Gallaudet University to offer Ph.D. program in Educational Neuroscience

Gallaudet LogoGallaudet University to offer Ph.D. program in Educational Neuroscience

Washington, D.C. – July 29, 2013 – Gallaudet University today announced the launch of a new interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Educational Neuroscience (PEN) to begin in the fall semester 2013. Gallaudet's PEN program is designed to explore biological processes in early child development and their principled application to educational environments and policy.

Gallaudet's Ph.D. program in Educational Neuroscience is the first of its kind in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, noted Dr. Laura-Ann Petitto, co-principal investigator and science director of the National Science Foundation-funded Science of Learning Center on Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2). Built on VL2's scientific discoveries and center mission to translate this knowledge broadly, VL2 created the PEN program in collaboration with five other departments, including the departments of psychology, linguistics, interpreting, education, and hearing, speech, and language sciences.

"The Ph.D. program in Educational Neuroscience is an implementation of Goal E of the Gallaudet University Strategic Plan which is to establish Gallaudet as the epicenter of research, development, and outreach leading to advancements in knowledge and practice for deaf and hard of hearing people and all humanity," said Gallaudet President T. Alan Hurwitz. "This program situates Gallaudet on the world's stage in the areas of visual learning, literacy, and cognitive development." 

Educational Neuroscience is devoted to understanding the brain processes that make possible human learning, with a special focus on how young children learn knowledge at the heart of early schooling. "A key goal is to provide state-of-the-art neuroimaging and behavioral research that renders new knowledge that is useable and meaningfully translatable for the benefit of society," noted Petitto "Building on Gallaudet's VL2 Science of Learning Center's discoveries about visual learners, students in Gallaudet's PEN program will acquire unique training in the neuroplasticity of visually-guided learning processes underlying the development of attention, cognition, language, bilingualism, reading and literacy in the young deaf child-all topics vital to the young child's success in early schooling and beyond."

The PEN program offers students access to among the world's most advanced neuroimaging systems in Petitto's Brain and Language Laboratory (BL2) at Gallaudet, as well as direct access to a vast network of leaders in neuroimaging laboratories at VL2's network of partnership universities across the nation. "Students can expect to achieve outstanding competence in modern neuroimaging and behavioral research as it is applied in the ethical and principled ways to prevailing issues in education," said Petitto. The PEN program utilizes the wealth of courses and educational resources available in VL2 and the interdisciplinary union of Gallaudet's five participating departments. Resources within the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area will also be available to students. 

"The PEN program is also propelled by the goal of achieving great excellence in teaching, and to provide its students with the most cutting-edge scientific knowledge, critical analysis and discussion, strong mentorship, and a great diversity of career paths when they graduate," said Dr. Melissa Herzig, VL2's education and research translation manager and the associate director of the PEN program.

"The interdisciplinary approach is crucial in this PEN program. Graduates will leave knowledgeable on topics such as language learning and bilingualism, reading and literacy, child development, educational assessments and interventions, schools and educational policy, and social-emotional family processes for young children, especially young deaf children spanning those who use sign language and those who do not," said Dr. Thomas Allen, co-principal investigator of VL2 and program director for the PEN program. "This important knowledge will be interfaced with the core challenges in contemporary education in ways that will benefit parents, teachers, clinicians, medical practitioners, and science and society as a whole."

Gallaudet University, federally chartered in 1864, is a bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard of hearing individuals through American Sign Language and English. Gallaudet maintains a proud tradition of research and scholarly activity and prepares its graduates for career opportunities in a highly competitive, technological, and rapidly changing world. 

Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2) is a Science of Learning Center in the United States, funded by the National Science Foundation, and is based at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. VL2 is a collaborative effort with more than 15 labs nationwide, all interested in the visual learning process. VL2 seeks to understand more about how learning through visual processes, visual language, and visually based social experience contributes to the development of language, reading, and literacy, and in ways that provide fascinating cognitive and linguistic advantages to the young visual learner. This knowledge will not only benefit deaf and hard of hearing learners, but all humans.

Kaitlin Luna, Coordinator of Media and Public Relations
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