Deaf U

Deaf U | A Netflix Original Reality Series

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a student at the only university in the world where students live and learn in American Sign Language (ASL) and English?

Deaf U follows the lives of seven Gallaudet students as they navigate the ups and downs of relationships, college, and life in general–did we mention it all takes place at Gallaudet University?

By showing us their experience, these students have shown the world our culture, diversity, and ASL vibrancy. While there’s plenty of popcorn-worthy drama, we hope Deaf U sparks conversation and opens doors to help redefine society’s perception and understanding of deaf people.

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Inside Deaf U

The show promises to offer “an unprecedented, unfiltered, and often unexpected look inside the deaf community.

Get ready for a college experience like you’ve never seen before.

In the fall of 2019, Gallaudet University welcomed New York-based Hot Snakes Media to our campus. Gallaudet alumnus Nyle DiMarco, ’13, served as executive producer along with several other deaf individuals and Gallaudet alumni to make this project a reality.

Our role was small–other than allowing filming on campus–Gallaudet had no official position with the creation, casting, or approval of Deaf U. Nevertheless, we appreciate both Hot Snakes Media and Netflix seeing the importance of involving deaf people both in front and behind the camera.

Who is Hot Snakes Media?

Hot Snakes Media is the New York-based production company responsible for Deaf U. The company was founded in 2011 by Shannon and Eric Evangelista and is well known for creative content that can be found on The Discovery Channel and TLC.
What have they made?

Breaking Amish (and subsequent followups)

The Sisterhood

Operation Osmin

And now, Deaf U

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0 %
Of new undergraduate students are New Signers.
0 %
Gallaudet graduates are either employed or furthering their education.
0 %
Tuition and fees are 38% less than the national average for public out-of-state tuition.

What type of students comes to Gallaudet?

1are from mainstream programs.

2are from deaf schools

3are transfers from other colleges

This is exactly how it should be. At Gallaudet there is no one way, or one "right" way, to be Deaf.

Our students do not come here because being Deaf needs to be “overcome.”
Rather, they come because Gallaudet is a place that strives to provide a welcoming home where students can validate their worth, live their own truths and discover their best selves.


Contact an admissions counselor to get started on college planning.

This is exactly how it should be. At Gallaudet there is no one way, or one "right" way, to be Deaf.

A common thread was the desire to showcase their experience, their journey at Gallaudet, the only school in the world to provide a visually accessible bilingual education in American Sign Language and English.

This was a diverse group of students, with differences in race, gender, sexual orientation, education, language and upbringing. One student was a new signer; some came from hearing families and others from deaf families.

Recurring roles: Zane Pedersen and Cameron Symansky

Cheyenna Clearbrook; Daequan Taylor, ’19; Tessa Lewis, ’20; Alexa Paulay-Simmons, ’20; Renate Rose, ’20; Rodney Burford; and Dalton Taylor; Raelyn Ruechtmann.

The “Reality” of it All

While we’re so proud to be represented and introduced to a large audience, there is no way for reality tv to capture the full experience of Gallaudet University. So, if you’re interested in attending Gallaudet or simply want to know more about our university after watching Deaf U, discover what sets us apart and makes us the world leader for deaf and hard of hearing education and research.

Frequently Asked Questions

Academic Unit Structure Overview

Academic units are a critical aspect of Workday Student. They represent a school, college, university, or another organizational unit within Gallaudet University. Academic units are responsible for essential functions such as student recruitment and admission and offering study programs. In Workday, academic units also manage academic appointments. However, it is essential to note that even though Workday stores academic appointments in academic units, supervisory organizations are still accountable for managing Workday HCM functions like compensation and job profiles.

Academic Units and Subtypes
You can use academic unit subtypes such as school, department, institute, center, college, or programs to classify your academic units. Define these subtypes based on the different organizations at your institution. Once you have defined these subtypes, you can create academic units that are appropriate for your institution’s academic unit structure.

