An honors student and advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing (D/HH) community, Nicole Genser ’21 is on a mission to raise awareness for a cause that is close to home. As someone who is hard of hearing, this speech-language pathology & audiology major has a strong commitment to addressing the lack of awareness and representation of the D/HH community – something she does as president of the American Sign Language (ASL) Club on campus.
A recipient of the Community Advocate Award for Commitment to Diversity, given to her at Iona’s Multicultural Recognition Ceremony for her continued work with the ASL club and increasing representation of the D/HH community on campus, Nicole says, “As someone who is hard of hearing, I’m committed to addressing the lack of awareness and representation of the deaf and hard of hearing community. Being the president of the ASL Club has been nothing short of a privilege and I’m overjoyed with what the club has blossomed into.”
The club recently volunteered at the Westchester/Rockland Walk4Hearing, after spending the school year teaching and learning about ASL and deaf culture in club meetings and events. Nicole adds, “Being able to connect and immerse ourselves with the D/HH community was the best way to end the school year. My favorite part about the day was being able to help ensure equal access to communication by interpreting the national anthem and conversing with walk participants in ASL. My whole heart belongs to the purpose of the club, the message we aim to spread, and the community we represent, and I could not be prouder.”
Excited about her experience at Iona so far, Nicole shares, “I’d like to believe that as much as I found Iona, it also found me. In all of the times I had visited campus prior to enrollment, something reassuring kept pulling me in and it was impossible to say no to this school. Although Iona is a smaller school, it possesses endless opportunities and definitely feels like home. My choice to say yes was the best decision I’ve made.”
This coming year she plans on establishing roots for the ASL Club on-campus, and continuing to make connections with the D/HH community by creating and coordinating more immersive campus-wide events that will allow for greater exposure to ASL and deaf culture.
Grateful for her experiences and proud of what she’s accomplished, Nicole adds, “What I love most about Iona is how much support is available. I’ve found the best support system, professors and peers, who are always there to help in expanding interests, sparking new ideas, and being able to put these interests and ideas into action. I know that working hard has allowed for my success so far, and that hard work pays off, but without the particular support I’ve had, I wouldn’t necessarily have had the chance to advance everything that I want to pursue.”