that the deaf people have access to higher education, have all these rights and are not stigmatized that heavily, he went back to Guatemala to fight for the deaf rights. He opened a deaf school despite receiving no funds from the government. The government does not acknowledge it as an actual school because they don’t see Guatemala sign language as an actual language. He operates entirely by GoFundMe. He has now 29 students from all over Guatemala to be in his school.

This man has gone so above and beyond to build, with his own hand, a center where deaf children can get education. He had to fight the government and stigmatization, just to expose kids to a little bit of education. No one should fight that hard to get educated. This guy to me is a proof to me that deaf people can do anything they want, except to hear. And I wanted to take his mission of getting my hands dirty and building education.

When I finish this program, I can’t wait to reach back out to him and say “remember me? I’m still doing it, I’m still trying to do something about making this world more accessible to deaf people.”

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Josh interpreting at a Costa Rican coffee farm

Hannah: So I guess for you, grad school was to fill in that gap: the more international parameter to the skills you already have.

Josh: Yes, pretty much.

Hannah: How did you come across IEDP? Did you look at other grad schools as well? If so, what was the process of navigating and assessing different options looked like?

Josh: I have worked in Harvard’s graduate school of education and I was very familiar with their version of IEDP. That was my exposure to the fact that a degree in this [field] exists. So I looked for similar programs in other institutions, and initially applied to a different program here at Penn GSE.

But eventually, I wanted IEDP the most because the more research I did and the more I got to know the faculty via Penn’s website, I saw myself in the program. I actually came to visit the campus for a different program at Penn but once I started to meet students from IEDP, I knew that it was ere I belong. What finally seduced me [to IEDP] was the fact that we were required to go abroad for an internship. The fact that [the program] forces us ever so slightly out of our comfort zone to really get a feel of what this work looks like, I think that’s really empowering.

Hannah: It’s interesting that your interaction with the IEDP students back then was one of the factors that convinced you. Could you flesh that out a little more and tell us what you talked about with them?

Josh: By the time I visited in March, I had gotten into another program at Penn but not IEDP yet. Lauren coordinated time for me to meet some IEDP students. When I met Lauren, Dr. Posceznick and few students who are now in second-year, they were talking about their internship and how Dr. GK’s course challenges your thinking. They seem to really enjoy it and I was immediately drawn to that.

And also, the fact that Lauren wanted to include me, even though I hadn’t gotten in yet, really touched me. That made me feel like I’m already welcomed here. That speaks to the character of Penn and that of IEDP.

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Josh casually standing on his hands before he goes to his class

Hannah: Having such a unique background that might seem different from that of other cohort mates, did you feel an imposter syndrome before you arrived on campus?

Josh: Of course there was, and there still is.

Hannah: How did you come to terms with that? For those out there who might be feeling the same, could you share?

Josh: It’s been so refreshing to hear my peers after class saying, “that comment was really profound” and “I’ve never thought of that.” There are a lot of times when I feel like I don’t belong because my international experience is not at the level of some of my cohort mates’. But when Dr. GK sent out that TedTALK about unilateral story, that’s when I realized, “Okay, my story doesn’t have to match. It’s not going to match and it’s completely fine. I got in and I deserve to be here.” That was the turning point for me to accept the differences that I bring to class and accept how all of our unique contributions work together is what makes this group so dynamic.

I’m a first generation high school graduate. Not even college, high school. I come from a poor family for whom school was not a priority. For me, not only being at an Ivy league institution but being able to have the backing of Penn’s legacy is invaluable. Now being here, Penn, GSE, and IEDP  I can’t imagine myself anywhere else with any other cohort.

The transcript has been edited for the clarity and concision.