Risa Shaw, Ph.D.

Risa Shaw


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Risa is hearing and has been around Gallaudet since she attended and received her AA in Interpreting in 1983. She then began her interpreting career as a freelance interpreter in the WDC area. She specialized in legal interpreting, and also worked in medical and conference settings. She began teaching interpreting around the country and in Canada in the late 1980s. She co-developed curriculum and has taught interpreters working in legal settings since 1992. She received her BA from George Mason University in 1987 in Linguistics and  her MA in Education: Teaching Interpreting from Western Maryland College in 1991. She joined the Gallaudet faculty in 2001 and taught in the Interpreting Program/Department from 2001-2013. She has been in the Linguistics Department since 2013. She received her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies with a Concentration in Sociolinguists in 2007 from Union Institute and University.

Since being at faculty Gallaudet, Risa co-authored the BA curriculum and the revised MA curriculum in Interpretation at Gallaudet. She also contributed to the Ph.D. in Interpretation curriculum at Gallaudet, and taught the first two Ph.D. cohorts. She co-developed and co-teaches (with Usherla DeBerry) the first Black Lives Matter course at the university. She continues to interpret part time and consult on interpretation in legal cases. When Risa is not working she can be found playing in her gardens, playing soccer, climbing trees, reading, doing political action work, or spending time with her friends, including being an auntie to the many wonderful young people in her life.

Risa is a professor of Linguistics and teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses on linguistics. She is the Graduate Program Coordinator and loves working directly with all of the graduate students. She also does research and service and is particularly interested in teaching teachers, interpretation and translation, interpreting in legal settings, sociolinguistics, and social justice. She interprets and holds the CSC, CI, and SC:L from RID.

Risa loves teaching and learning with students! Wanting to make a difference in people’s lives, she teaches from social justice and critical pedagogy lens.

LIN 101: Sign Language and Sign Systems
LIN 480: Linguistics Research Experience
LIN 703: Pro-Seminar
LIN 741: Sociolinguistics of the Deaf Communities
GSR 300: Black Lives Matter (co-teaching)
Previously taught:
INT BA, MA and Ph.D. courses
  • Interpreter
  • Consultant for judges, attorneys, and litigants
  • Review board for IJIE, CIT proceedings editor
  • Presenter at national and international conferences
  • Graduate Program Coordinator
  • Other activities required to keep department going (member of dissertation committees, compendium, qualifying exams, meetings, etc.)
  • University Senate
  • Interview committees 

Below is a list of some of Risa's projects, publications, and presentations. A full list can be found on her personal website (https://risashaw.wordpress.com - they go back to the 1980's!).  

Russell, D. & Shaw, R. (2016). Power and privilege: An exploration of decision-making if interpreters. Journal of Interpretation: Vol. 25:1, Article 7. Available at: http://digitalcommons.unf.edu/joi/vol25/iss1/7. 

Roberson, L., Russell, D. & Shaw, R. (2012). A Case for Training Signed Language Interpreters for Legal Specialization. International Journal of Interpreter Education, 4(2), 52–73. 

Shaw, R. & Thumann, M. (2012). Signed Language Academic Papers. International Journal of Interpreter Education, 4(2), 74–86. 

Risa's dissertation is a qualitative sociolinguistic study in which she explored how female survivors of brother-sister incest talked about disclosing that abuse to family members. She examined how contextual factors influence discourse usage and narrative structure in ASL and spoken English across two contexts. She examined a first time telling and first time re-telling of a narrative, analyzing its structure and content. Trauma findings include participants demonstrating agency with first disclosure, reduced sense of agency dealing with family responses to disclosure (and re-traumatization), and greater agency with later reflection on and integration of their understanding of the abuse and its aftermath. The participants assert that disclosure is transformative. “Meaning in Context: The Role of Context and Language in Narratives of Disclosure of Sibling Sexual Assault" can be found at: https://risashaw.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/shaw-dissertation.pdf


800 Florida Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002


800 Florida Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002