Q&A With Prof. Jonathan Webb

CATEGORIES: January 2015

How did you decide to become a University professor?

As a young child I knew that I loved teachers and wanted to become one. Through a series of events that propelled me further into education, I realized that my biggest impact on the world might not be working directly with children, but working with those who work with children. It took additional time for me to determine that I wanted to impact interpreter education within the Deaf Community. So while I first began teaching in 1993, I didn’t begin teaching in higher education until 2002. I remain a university professor because I love see the effect I have on another’s growth and development not only in course content, but in life generally.


What do you consider to be your most notable professional achievement?

This is a difficult question for me because I have always strived to create the largest positive impact possible in whatever position I’ve had the opportunity to fill. At the same time, I would also say that I am really honed in on the individual students and clients with whom I work, and to be able to positively impact their lives is always a pleasure. Most recently however, my most notable achievement has been my work here at Iowa State. Having the opportunity to come in and build a program from the ground up has been incredible. To then be tasked with the development of a minor has been an honor. I have worked in other programs where I was asked to come in and clean up or consult on curriculum; this is the first time that I’ve had the chance to develop a program from its inception. Over the last year I’ve not only had the chance to work at developing curriculum and the minor in American Sign Language, but have had the opportunity to bring in a new faculty member to ASL who is Deaf, lead the charge in assuring reasonable accommodations for students needing ASL interpreters on campus, serve the Black Faculty/Staff Association and the Provost’s Office in increasing diversity, equity, and social justice, and serve on the President’s search committee for a Chief Diversity Officer. Indeed, it has been a busy year!


What has been your most memorable international experience?

Most of my international experiences have dealt with signed language interpreting. Probably my most memorable one, due to the length of time, was in Peru. My partner, who is also an interpreter, along with myself were invited to live with a shaman off the Amazon River in the midst of the forest for two months. The intimate group there hosted individuals who were coming to seek a healing experience through Ayhuasca medicine and ceremony. To be in the depths of the jungle, separated from western philosophies was incredible. 


What is the last foreign country you visited? Is there a place in that country that you recommend anyone to visit?

With three young children I don’t get out as much as I would like, but my last professional international trip was to Mexico- specifically, Baha California. This was a fantastic trip because my partner and I were there interpreting for an international conference on sea turtle preservation. There is not one place there, or any other place that I would recommend over another. I think what is critical in travel is to really engage with the land and everything it has to offer, including the people, the sacred places, the foods, the traditions, even the animals and trees. Outside of professional work the last place I visited was the Bahamas over the recent winter break. One of the unique things about American Sign Language is the small and intimate nature of the ASL using community. As such, while traveling I ran into a deaf person, a signing parent of a deaf person, and another interpreter.


What has been the most interesting or unusual course you taught at ISU?

What a great question! I actually just had quite a bit of fun teaching American Sign Language Comparative Linguistics. I love the artistry of language, but I also deeply appreciate the science behind language and the notion that artistry, depth, and skill in language often comes from understanding the science behind how it all works. That said, I am currently developing proposals for the Honor’s Program to teach some coursework in spirituality and divination related to my recently published book KG: The South. While I love teaching ASL I am looking forward to teach some coursework that even more closely aligns with my doctorate.