AA-BA Partnership

AA-BA PartnershipEstablishing Successful PartnershipsCommon DefinitionsObservations & RecommendationsResources

AA-BA Partnership

“Constructing new models of partnership requires much time and daring to build creatively outside the box, and perhaps outside one’s comfort zone. Collaboration is hard work…. voluntary collaboration is even harder.”
David Longanecker

Collaboration: The act of creating new value together

What constitutes readiness to work as an interpreter? How does a student attain that readiness? Since the field’s inception in the late sixties, the field has wrestled with these questions. Interpreter education history chronicles an overarching teaching strategy that began with six-week intensive interpreting programs and evolved to the current long-standing presence of two-year programs and a growing number of four-year/graduate degree programs. Irrespective of history and personal perspective, with RID’s 2012 certification mandate, today’s answer must include attainment of a bachelor’s degree.

Approximately 50% of today’s post-secondary students attend a community college. While 42% of these students declare their intention to achieve the baccalaureate, only 26% will actually transfer to a four-year institution (American Association of Community Colleges, 2004). Of those students, 58% will graduate with a bachelor’s degree (National Center for Educational Statistics 2009). Simply stated, for every 100 students matriculating in a community college, fifteen will eventually enter the work force with a bachelor’s degree.

With a nation-wide concern regarding future four-year institutional supply and demand challenges, along with changing economics, student demographics and educational delivery systems, it is not surprising to find more and more community colleges active in the delivery of baccalaureate education. Yet, a common question within academic circles is: “Is there a need or place for community colleges to be involved in baccalaureate education?” Most certainly the answer depends upon the respondent. Current trends in educational attainment and student aspiration, though, suggest the answer to be “yes” because it addresses, among others, issues of commuting, affordability, and availability (Floyd 2005), each recognized barriers to baccalaureate access.

Yes, the field of interpreter education is in the midst of a major paradigm shift. The National Consortium’s work on AA~BA Partnership took place during the 2005-2010 grant cycle. As of 2012, a minimum of a bachelor’s degree is a requirement to sit for RID certification. Today approximately seventy-five percent (75%) of the 145 identified interpreter education programs are offered at the associate degree level and housed in two-year institutions. While the RID certification mandate will result in a new approach to interpreter education, it is recognized that two-year programs will not simply vanish on July 1, 2012.

During a four-year time span, the NCIEC AA~BA Partnership work team, interpreter educators, and expert consultants worked together to further the baccalaureate goal and the impending degree requirement. To this end, they a) illuminated the climate surrounding interpreter education as it relates to the RID mandate; b) identified critical components of effective partnerships and c) identified and described promising AA~BA partnership models. This work is a completely new endeavor for the fields of interpretation and interpreter education. No scholarly work existed around this topic, there was no snapshot of current partnership practices, and programs had not been asked about future partnership plans. The only known was that “2012” was looming.

The AA~BA work team relied on surveys sent to 141 interpreter education programs, expert consultants’ research reports, literature searches, interpreter educator forums and summits, and numerous interviews with successful partnership programs. Each endeavor identified a number of agreed-upon themes that should guide the field’s future actions and goals. Foremost is the belief that today’s “normal” will not be tomorrow’s “normal.” Change is inevitable even though education does not always “do change” well.

These web pages share a snapshot of the work and key findings of the AA~BA work team over a four year period. The in-depth details and outcomes of their work are further chronicled in two primary publications: Toward Effective Practices: A National Dialogue on AA~BA Partnerships (2008) and AA~BA Partnerships: Creating New Value for Interpreter Education Programs (2010). Please see Resources in this section for more information.

For more information about the NCIEC AA~BA initiative, please contact Linda Stauffer or Pauline Annarino.

