Staff Spotlight: Candace Hart
October 9, 2012
By Sean McEntee ('13)
Candace Hart doesn’t have to tell you how much she enjoys her job. Instead, she can show you.
As an interpreter for the American Sign Language Department, Hart spends her days interpreting for deaf faculty, staff, and students—whether it’s meetings, phone calls, or classes—and mentoring and tutoring ASL students with their interpreting skills.
As one of the few ASL programs offered in the Midwest, Columbia’s program is especially distinctive because it combines signing with the arts.
“I think it is something that is unique to Columbia,” she said. “We have students that are majoring in ASL or interpreting, but they’re minoring in theater or film.”
Hart said the nature of the school is to inspire students to harness their creative side, and having ASL faculty members who are performing artists adds a new dimension to the act of signing and interpreting.
Unlike many of her colleagues, Hart never went to school for interpreting. Instead, she was born into deaf culture with ASL as her first language.
She identifies herself as a CODA, or a child of a deaf adult. Growing up in Chicago with two deaf parents, Hart learned to sign naturally at an early age in order to communicate in her household and learned to speak English from interactions at school, at the grocery store, or while watching television.
Although signing has been a part of Hart’s life from the beginning, becoming an interpreter wasn’t always a part of her plan. Hart’s mother, a visual artist, inspired her to pursue something creative and artistic, so she enrolled in acting classes, participated in improv shows at Second City, and later directed shows for children’s theater. Hart was a “freelance interpreter” on the side.
“I was an actor and doing theater and I thought [signing] was going to be my ‘waiter job,’ but I still love it and I still do it,” she said.
When a position as an interpreter for deaf students in the Services for Students with Disabilities Office opened at Columbia, she took it. She then moved to the ASL Department when a position became available, and she recently completed her third year as a department interpreter.
“I love being here [at Columbia] particularly,” she said. “Being an artist, I just love being around artists.”
For Hart, it hardly feels like a job.
“You’re not just working, you also become an ally,” she said. “It’s like defending a choice that I made, and I would defend it until I die.”