Law studies help Rozynski integrate two worlds

November 22, 2010

As he watched his well-qualified father struggle to land a job, Andrew Rozynski launched a career plan of his own. While on break from his freshman year at the University of Massachusetts, Rozynski fielded numerous calls for his father from potential employers. "It was so frustrating. He is this incredibly intelligent man who was unable to find work," Rozynski said. "The employers were very excited to talk to someone with his credentials, but when I explained that he is deaf and we would need to make arrangements for follow up, nothing happened. In fact one person said, 'How is that going to work?'" Even after Rozynski explained how his father's deafness had not been a problem in his previous IT position -- his father simply responded to issues via e-mail, fixed the problems, and reported back via e-mail -- it was viewed as an "insurmountable accommodation."

Until that winter break, Rozynski was on his way to becoming an entrepreneur. He had formed a successful Internet business in high school and felt that he was a natural at conceiving and developing business ideas and networking with partners and customers. He started college with that in mind. But the experience with his father changed his plan. “I felt like I needed to do something more important. That being an entrepreneur was something anyone could do but because of my circumstances, with the right education, I could change things for the better.”
 
Both of Rozynski's parents are deaf and the first language he learned as a child was American Sign Language. When his parents realized his hearing was normal, they made sure he received speech therapy. Since he was 4 years old, he has often acted as interpreter for his parents but said he never really encountered such blatant discrimination as he had during that winter break. When he went back to school he realized, “none of the established majors offered a comprehensive curriculum that would adequately prepare me for working with the deaf community.” So he created his own major called Law and Deaf Studies. It included course work on deaf culture, communication disorders, law and sociology. 

Why Penn State?

“Penn State was my first choice for law school primarily because of the School’s commitment to public policy and disability rights -- specifically through the Disability Law Clinic,” said Rozynski. He is enrolled in the Law and Individuals with Disabilities Seminar this semester. According to Professor Bob Rains, who teaches the seminar, Rozynski “has shown himself to be highly motivated to learn more about the rights of people with disabilities in general and those with hearing impairments in particular. He has been a great asset to the class, and I, as well as the other students, have learned from him.”
 
Rozynski sees his mission as education and prevention. “I ultimately would like to help the deaf community better understand their rights. They often see it as their responsibility to seek accommodation when in reality it’s the responsibility of service providers and employers to make that happen,” he pointed out.  On the flip side, he also believes that he can help employers and service providers. “Some doctors for example don’t even realize that it’s their responsibility to get an interpreter to ensure that patients get the proper treatment,” he said.
 
Rozynski has worked both summers while in law school for the New York Inspector General’s Office which oversees investigations to protect the integrity of social and human services programs, benefits, and funds throughout the state of New York. The inspector general relied on him to do research, draft memos, and help with case selection and strategy. Rozynski believes every job provides valuable experience and networking connections. “Most people who I meet with know someone who is deaf or are interested in my experiences, so it instantly establishes a common ground,” he said. Growing up Rozynski said he often felt like he was straddling two worlds and his career path is helping him to integrate the two. He added, “My parents are supportive and proud. They tell everyone that I’m going to make a difference in the deaf community when I get my law degree.”

  • Third-year law student Andrew Rozynski

    IMAGE: Dyanna Stupar

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 22, 2015