2005-2010 AA-BA Work Team

Work Team Co-Leaders
Pauline Annarino
Director, Western Interpreter Education Center (WRIEC)
Western Oregon University and El Camino College
Torrance, CA

Linda K. Stauffer
Former Director, Mid-America Regional Interpreter Education Center (MARIE)
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Little Rock, AR

Team Members

Keith M. Cagle
Chair, Interpreter Education Program
Central Piedmont Community College
Charlotte, NC

Rob Hills
Project Director, ASL-English Interpretation Program
City University of NY-LaGuardia
New York, NY

Leilani Johnson
Director, University of Northern Colorado—DO IT Center
Mid-America Regional Interpreter Education Center
Denver, CO

Shelley Lawrence
Professor/Director, Ohlone College ASL-English Interpreter Preparation Program
Fremont, CA

Eileen McCaffrey
Co-Chair, American River College, Interpreter Preparation Program
Sacramento, CA

Cynthia B. Roy
Interpretation Department
Gallaudet University
Washington D.C.

Betsy Winston
Former Director, National Interpreter Education Center
Northeastern University
Boston, MA

Establishing Successful Partnerships

Hierarchy for Success

A clear underlying assumption within a successful AA~BA partnership in interpreting is that a bachelor’s degree in interpreting is the minimum academic credential needed to work in the profession of interpreting. Beyond this assumption, successful partnership models occur in the form of a hierarchy. Three primary elements must exist to achieve success, and the stronger the base elements, the greater the likelihood for partnership longevity.

At the base of the hierarchy is recognition of a strong mission statement and shared values as underpinnings for a successful partnership. Borrowing ideas from Rosabeth Moss Kanter’s On the Frontiers of Management (1997), true partnerships espouse the following values.

  • Individual Excellence: Each program involved in a partnership is already committed to the continuous development of strong curricula and best practices in education. They enter the partnership to strengthen both programs’ assets, not to compensate for their own individual weaknesses.
  • Importance: Each program seeking a partnership believes in the importance of the relationship. Each places the work necessary for maintaining the relationship very high on their list of priorities.
  • Interdependence: The partners recognize they need each other. They realize that creating new value takes both partners, and that neither can offer as much independently as they can collectively.
  • Investment: Each partner is willing to invest the time and resources necessary to serve the students who will benefit from the partnership.
  • Information: Communication is vital and valued. Each partner is willing to gather and share the data necessary to make the partnership a success. When problems arise, they are not suppressed but shared in an effort to use common resources to work through the problem.
  • Integration: The partners continually seek ways in which they can build connections between the programs. They learn from each other.
  • Institutionalization: The relationship is formalized with written agreements and understanding that success does not depend only upon the specific people who initially developed the agreement; instead processes are set in place to review and renew the partnership agreement on a regular basis.
  • Integrity: The partner programs are confident that they can trust each other. They are comfortable knowing that information shared will not be misused.

There are inherent challenges faced by all parties when establishing, implementing and maintaining an effective partnership. DeCastro & Karp describe the following three primary challenges facing partnership (2009, p.4).

Trust and turf.” Institutions and the faculty within often resist being told by outside institutions how to teach and what to teach. Often, institutions collectively have difficulty in making their expectations for students clearly understood. These issues may disappear overtime, but if not, can breakdown the articulation process.

Time constraints. Communication across institutions requires time. It may be difficult for faculty and administrators at both institutions to find the time to maintain the communication needed to monitor and nurture the relationship.

Breakdowns over time. Articulation may work initially but in time can breakdown due to changes in personnel or goals of the institution. Agreements need to be revisited and revised to reflect these changes.

Despite these challenges, there exist rich and robust relationships in fields outside of interpretation, as well as emerging interpreter education programs on their way to partnership success.

DeCastro, B.S., & Karp, M. (2009). A typology of community college-based partnership activities. 2009. Community College Research Center for the Office of Vocational and Adult Education. Retrieved online from http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/cclo/cc-partnerships.pdf

Kanter, R. M. (1997) On the frontiers of management. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Common Definitions

Articulation: (among others) the act of joining things in such a way that motion is possible; the shape or manner in which things come together and a connection is made (Word Reference, 2008)

The terms defined in the Glossary below represent an informal compilation of terms and definitions related to the process of AA-BA partnerships. They are in no way comprehensive or definitive.