Academic Levels
Academic units can consist of one or more academic levels. An academic level can control various aspects such as admitting students, configuring financial aid, offering courses and programs of study, and recruiting prospects. The superior academic unit passes on its role assignments and business process definitions to the subordinate academic unit. Additionally, the configurations of a higher academic unit can be inherited by a lower-level academic unit.


Workday Student Programs of Study

Programs of Study Overview

Programs of Study represent the educational objectives offered at Gallaudet University. The programs that are offered drive the student’s academic experience and hopefully result in a degree or credentials. Each program of study is specific to a level of an academic unit.

Programs of Study Type

The study-type program classifies the programs offered at Gallaudet University. When you create a program of study, you select its type, which controls what the program can do. Name each program of study type your institution offers, such as Certificate, Major, Program (graduate), or Non-Credit. Specify whether each type can:

  • Grant credentials
  • Have a program focus

Undergraduate students will be admitted into an Undeclared major and declare a major later in their academic experience at Gallaudet University. Graduate students will be admitted into a major upon matriculation.

Educational Credentials

Educational Credentials are the credentials that students at Gallaudet University receive upon completing a program of study, such as a Bachelor of Arts.

Business Processes

In Workday, a business process refers to a series of tasks that people initiate, complete, and act upon to achieve a specific business objective. Workday assigns tasks to appropriate roles based on their security group membership, which helps to enforce security and business rules. Any user with the right role can start a business process, which notifies responsible users at each step and progresses based on their feedback. Business processes are pre-defined in Workday and can be customized or copied to suit different organizational needs. Subordinate organizations inherit the business process definition of superior organizations unless a customized definition is specified.

Business Process Definition

The business process definition in Workday is a list of tasks and responsible roles that make up the process. Workday offers a graphical view of these processes for communication and confirmation purposes. You can’t change the step type of existing steps in a business process definition, but you can remove and add steps as needed. When copying or linking to a business process definition, the effective date cannot be set before the original creation date.

Business Process and Security

Each step in a business process definition in Workday is linked to a security group determining who is responsible for that step. The business process is governed by a business process security policy, dictating who can start the process, perform action steps, act on the entire process, approve or cancel steps, and reassign tasks. Audit trail entries are generated when you tag a business process and modify its security policy. The Audit Trail Report records multiple entries when a security policy is edited for the first time without changes. Even before activating the change, an entry is logged for any security change to the policy. Updating security policy permission prompts is reflected in the Lineage column of the report, showing the path to the section on the policy but not the specific change. When inactive security groups in your tenant are associated with actions no longer available in the policy, you can remove them using the “Remove Inactive Security Groups from Unavailable Actions” task found under Business Process Administration, Security Activation, and Security Configuration.

Examples of Student Business Processes:

    • Program of Study Event
    • Financial Aid Action Item Event
    • Student ISIR Event
    • Add Program of Study Event
    • Student Onboarding Event


When you interact with the “Submit Button,” you are working with a Business Process in Workday.

Screenshot of the Workday submit button

Effective Dating in Workday

Workday uses effective dating to manage the point in time for your configurations to take effect. With effective dating, you can make changes that go into effect in the future, saving time and allowing for greater updating flexibility. Past effective dates can also be edited, and changes can be made to existing configurations without creating a new effective date. Effective dates allow for version history and future changes but can complicate transactions.

Examples of Effective Dating in Workday:

    • Business Process (BP) changes to add a new step condition in the future
    • New pre-requisites for a course for a future academic year
    • A student has been processed to take a Leave of Absence (LOA)


CAPS counselors are not licensed to provide services to remote students as that requires licensure in the state of the student’s residence. CAPS will provide remote students with a list of licensed counselors who also can communicate in ASL in the state of the student’s residence.
  • The CoNavigator coordinator will work around your schedule and availability to match DeafBlind needs and accommodation requests

  • paid on-boarding that provides basic foundation for DB CN access

  • paid bi-monthly training with fellow CNs to focus on a variety of areas and topics

      • open discussion/questions/guidance provided

A CoNavigator (CN) provides supports to DeafBlind (DB) students by:

  • serving as a human guide to provide access on campus for traveling to and from class, dining, sporting events, and other on-campus related activities.

