Long path to graduation

Hi folks… Remember I now have a really good CCTV… thanks to you know who) so I am restyling out old articles or news clippings of me. Yes, I have a few!

This one is related to my Graduation from Simon Fraser University 20 years ago. I was nominated as a distinguished graduate by my last professor, Dr. Donald Grayson.

A reporter named Julie Ovenell-Carter interviewed me. I have several tattered xeroxed copies of this interview, putting them on my blog will allow me to keep the article, but rid the paper!

Here we go…

“I didn’t want a future as a dishwasher,” says Craig MacLean, … Whoa! Hold up. Why am I typing this? I found the exact same article online, at the SF News website. And I can add the picture too! I am copying it here.

Simon Fraser news – June 15, 2000  Vol . 18, No. 4

Long path to graduation


By Julie Ovenell-Carter

“I didn’t want a future as a dishwasher,” says Craig MacLean (above), gesturing emphatically. With the help of a sign language interpreter, MacLean, who lost his hearing and vision gradually after a childhood illness, is reflecting on his arduous 10-year path to university graduation. 

More than once the overwhelming challenges almost made him give up, but in the end, he says, “I had a goal and I worked hard.”

MacLean, who received an award for perseverance when he graduated from Pitt Meadows high school in 1988, came to SFU in 1995, after five years of college. He majored in psychology with the goal of working with deaf-blind people. He wants to help others “overcome the odds,” as he has. 

To that end, he has used his considerable computer skills to create a website (http://www.PeerSupportDB.com) for other deaf-blind students in B.C. 

At SFU, interpreters provided by the Centre for Disabled Students accompanied MacLean to classes to translate lectures into sign language; he relied on computers, especially e-mail, to communicate with his tutors and professors. To MacLean’s great sadness, his ability to communicate with fellow students was severely limited. 

In the beginning, MacLean tried unsuccessfully to juggle two or three courses per term. Determined to improve his grades, he limited himself to one course per semester, a decision that dramatically boosted his confidence and performance. 

In fact, he says the two A grades he received last year were unquestionably the highlight of his academic career. 

MacLean now works as a workshop coordinator for the B.C. Association of the Deaf-Blind, and he is preparing for a solo vacation in Europe this June. 

“Everything’s in place,” he says, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. “I’m excited. It will be a challenge, yes. But life’s a challenge. You can’t sit back and watch it go past.” 


A few thoughts, to update this 20 years later.

  • Notice the reporter says I was “gesturing empathetically? No, I was signing empathically, not gesturing. Most non-signers would assume using sign language and using gestures are the same. No they are not. ASL, or any given sign language is an actual language that follows language rules, one of which is that Sign Language is dynamic, it is always changing, improving upon itself, new signs are added, while older signs cease to be used. On the other hand, the gesture is not a language, and is static. Which means the gesture you used in the 80’s to rebuff youth aggressors who wanted to steal your Van Helen cassette is the same gesture you would use today to ward off aggressive grandmothers who are berating you because you took the last bottle of Tylenol extra strength arthritis!
    • Had Julie asked me to proofread her article before she sent it out, I would have caught this mistake and asked her to rewrite it. But she didn’t ask.
  • I want to make one thing clear (if you got through the above discussion, this one will be straightforward!), I did not have interpreters, or intervenors, for university life. Which means, I did not have interpreters for study groups, for library research, for tutoring, for residence meetings, or anything else. I did get an interpreter for several Accessibility Meetings, but otherwise, I was on my own. Which explains why I had a lot of frustrations trying to interact with others. Usually, it is that connection that really encourages students to learn, to practice, to study together. Just the banality of conversing with fellow Psychology 330 students, and its complexity regarding Attention, would have helped me pass the course the first time!
  • The job I had was a part time job, that was under contract.
  • a word about the website: that one I was paid $8,000 to research and create. However, I never really did “create” it. Someone else did. I saw it a few times, before, during and after I jetted to Europe. However, when I asked what I should be doing to promote the website, I was told someone else was doing it. I then forgot about it… and it closed down. I had ideas for this platform. But I guess somehow it got lost. Thanks for the 8K!

Thank you for reading!

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