Common Articulation Definitions

Articulation. The process of developing a formal, binding written agreement that identifies courses or sequence of courses at one college/university that are comparable to, or acceptable in lieu of, specific course requirements at another college/university. Written agreements may take the form of memorandum of understandings, transfer agreements, inter- or intra-state agreements, etc.

Academic Program Articulation Agreements. Often reflected as “language to interpreting” transitions, these agreements are established by complementary subject areas, such as Deaf Studies/American Sign Language (associate level) and Interpreting (baccalaureate level), and operate with one program as foundational to the other. Core general education requirements may be completed or transferred into a program of study at either institution, unless the articulation agreement stipulates otherwise. Another name for this partnership model is vertical transfer. Program-to-program articulation agreements require the greatest degree of curricular coordination and alignment of student performance standards.

Block Transfer. Block transfer is the process whereby a block of credits is granted to students who have successfully completed a certificate, diploma, or cluster of courses that is recognized as having an academic wholeness or integrity and can be related meaningfully to a degree program or other credential.

Bridging. A bridging course is a special course that prepares a student for a particular university or college course, usually in specialist areas like math or science. Bridging courses usually do not include general studies. Bridging courses may fulfill gaps between programs or provide remedial work while in transition.

Cluster Credit. Cluster credit denotes situations where two or more courses must be combined, at either the sending or the receiving institution, in order to achieve equivalence.

Institutional Articulation Agreements. Often reflected in dual enrollment models, these are binding agreements between community colleges (or colleges that offer two-year certificate programs) and universities that coordinate admission requirements, student rights, and student responsibilities (Falconetti, 2009).

Reverse 2 + 2 Articulation or Inverted Degree. Often reflected in bachelor completion models, this approach involves completion of major subject area content during the first two years of study, either at a community college or university, and completion of general education in the last two years of study at the partner institution.

Statewide Articulation Agreements
. Often reflected in 2+2, 3+1 models, these agreements are mandated and enforced by state governance, “under which the community college graduate is assured that a two-year degree from a public community college will articulate fully with the state university system’s junior-level programs of study” (Falconetti, 2009, p. 239). The goal of statewide articulation legislation is to provide equal access to higher education for native and transfer students and is perceived as a viable means for increasing baccalaureate graduates.

Common Definitions of Partnership Models

AA to BA Articulation Model. Within this model, students begin and complete their interpreting education at the AA/AS degree level. Students then transfer to a four-year institution to complete their education in a four-year interpreting education program. Student coursework follows established articulation agreements between institutions.

AA-BA Collaborative Model or AA~BA Coordinated Academic Degree Model. Within this model, AA and BA faculty work together to design a shared four-year degree program. Program design is new and built from the ground up. Design is seamless with little or no overlapping or coursework. Both institutions design and support shared recruitment strategies, entrance and exit criteria and course sequencing. Students begin interpreting at the AA/AS degree level at one institution and then transfer to a BA/BS program to continue their interpreting education. This model represents a best practice in AA~BA partnerships.

BA Completion Model (2 + 2, 3 + 1, 3 + 2, etc.). Within this model, students begin and complete their interpreting education at the AA/AS degree level. Students then transfer to a four-year institution to complete a related major or a major designated as “interpreting” however interpreting course are not taken at the upper division level.

Blended Model. Also known as vertical or concurrent articulation. Courses offered at different sites (several colleges) with collaboration among institutions regarding courses offered. Course numbering and sequencing are coordinated and results in a joint degree.

Community College Bachelor Conferred Degree Model. An emerging trend within post-secondary education whereby a two-year community colleges seeks approval for and attains the ability to confer a bachelor’s degree. Students remain on the two-year campus throughout their matriculation and receive a bachelor’s degree upon graduation.