  • relaying visual and environmental information

  • should be: helpful but objective, supportive yet empowering, sparing in expressing their personal preferences while providing services

Certainly! In Bison, the report that shows a student’s degree progress is referred to as the Degree Progress Report. In Workday Student, the report will now be called the Academic Progress. To access more information about a student’s progress, navigate to the Student’s Profile, select Academics, and then select Academic Progress.

If you have a question specific to the Workday Student Implementation Project or impacts on your business unit, please submit your question using the Contact Us form at the bottom of the page.

If you have a question regarding Workday HR and Finance, or other technical or account questions, please visit our Services Portal & Knowledge Articles or submit a Human Resources Service Ticket, Finance Office Ticket or Gallaudet Technology Services Ticket.

Deaf elitism is one of several recurring themes throughout Deaf U. There is no one definition of what “Deaf elite” means, but more often than not, it refers to privileges that certain deaf people have by being born to deaf parents who are known in the community, having language access from birth with native ASL skills or fluency in English, being able to go to a deaf school before going to college, and seeming to enjoy “favored status” within their communities.

The term “Deaf elite” has been used in our community conversations for some time now. When Deaf U was in production, various cast members confronted this term and presented multiple perspectives and definitions of what the term meant to them. While there is no real consensus on the meaning of this term, “Deaf elite” generally implies a group of Deaf individuals with higher privileges within the Deaf community.

At Gallaudet and elsewhere in the deaf community, there are many different ways to be deaf, and there is no one right way to be deaf. Gallaudet University encourages more healthy conversations and critical examination of Deaf U’s presentation of the “Deaf elite.” Understanding power, privilege, and oppression are essential in these conversations. Different Deaf community members are already sharing their perspectives online via social media and blogs, and we expect that the discussions around this term will evolve

Deaf U is a reality television series that will stream on Netflix. Its eight episodes follow several deaf and hard of hearing students who attend Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and how they navigate personal relationships and other coming-of-age experiences typically faced by college students.
Deaf U was released on October 9, 2020. All episodes are now available.

Here’s what Deaf U’s producers have to say about the show’s origins:

ERIC EVANGELISTA:​ I first came up with the idea for this show about three years ago. I’m a big fan of the Freeform show Switched at Birth.​ I love coming-of-age stories, and I also loved that the show featured Deaf actors who were blended in with the rest of the teenage characters. I found the sign language included in the show so interesting — it introduced me to a world I knew very little about, and I began thinking about a reality show centered on the Deaf community. I’ve developed shows with Naimah [Holmes] before, so I called her and was like, “What do you think of this?” And she thought it was great. Then the stars just aligned, and we got Nyle on board as well.

NAIMAH HOLMES:​ We worked closely with a woman we met through Eric’s production lawyer named Peggy Ann St. John Wenger, an Associate Producer on the series. Peggy, who is deaf, is a Gallaudet graduate, and she helped me dive into the project and immerse myself in the Deaf community. I got to explore the community before we began casting and filming, and I met all our cast members’ families. We went on a scouting trip, and I saw all the dorms, got to go to some parties — it was a real cultural deep dive. It was really about them pulling me in and accepting me for me to say then, “Okay, let’s make a show together.” Peggy helped round up and galvanize the students and the parents.

NYLE DiMARCO:​ I’m a Gallaudet alum, and back in my college days, my friends and I always used to say that we needed a reality TV show about Gallaudet because we knew it would just kill. Every time we would go on spring break, hearing people were so fascinated with us. They would always want to party with us, and they were obsessed with our language and how we communicated. So it was clear that there was genuine interest in our culture. People outside our community don’t understand the Deaf world and don’t recognize that Deaf students possess complicated layers. We have so much diversity and so much beauty within our community. We’re not a monolith. Gallaudet is the perfect entry point for people to see the variety and depth, and breadth of who we are.

