Niall Cook has joined Mississippi State University as the first full-time sign language interpreter in the university’s Student Support Services office. Cook was a staff interpreter at Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services for 10 years before joining MSU earlier this semester. He began learning American Sign Language in 1993 while studying linguistics at the University of Mississippi. While there, he quickly made friends with members of the local deaf community who eagerly shared their language and culture with him.
Following time at Ole Miss, a series of community sign-language classes and a University of Tennessee-Knoxville summer immersion program, Cook became a residence education parent in 1998 at the Mississippi School for the Deaf. In 2001, he passed a state-level assessment for pre-certified interpreters and began working for a local interpreter agency. Through the National Association of the Deaf, he became a certified interpreter in 2002.
Cook is a member of the state and national chapters of the National Association of the Deaf and Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. He has served in several capacities on the board of the Mississippi Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf and currently is its treasurer. In 2008 and 2012, he received the MSRID President’s Choice Award and, in 2011, the NAD Golden Hand Award.