Dual Admission/Dual Enrollment Model. Sometimes referred to as swirling, double dipping, or multi-institution attendance, more common labels for this approach to higher education are dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment or co-enrollment. Newer terms such as degree partnership programs are emerging to reflect the emphasis on the goal, rather than enrollment. Students simultaneously attend two colleges or universities, with the intention of graduating from one or the other. Dual admission provides early registration and guaranteed acceptance upon successful completion of coursework at the Associate level. The student enters the four-year institution with junior standing providing he or she has maintained the academic grade point average required at the transfer institution. Students have access to classes on both campuses, an integrated system of financial aid administration, and library and computer resources on both campuses.

Hybrid Model. A generic term used to describe specialized models, most often the combining of traditional approaches with non-traditional (innovative) approaches to degree completion.

Language to Skill Model
. Most commonly referred to the practice of obtaining language proficiency at either the two-and/or four-year institution. Students obtaining language at the associate level then transfer to a four-year interpreting program to obtain their interpreting skills. Students obtaining their language skills at the bachelor level have the option to obtaining a certificate in interpreting at the associate level or to obtain their interpreting skills at the masters level.

Reverse 2 + 2
. Student matriculation takes a reverse path, with a student possibly having completed some coursework at a four-year institution and next seeking a degree at a two-year institution. There are also some “reverse 2 + 2” programs whereby a student completes coursework at a four-year institution and returns to a two-year institution to complete a program of study. This process can also occur within a single four-year institution. Also referred to as a B.A./Certificate Model, whereby general education courses can be taken at any university but core program content is taken at specific college/university and can occur concurrently.

University Center Model
. Often refers to the offering of four-year degrees on two-year campuses. This post-secondary approach to AA~BA partnership, brings university faculty teaching upper division courses onto the campus of a two-year institution and then confer a four-year degree to the student.


American Association of Community Colleges/American Association of State Colleges and Universities. (2004). Improving access to the baccalaureate. Washington, DC: Community College Press.

Falconetti, G.A. (2009). 2+2 statewide articulation policy, student persistence, and success in Florida universities. Journal of Community College Research and Practice, 33 (3 and 4), 238-255.

Observations & Recommendations

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”
Leonard Bernstein

The reality is that the field of interpreting is changing rapidly, and changes in the profession are driving changes in interpreter education. Addressing the challenges of meeting the certification requirements of a B.A. degree by 2012 affords interpreter education programs the opportunity to affect change in the field and interpreter education delivery for the benefit of students, future professionals, consumers, and stakeholders. In order to do that, AA and BA educators must collaborate to define and implement effective partnership models.

There is much to be learned about working together in new and creative ways. Based on the productivity and related outcomes of the AA-BA Work team’s endeavors, there is no question that 2012 and the need for partnerships is on everyone’s mind. Below are a number of their observations and recommendations.


Whatever the chosen partnership or articulation path to the baccalaureate, the minimum degree must reflect a bachelor’s degree in interpretation.

The changing academic qualifications reflected in the interpreting field mirror the changes of a large number of other professional fields that require a strong union of theory and technical skill (e.g., nursing, early childhood education, health education and therapies, etc.).

Constructing new models of partnership requires much time and daring to build creatively outside the box and perhaps outside one’s comfort zone. Collaboration is hard work; voluntary collaboration is even harder.

In order to foster quality interpreter education, stronger links must be forged between two- and four-year Interpreter Education programs and the institutions in which they reside.

All interpreter programs will not look the same in terms of partnering and evolving, and that is good.

AA and BA program directors must dialogue with program faculty in order foster “buy-in” of collaborative endeavors.

Two-year/four-year partnerships are forward thinking and possible within our field of interpreter education.

Higher Education

The lines of distinction between two-year and four-year institutions of higher education and applied and academic degrees are becoming increasingly more blurred. Partnership is slowly becoming an accepted and internalized approach to higher education.

The nature of the classroom and how education is delivered is changing.

Flexibility in educational delivery systems aids partnership opportunities.


The economic reality of life is that a four-year degree is necessary for upward mobility and career advancement.

The current economy is playing havoc with education. Partnerships maximize financial, academic and student resources at a time of economic uncertainty.

Unfortunately, the marketplace continues to recognize the two-year technical degree, and will continue to do so as long as the more attractive (to employers) two-year salaries exist and the field permits it.

