Kathryn Womack

Kathryn “Kat” Womack’s interest in sign language began at home in Louisville, Kentucky.

“My younger brother is hard of hearing, so I was exposed to sign language as a young child,” she says. “My high school also had a number of deaf students, so I learned ASL from them and from other deaf community events.”

Womack, who earned her bachelor’s degree in ASL-English Interpretation in May, completed two practicums through ASLIE—a requirement spent interpreting, observing and professionally discussing the work.

“My first practicum was volunteer interpreting,” she says. “My second practicum was at Strong Hospital working with the fantastic interpreters there.”

Outside of her class requirements, Womack also has been a research assistant with RIT’s Human-Centered Computing Group, a multidisciplinary team of professors and graduate and undergraduate students.

“We are looking at the decision-making processes of physicians and the differences between novice physicians and experienced physicians,” she says. “My work specifically has been in linguistics, looking at ways of predicting if a physician is correct or incorrect, or confident or unsure in their diagnosis; patterns of reasoning when a physician is trying to decide a diagnosis; and differences in the way novice vs. experienced physicians speak. I’ve also done some other projects, like organizing a workshop last summer, and I ran a pilot study to look at diverse students in STEM majors.

“I’ve had papers published and traveled to South Korea and France (and Sweden this summer) to present my work. I can’t emphasize enough how fantastic those opportunities have been.”

Learning to balance her busy schedule has taught Womack how to make time for socializing, meeting people and having fun, and she suggests that others do whatever makes them happy.

“Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path,” she says. “Look at everything as a learning experience and keep an open mind.”

This story appeared in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of FOCUS Magazine.

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