Hot Snakes Media produced deaf U.
No. This show was produced by Hot Snakes Media and is being distributed by Netflix. Gallaudet had no creative or approval rights to the content nor any involvement in the design and editing of the show. Each of the students in the cast participated in the show on their own. Most of the filming took place during Fall 2019 on the Gallaudet University campus and nearby off-campus venues.
Yes, at nearly every turn, both in front of and behind the camera. Nyle DiMarco, ’13, was executive producer of the series. Gallaudet alumna Peggy Ann St. John Wenger, ’94, was an associate producer, and several additional Gallaudet alumni were part of the crew. Specifically, the deaf community comprised 60% of the story department producers, 30% of the crew, and 30% of the edit team.
This is not a Gallaudet decision, and our understanding is this has not yet been decided.
To date, most of the reviews have been very positive, and Deaf U has made it onto many “top shows to watch” lists.

The students in the cast are (listed alphabetically):

  • Rodney Burford: UG active student. Major: Psychology.
  • Cheyenna Clearbrook: UG inactive student. Major: International Studies.
  • Tessa Lewis: Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work & Minor in Communication Studies. Tessa graduated in May 2019 with Magna Cum Laude. Master of Social Work degree – Tessa graduated in May 2020.
  • Renate Rose: Bachelor of Arts degree in Government with specialization in Law. Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies. Minor in Communication Studies Renate graduated in May 2020.
  • Alexa Paulay-Simmons: Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies & Minor in Psychology. Alexa graduated in May 2020 with Cum Laude.
  • Daequan Taylor: Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education & Recreation. Daequan graduated in December 2019
  • Dalton Taylor (no relation to Daequan): UG active student. Major: Physical Education & Recreation. Minor: Public Health.
  • Zane Pedersen (recurring characters): Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with concentrations in Entrepreneurship & Marketing. Zane graduated in May 2020.
  • Cameron Symansky (recurring characters): UG inactive student. Undeclared Major.
Students at four postsecondary programs for deaf and hard of hearing students applied for roles on this show. Gallaudet University and its students were selected based on their life stories, personalities, connections with each other, and their ability to translate well on-screen.
Yes. However, filming took place over months with hundreds of hours of recorded footage, which was distilled down to the episodes you see. So, while everything you see in the series happened, there is more to the experience that could not fit into the series.
In this series, one group of seven Gallaudet students share their journey as young adults. While some students at Gallaudet and elsewhere may have similar experiences, Deaf U in no way represents every Gallaudet student’s experience.
No, this is not accurate. During Fall 2019, when filming took place, Gallaudet enrolled 54.23% female undergraduate students and 45.77% male undergraduate students.
While there are always different perceptions of reality television, Deaf U is reaching 182 million Netflix subscribers in 190 countries. This show provides an opportunity to raise awareness of deaf and hard of hearing people, their lives, language, and culture, primarily at Gallaudet University. Deaf U provides younger deaf generations with another excellent example of career possibilities in the entertainment industry, both in front of and behind the camera.
  • Deaf U provides younger deaf generations with another excellent example of career possibilities in the entertainment industry, both in front of and behind the camera.
  • Deaf U also provides an opportunity to reinforce Gallaudet’s bilingual mission and academic offerings and to showcase Gallaudet as a great educational option for deaf and hard of hearing students from all over the world.
  • Finally, Deaf U presents a learning opportunity. It provides a lens for open discussion of important issues, including “deaf elitism,” white privilege, race relations, interpersonal relationships, mental health, and language and culture.
We believe we need more narratives like Deaf U that elevate the complex stories of our deaf individuals and communities.
Absolutely! Visit our Undergraduate Admissions website for information on how to apply or even arrange a virtual tour
Visit our website. There is something for everyone there!
Our ASL Connect resource! With ASL Connect, you can learn the basics of ASL for free and even take Gallaudet ASL and Deaf Studies courses online.
Check back for updates of panel discussions and possible Deaf U events.
Yes, while we have hosted television and film crews in the past, Deaf U is the first series to be filmed on campus.