Interpreter Education

  • The ASL and English skills of students matriculating from AA into BA programs vary from program to program. There is growing recognition among many educators of the need to promulgate ACTFL-based ASL Standardsfor sequenced courses so that students enter programs with skills commensurate with established standards.
  • Two-year interpreting education programs are not easily defined. They lead to a variety of degree outcomes: AA, AAS, and certificate. They are housed in a variety of institutions: two-year colleges, four-year universities, public institutions, and private institutions. This variety presents challenges to articulation and partnership that must be addressed.
  • Interpreting education programs vary in their focus – emphasizing community interpreting, educational interpreting, or Deaf studies.
  • All interpreting education programs must work collaboratively to ensure a seamless four-year continuum for student learning. It behooves institutions to work hand-in-hand when developing any collaborative.
  • Very experienced and dedicated, the majority of faculty members are also aging. These individuals will be retiring in large numbers in the next decade. The challenge will be to continue to meet the demands for qualified faculty.
  • Many interpreting education program faculty members are personally working toward a higher degree, not only modeling lifelong education for their students, but also setting the bar higher for themselves as the field sets the bar higher for students.
  • Some AA and BA programs have already established partnerships, formal to informal, with success rates ranging from minimal to outstanding.
  • Programs need additional resources for, as well as better understanding from, their administrators.
  • All programs are facing:
  • changing student and consumer demographics;
  • increasingly limited resources with ever increasing demands on time and programs;
  • fiscal restraints beyond programmatic control; and
  • the challenge of determining what to “become” in the next few years.
  • Interpreting is not the first profession to face increased credentialing requirements. Thankfully there are partnership models in other professions. It is beneficial to step outside the interpreting profession and listen to other perspectives (e.g., higher education) regarding collaboration and articulation. It is equally enlightening to learn from other professions that have faced increased educational requirements for credentialing (e.g., Nursing, Early Childhood Studies, Rehabilitation Counseling, Respiratory Therapy).

Paradigm Shift

  • A successful partnership is one that is planned and purposeful and provides a seamless path to a baccalaureate.
  • Successful partnerships talk about students in terms of “ours” rather than “yours” and “mine.” They “keep students first” throughout the planning and delivery process.
  • The very real paradigm shift in interpreting affords the field an excellent opportunity to re-tool interpreter education through the use of partnership.


  • Interpreter educators and their administrators should take advantage of the partnership momentum being generated within higher education.
  • Initial administrative support is paramount.
  • To move a partnership along there needs to be a champion in the administration.


  • For a successful partnership to occur, each institution must bring a strong program “to the table.”
  • Each program has to recognize its own institutional and programmatic value in the partnership. Both programs must see mutual need.
  • The success of partnerships highlighted in this monograph resulted from the passion of the initial key players at both institutions.


  • The bulk of the work will fall to the faculty. The faculty; therefore, must be involved at all levels of the development of the partnership.
  • Trust and mutual respect are key. Turf issues don’t work here.


  • Until the number of bachelor’s degree interpreter education programs increases significantly, and more programs can demonstrate competence through accreditation, opportunities for partnership will be restricted.
  • Partnerships will bring new challenges to interpreter education accreditation.
  • Accreditation plays a critical role in moving partnerships forward.
  • How will CCIE evaluate partnerships that jointly share academic programming, teaching and student outcomes?

Final Thoughts

  • Creating a partnership always takes longer than anticipated. Expect two to three years to develop and implement a partnership.
  • Partnerships need to be clarified in written MOUs or formal agreements. All case studies in this monograph demonstrated programmatic agreements as opposed to standardized articulation agreements.
  • There are recognized critical components that underpin any successful two year/four year partnership.


1 ) Developed partnerships should be a joint venture between two and four-year interpreter education programs. Ongoing conversation and collaboration are essential for effective partnerships.

2 ) Develop partnership models that ensure a seamless one-to-four year continuum for student learning with “buy-in” from all faculty.

3 ) Develop language standards for ASL sequenced courses.

