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The Center on Deafness (COD) is committed to preparing professionals who value and are committed to modeling, supporting, and securing equity for deaf and hard- of-hearing persons, including those from underrepresented populations.


The Center on Deafness will be the model for preparing professionals in the field of deafness through the innovative use of technology and human and fiscal resources by initiating external evaluation and by pioneering efforts in self-evaluation. COD will ensure quality in meeting the dynamic needs of its stakeholders.


In March 1998, William E. Woodrick submitted a proposal to the University of Tennessee to establish the Center on Deafness. The purpose of the proposal was to enhance the visibility and integration of the federal deafness projects that were dispersed among traditional academic programs within the previous College of Education and to increase the focus toward expanding external resources that would benefit academic programs, public service, scholarship, and the research potential of the university.

The university approved and established the center in June of 1998. Since the center was established, funding has increased from $1.4 million annually to more than $2 million annually. The center completed it’s third five-year review by the university in 2013 and received approval for continuation as a university-appointed center for an additional five years.

Current Director

David H. Smith
Research Professor and Director
August 2011–present

David Smith was named director in August 2011. Prior to this, he was a professor and director of the Deaf Education program at Fresno State. He brings his experience as a deaf individual, program leader, and grant writer to the Center on Deafness with great enthusiasm. Smith also has been involved in a career as an educator of the deaf and hard of hearing that spans more than 20 years in a variety of settings and age groups.

Previous Directors

Integral to the success of the Center on Deafness is the foundation that was laid by the previous two directors.

William E. Woodrick
Professor and Director
June 1998–June 1999 (retired)

Prior to the establishment of the Center on Deafness, Professor William Woodrick served as the principal investigator/director of all federally funded deafness grants. His loyal service to the university spanned 32 years. During that time he made tremendous contributions to the university and was responsible for establishing services at the university for students with disabilities (Disability Support Services).[/rightcolumn]


Donnell H. Ashmore
Associate Professor and Director
June 1999–May 2005 (retired)

Donnell Ashmore was named the director of the center in June 1999 after William Woodrick retired from the university. During his tenure as director, Ashmore pioneered efforts that brought the center and the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology together to apply for joint funding through the US Department of Education for Literacy for Deaf and Hard of hearing children, which was funded in fall 2004. Ashmore’s career with the university began in 1983 with the federally funded Postsecondary Education Consortium.[/rightcolumn]