skip to content
Primary navigation

Commission News

Part 2: Community Spotlight with the University of Minnesota Deaf College Bowl Alumni

A four part interview series

5/20/2020 10:00:02 AM

The 2014 team standing in a line with arms around each other’s shoulders. All are wearing maroon shirts with M-fist, and sporting NAD conference name tags on lanyards. From L-R: Kaitlyn Mielke, Johanna Lucht, Maggie Bangert, Kyle Johnson, John Wilson, and Justin Barlow (holding stuffed Gopher toy on Kyle’s head).

The University of Minnesota Deaf College Bowl (CoBo) program was established in 2011 as a project under Deaf Student Ambassadors program. The team consists of four undergraduate players, two coaches, and program advisors from both U of MN Disability Resource Center and the Interpreting & Captioning Unit. The student and alumni-led program continues to participate in the Deaf College Bowl competition during the biennial National Association of the Deaf (NAD) conference which they have done since 2012. The NAD Deaf College Bowl competition began in 1988 with three schools participating (Gallaudet University, Rochester Institute of Technology/National Technical Institute of the Deaf (RIT/NTID), and California State University, Northridge (CSUN). In 2012, the competition welcomed non-traditional schools to join the national competition.The U of MN team is one of the four non-traditional schools that have joined Gallaudet, RIT/NTID, and CSUN in the game of brains.

With the current climate regarding the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 National Association of the Deaf conference has been cancelled, and thus so has the 2020 CoBo competition held during the conference. We have reached out to the alumni of the past four teams that represented Minnesota in the years 2012-2018 to share their experience, and how being part of CoBo has shaped their futures.

Due to the length of this interview, a portion of the interview will be released over a period of four days. This is part two of four. 

The Teams:

2012: Justin Barlow, Tjay Middlebrook, Shawn Vriezen, John Wilson.

2014: Maggie Bangert, Kyle Johnson, Johanna Lucht, John Wilson.

2016: Maggie Bangert, Kyle Johnson, Hennah McCoy, AJ Temple.

2018: Zakaria Einab, Autumn Moder, AJ Temple, Andrew Weber.

Part 2:

Questions 4-6

How did you grow as a player? What lessons did you learn or what skills did you gain?

Andrew: I learned how to work with a group of peers that were Deaf. I also learned how to network with the Deaf professional groups in a way that I didn't know how to before. I feel like I grew a lot from the College Bowl experience! I even apply some of that into my work with young people.

Justin: I learned that there are certainly so many more unknowns out there that needs to be discovered!

Johanna: Conflict management, teamwork, socializing with new people, professional experience, and budgeting (yes, funding is VERY limited after all).

Maggie: Honestly, I grew more confident in a professional way. Meeting many deaf professionals from all over the U.S. opened my eyes and got the idea of what I want to do for my future career wise.

John: I started out as a player for the first two NAD conferences, then became an assistant coach for the subsequent competitions. Being on the team gave me confidence and helped me build wonderful connections with other students. I learned to work together with one another as a team and work off each other’s strengths.

Zakaria: It was all new for me. After a practice about current events, I realized that I was not aware of many things happening out there around us so I started reading the news everyday to be more conscious of the happenings out there. Another thing was that meeting new people made me more confident in myself, I became more independent, it was a great way to break the ice and bring myself out.

Shawn: Our team was fortunate that most if not all of us were involved with the DHH Student Ambassador Program at the U so we were attuned to working together and striving for new things. I think the best thing of all was doing something that had not been done before. First year [2012] they had allowed outside schools to participate. We made sure we could. The whole event with Signmark was also huge as well and I think we achieved quite a bit as a team from the ambassador program that translated well to our CoBo experience. I also love the fact that we had custom shirts made and unveiled there. I still wish I had my shirt and wish I could purchase a new one as there were many fond memories of making it happen.

Hennah: The more we practiced together, the more we gained a sense of each other's strengths and weaknesses on the different topics. We learned to listen to the person/people who most likely would have the best answer for particular questions and topics. We learned to respect each other, and trust each other more, even if we got the answers to the questions wrong.

TJay: I learned more about other students at the U of M and why they study what they study.

How has being part of CoBo impacted your future activities?

Andrew: Everything! I learned a lot from it and keep learning from it even if I am not on the team now. We do keep in touch with each other at times. I'm currently looking into Boston University as an option for graduate school due to their visit to NAD in Hartford while we were there.

Johanna: Conflict management carried over to my professional experience because I am working in a federal agency where integrity and ethics are essential. Without them, you're likely to be fired from your job, even the possibility of ending up on headline. Time and pressure during competition helps with stress management. Work at NASA does involve some risk so the calm during pressure really helped with thinking clearly.

Maggie: Once a while, someone will recognize me from CoBo, which is nice- so that way that set in for good networking. But, at the end- I made a really good group of friends that I will forever cherish.

