She said, “This has been an amazing experience. I can’t wait to see what else Alaska has in store.”
By Jason Rose ’11
The strong difference between winter days in Alaska and winter days in the continental United States is akin to the difference seen in William Woods University alumna Brynn Elliott’s life since her graduation in 2009.
Originally from Newcastle, Wyo., and now located in Juneau, Alaska, Elliott graduated from William Woods with degrees in American Sign Language interpreting and education. She now finds both degrees helpful with her newly attained position as an educational interpreter for the Juneau School District.
Since she had nothing tying her to one location, Elliott said, “I started looking at interpreting job options all over the United States.” Given the choice, she said she preferred places with warm, sandy beaches. She applied for one that fit the description, Hawaii, and one that did not, Alaska.
“I got a call from Alaska, asking whether I would like an interview and whether I was willing to relocate if the job was offered. I, of course, said ‘yes’ to both. They seemed very surprised, especially since I had never been to Alaska before.”
In her position as an education interpreter for the Juneau School District, Elliott facilitates communication between persons who are Deaf or hard of hearing and others, whether they are students, teachers or other school personnel. She also helps with a sign language club at a local middle school.
William Woods University has one of only 34 four-year ASL interpreting programs in North America. Without her experience at William Woods, Elliott said, she might not have had the opportunity in Juneau.
“The ITP program at The Woods and my whole college experience prepared me for this job in many ways. Most importantly, they gave me the tools I need to succeed in the interpreting profession.”
Factors outside the program also played a role.
“The classes I took outside of my majors, the LEAD events I attended and the other organizations I was involved with, also contributed to my success. The time I spent at William Woods was phenomenal because I was involved in a wide variety of activities in and out of classroom learning,” she said.
While at WWU, Elliott was chosen for “Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges” as an outstanding campus leader. She was a member of President’s Twenty, PeaceJam, Kappa Delta Pi education honor society, Campus Standards Board and Hands up Club. She also was a committee member of President’s Concert and Lecture Series.
“Most of my classes were small in numbers, which created great opportunities for small group and one-on-one learning,” she said. “All the instructors had an open door policy and made themselves available outside of classes for help when needed. Today I appreciate the fact that I am still in contact with some of the faculty and staff at WWU.”
As for life in Alaska, the transition has been pretty smooth.
“I am in Juneau, the state capitol. I really enjoy the town and my job. We are water locked; the only way to get to Juneau is by plane or by boat. There are lots of mountains and hiking trails to explore and it has its very own glacier.”
The lack of warm weather hasn’t been an issue either.
“The first thing I noticed when I arrived in Juneau was the temperature change. I went from 100-degree dry Wyoming heat to mid-50s and rain almost daily. The sun is very rare here. Juneau doesn’t get as cold or as much snow as in Northern Alaska. Right now, it’s light from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The shortest day of the year has six hours of daylight. Even now the temperatures aren’t too bad, it’s still warmer here most days then it is in Wyoming.”
Elliott’s experience has given her perspective, and with it advice for current students.
“Be patient; don’t sweat the small things. You will make mistakes, and that is okay; just learn from them. Apply for jobs that may seem out of reach; you never know, and besides it’s good practice. Have fun and enjoy what you do.”
CUTLINE: Brynn Elliott enjoys outdoor adventures in Alaska.