Adrain “A.J.” Webb, American Sign Language major from Dallas, has an eye for opportunities. During his education at Lamar University, Webb has become a Lamar Ambassador, a McNair scholar, vice president of the rugby team, Black Student Association historian, president of the sailing club and an LU cheerleader.
Among Webb’s fortuitous experiences was a chance meeting in high school with former Lamar staff member, Kristen Dacres, who served as grant coordinator in the Department of Deaf Studies & Deaf Education. Webb grew up using sign language with his parents, who are deaf. He said the meeting with Dacres introduced him to the idea that sign language can be a useful skill in the professional world.
“My family uses sign language in our everyday lives, but I didn’t really know you could make it a career until I was introduced to Ms. Dacres,” he said. “She really came at the perfect time for me because graduation was coming up and that really helped solidify what I wanted to do.”
The interdisciplinary approach in the Deaf Studies & Deaf Education Department made LU a good fit for Webb. The Bachelor of Arts in American Sign Language track trains students for applications in education and interpreting and leads into available master’s and doctorate programs as well.
Webb started learning sign language right along with English as a child. Despite this early cultivation, he said he still has a lot to learn.
“My mother grew up oral,” he said. “Because the majority of us in the house were hearing, we focused more on speaking than on signing. As a student at Lamar, I have gotten a lot more insight into what American Sign Language has to offer.”
Webb said he was surprised at the number of opportunities available to ASL students at Lamar.
“I discovered all sorts of internships and other opportunities that I never knew were available,” he said. “There are so many things you can do with ASL: theatre, education, medical, legal – it just depends on your own personal interests, creativity, ingenuity and determination.”
From technique to body language to interaction with students, Webb said he has great admiration for the Lamar ASL faculty and staff.
“Andrew Byrne, instructor in the Department of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, really helped me with technique,” he said. “I love his signing skills. Signing is like any other language, it has its own dialects. Byrne’s signing is very smooth and crisp; it’s almost provocative. I would like to have a similar sign technique and production to his.”
Webb said it is important to have mentors who are not only proficient in their skills and profession, but who also push and challenge their students.
“Amber Galloway Gallego, interpreter and adjunct instructor in the College of Fine Arts and Communications, her skills are incredible,” he said. “To see someone that good can be intimidating, but I think everyone should have a mentor like that – someone so good at what they do, you wonder if you can ever get to that level. But they help you along the way until you get there. I love her teaching methods. She always finds a way to make class fun and interesting. It is a great way to learn – to have fun and interact with a teacher who is encouraging and helps you build a strong foundation.”
Webb said being a Lamar Ambassador has proven to be an invaluable experience. Lamar Ambassadors is a diverse group of students chosen to represent the university at university events and work to promote university pride among students and in the community.
“I have become aware of a wealth of resources for students on campus, built relationships with faculty and attended campus and community events as a representative of Lamar,” he said. “You get to network with different people, hear their stories and learn how they got to where they wanted to be.”
The passion Lamar faculty and staff have for the university and its students is a big part of what attracted Webb to Lamar.
“Lamar’s faculty has a desire to reach out and share their love of the university with incoming students and members of the community,” he said. “They want to have a relationship with you and help you be successful, and they make themselves available and help you discover opportunities on campus that may benefit your education.”
Webb’s experience in athletics at Lamar has helped him form positive relationships while keeping his mind and body both sharp and healthy. Webb’s activity on the Lamar Cheerleading Team helped hone his strength and endurance while promoting friendship and teamwork. He said cheerleading is a fun way to stay in shape and represent the university.
“I was surprised I made the team,” he said. “I was competing against some people who had a lot more experience. But Kristyn Henderson, the cheer and mascot coordinator, said she saw potential in me, so I made the cut. It took me a little while to catch on, but I really enjoy it.”
Webb’s experiences have converged to produce a well-rounded student. The skills he learned from his various activities, Webb has applied to other aspects of his life to get the most out of his experiences.
“There are things I have learned in cheerleading that I apply to rugby, but also in life in general, such as organizational skills and teamwork,” he said. “I may not have learned those things in the same way without those experiences. My experiences in organizations have helped me approach things from different perspectives and help me better understand how people think so we can communicate better.”
Communication is something that is important to the ASL major. After graduation, Webb plans to attend graduate school to pursue a degree in audiology. He said his career goal is to work as an interpreter for the Central Intelligence Agency.\
— Lamar University Advancement