4 ) Establish a national communication structure for dialogue between interpreter education programs.

5 ) Promote programmatic accreditation as critical underpinning for educational success for interpreting students.

6 ) Create mechanisms for a continued national dialogue between AA and BA interpreter educators to address common issues.

7 ) Continue empirically-based research to define, describe, and evaluate effective partnership models in interpreter education.

8 ) Advocate for financial resources for programs to meet the critical challenges of changing student populations.

9 ) Develop product-based tools to support faculty in their dialogue with and education of administrators, or those in a position to affect change, about program needs and barriers to programmatic change (e.g., classroom size, restricted degree hours, instructor credentials, financial resources), as well as the importance of engaging in AA-BA partnerships, adopting CIT standards, and CCIE accreditation.

10 ) Use RID’s mandate of a bachelor’s degree to sit for certification testing to influence a paradigm shift in interpreter education.

11 ) Develop materials to support programs in engaging administrators in dialogue regarding changing standards and programmatic needs.


AA~BA Monographs
Through the initiative’s efforts, much has been learned about our field’s current knowledge, attitudes, behaviors and beliefs surrounding “2012.” This information has been chronicled in two downloadable publications:

AA~BA Partnerships: Creating New Value for Interpreter Education Programs (2010)

Toward Effective Practices: A National Dialogue on AA~BA Partnerships (2008)

Both are also available for free download or hard copy purchase (approximately $30) at http://www.lulu.com.

Toward Effective Practices: A National Dialogue on AA~BA Partnerships captures the dialogues begun by interpreter education directors at both the BA and AA levels to ascertain how programs can and will creatively change, transform, and create new educational opportunities for their students within the framework of “2012.” Moreover, it provides a historical perspective of our field, identifies current practices in the art of AA~BA partnership, offers a common language and definitions for shared dialogue, and descriptions of current practices in program partnership. Lastly, it shares the “lessons learned” from the B.A. Directors Meeting of October 2006 and the AA Directors Summit of May 2007, and provides recommendations for future action.

While the first monograph provides a snapshot of the professional climate surrounding “2012” and identifies five partnership models interpreter educators believe hold the most promise for application to our field, AA~BA Partnerships: Creating New Value for Interpreter Education Programs 2010 focuses on the substance and form of these five partnership models. It provides the reader with a greater understanding of the critical components necessary for successful partnership. It also shares interpreter education program survey findings, interviews with post-secondary programs both inside and outside of the field of interpreter education and case studies that showcase “lessons learned” from both successful and unsuccessful ventures in two-year/four-year partnerships.

The NCIEC hopes readers will use these publications as a resource to expand thinking and awareness of partnership models. A seamless, coordinated path to a baccalaureate is in the best interest of interpreting students irrespective of the model adopted, and that the only way to achieve this goal is through mutual respect and cooperation at all levels of postsecondary education.

PowerPoint Presentation
Stauffer, L. (2008) Interpreter Education Beyond 2012: Toward Effective AA and BA Partnership Models. PowerPoint Presentation. San Juan: Conference of Interpreter Trainers Conference.

NCIEC AA~BA Partnership Work Team Articles
NCIEC AA to BA Transition Project (Roy, September 2006)

AA to BA Partnership: National Summit for AA/Two-Year Interpreter Education Program Directors Historic Gathering of Program Directors a Worthwhile Event (Annarino, Summer 2007)

Toward Effective Changes in AA~BA Partnership (Annarino, December 2008)

Needs Assessments
Cokely, D. & Winston, E. (2007). Interpreter education program needs assessment final report. National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers.

Cokely, D. & Winston, E. (2010). Interpreter education program needs assessment: trends analysis, final report. National Consortium of Interpreter Education Centers.

Interpreter Education Program Trends Analysis Webinar. This webinar, offered on April 22, 2010, compares significant findings of 2007 and 2010 interpreting education program Needs Assessments conducted by the NCIEC, including trends in 1) faculty employment; 2) student enrollment & graduation, 3) faculty qualifications. Archived at NCRTM.org.