Valerie Randleman

She didn't set out to become a professional sign language interpreter, but Valarie Randleman recognizes that life doesn't always go as planned.

As an RIT student in the 1980s, Randleman worked a variety of campus jobs, including front desk receptionist and Campus Safety officer, and at each turn found herself being drawn to the Deaf community, so she decided it was time to enroll in a sign language class.

"I thought it was unfair that the students were so willing to reach out to me, yet I didn't know how to communicate with them," she recalls.

Energized by American Sign Language Associate Professor Barbara Ray Holcomb and Professor Robert Panara, from whom Randleman took a literature interpretation class, she enrolled in NTID's Basic Interpreter Training Program in 1985 and was hired by RIT/NTID one year later. She's one of a handful of interpreters who has been with RIT/NTID for more than two decades.

Laughingly recalling the 1980s as "Reaganomics, Star Wars and the information explosion," she believes the secret to her on-going success is her willingness to stay current with world events and technology. Her multiple cell phones, PDAs and computers keep her connected to her wide circle of friends and family.

The Ohio native, who calls herself a lifelong student, has a bachelor's degree in Multidisciplinary Studies from RIT and is working toward a master's degree in Communication. She fits one course per quarter into a schedule that includes interpreting roughly 20 hours per week, working at a local video relay center and leading an adult ministry program that she founded through the In Christ New Hope Ministry. She became an ordained minister last year.

Her advice to today's interpreters is simple: "To be effective in the language, you have to love and respect the people."

This story appeared in the Fall/Winter 2008 issue of FOCUS Magazine.

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