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Daniel Burnett Wants to Build a Bridge Between the Deaf Community and the Financial World

Gil Klein
By Gil Klein
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Daniel Burnett

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of profiles of Spring 2024 graduates.

When Daniel Burnett enrolled at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), he already had more than 90 credit hours under his belt from a program at Gallaudet University that prepared him to be a sign language interpreter. His goal at UMGC was to earn an undergraduate degree in business.

When he graduates from UMGC this month, he is one step closer to his career aspiration: to use his skills to connect the deaf community with the finance arena.

“I’ve learned a lot about communication barriers, and business is all about communication,” Burnett said. “I can use that as a business point to further link the deaf community with the hearing world and meld things together because there’s a lot of broken communication between both sides.”

Burnett, who grew up outside of Frederick, Md., became interested in American Sign Language (ASL) when he took classes in it to satisfy a foreign language requirement at Walkersville High School.

“I enjoyed it a lot,” he said. “So, I assisted the deaf teacher in promoting and encouraging ASL programs to help hearing students learn ASL. That led me to applying to Gallaudet University.”

Gallaudet, a university that specializes in education for deaf people, was a life and cultural change experience for him, he said. For five years, he was not allowed to speak on campus unless he was interpreting.

“My voice was shut off,” he said.

Burnett, who was getting ready to be married, decided it would be better to get a business degree than to finish his degree at Gallaudet. That’s when he decided that an online academic program fit his needs.

UMGC offered just what he wanted.

His UMGC professors were all good, he said, but the person that made the biggest difference for him was his success coach, Alvin Randolph.

“He helped me through a lot of things. Especially coming from Gallaudet, I needed help transferring credits, finding professors and lining up my schedule,” Burnett said. “He’s been there through everything, and I am hoping to work with him again through my master’s degree.”

Burnett now moves back and forth between the deaf community and the hearing community. He said he can see ways of helping deaf people with their finances, especially taxes. He can also see opportunities for working with deaf people in banking. Additionally, he would like to boost the financial knowledge of deaf high school students, especially when it comes to the danger of debt accumulation.

“The deaf side wants hearing people to accommodate them,” he said. “Hearing people want deaf people to jump to theirs. But nobody is accommodating that middle ground. And the only middle ground is us interpreters.”

Burnett’s next step is an MBA at UMGC, which he will begin right after graduation.