AJ: In the long run, I met new friends that I still talk to years after attending NAD.

Zakaria: I was isolated for the most part. Attending the NAD conference exposed me to the greater world, gave me more experiences, more connections made, and gave me a desire to expand that network circle I made by going to expos and events outside NAD, and reconnect with others, and hopefully go back to NAD conference in the future.

Shawn: The networking and bonding experience was amazing. And just the whole being there for the NAD conference and meeting other teams and competing against them was an experience I still treasure to this day. I think one of the things that does stand out was how we prepared for it as well. Being able to build an IRC script [for a website app] that allowed us to practice together as a team and how it was rather unique in our approach that had not been done before by another team. There was one member of the Gallaudet team, we eventually acted together in the movie by ASL Films, In the Can and during filming we became quite close. We are still in touch to this day. In fact he was recently in Minnesota for the regional academic bowl as the assistant coach for Indiana School for the Deaf's team.

Hennah: The NAD was the first Deaf conference I had attended, and it opened up my world. I met and saw so many amazing people speak about their own experiences and share their knowledge with us. I learned so much about myself through this experience.

TJay: Everlasting friendships that last to this day.

Autumn: Being a part of this team exposed me to a lot of different people from all over the country that share a common thing of being DHH with me. That alone is a unique experience and allows for great networking and lifelong friends.

What were some of your favorite moments of the CoBo experience? Any stories or memorable moments that stand out?

Johanna: It isn't really a favorite per se, but rather an infamous moment that is bound to happen to EVERY CoBo team: problem with billing hotel rooms that delayed checking in. During 2018 in Hartford, CT, I wasn't a player but I attended a conference and as soon as the U of MN coach informed me that the hotel was having a problem, I rolled my eyes and said "Oh of course, it's very reassuring to know some things never change." Another favorite is again in 2018, I got to meet U of M players. I really enjoy talking to them and they asked me about my experience as well as the real world. This was the moment when I realized that I WAS them when I talked to people years ago. Another important thing about this is young people get mentoring from people who are like them (DB, d/Deaf, HoH, etc.). This makes the experience much less isolated. I grew up without a mentor who is Deaf, female, and engineer, so getting to where I am was pretty brutal.

Maggie: Clippers... One of the questions during the match- the answer was Clippers... I was so overconfident with my answer and wrote down so fast that I put down... Clipper. *Facepalm* Good laugh though. The 2nd CoBo in AZ, there were only 4 teams which means we were already in the finals- it was a surreal experience to be there with a big audience.

John: Practices were always the best! I always enjoyed the discussions that the practice questions would lead to and the occasional debates that would result. I always learned something new every week. And the inside jokes which we still retell to this day.

AJ: My favorite moments involved taking long walks around the host city. It wasn't supposed to be long, but we underestimated how hot it would be getting to our destination. OOPS.

Zakaria: All the CoBo teams meeting each other during free time outside practice and meetings and the game, and socializing, such as going to pool and hanging out - being able to connect outside the competition itself - and I want to stress this - the ability to connect with each other and develop friendships was more important than the game itself. It’s not always about winning, but we win by making new friendships that last long after the conference is over.

Shawn: The road trip was awesome. I love road trips and they remind me so much of all the traveling we did as a team out of state to play basketball, football or academic bowl tournaments. The bonding we experience on the way down and back as well as being in a living quarters when we travel. And just being immersed in an experience far from home. It was perhaps a feeling of modernized nostalgia.

Hennah: One night we were walking outside in downtown Phoenix, and at this park they were having a free, open to the public, family outdoor movie night. On the blocked off street next to the park, there was a truck that had dumped all of this snow in this huge pile (which was melting quickly in the heat), and all of these kids were running around playing with this snow! It was one of the most bizarre things I have seen, and I remember us all laughing in amazement about it. We were from Minnesota after all!

TJay: Objectioning to a judge who turned down our answer relating to iOS operating system by debunking her rationale with a well-placed objection and thus paving MN’s reputation by challenging answers and objections.

In addition

The UMN CoBo team is grateful to receive the majority of their funding and support from the community. Past and current sponsors have included the following:

  • Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens
  • Minnesota Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf
  • ThinkSelf Minnesota Deaf Adult Education & Advocacy
  • Metro Deaf School
  • Bridge Communications
  • Balanced Boutique
  • sComm

From the University of Minnesota community:

  • Disability Resource Center
  • Interpreting & Captioning Unit
  • Deaf and Hard of Hearing Student Ambassadors
  • Disabled Students Cultural Center
  • UMN Bookstores
  • UMN students, faculty, and community members who bought treats from our bake sales!

MNCDHH has also been a partner.

And YOU. Because of your support, the UMN CoBo team is truly a community team at heart.

Follow the UMN Deaf CoBo team on Facebook!


community spotlight

back to top