Nez Parr, from Newport, is graduating with first-class honours, from University of South Wales (USW).
A star student on the BSc (Hons) Psychology with Counselling course, Nez studied part-time alongside her freelance work as a British Sign Language Interpreter.
She decided to utilise her expertise in British Sign Language (BSL) in her dissertation research, applying eye-tracker software to investigate if sign language is directed more at the face, mouth, or hands.
Nez said: “This was a challenging project to undertake during a pandemic. I had to think creatively about how to recruit participants, in designing an online version of an eye tracking study, and how to provide instructions. My results backed up the existing research, that deaf people look at faces when they are communicating in sign.
“I have been interested in sign language from a young age. I had a childhood friend who was deaf. We used to play together outside church. In the 1970s, sign language wasn’t encouraged. She didn’t sign and nor did her parents. I don’t know how exactly we did it, but we managed to communicate in play and that fascinated me.”
Though she loves her job, Nez decided at 45 that she wanted to further her education:
“My three children are either studying now or have graduated, and my husband has a PhD, so I thought to myself that I didn’t want to be the only one without a degree.
“My work is a real privilege and comes first, so I applied to study part-time and to see where it took me. At the start, I doubted myself, but I enjoyed learning so much and I love thinking in different ways.
“My advice to anyone thinking of studying part-time would be to go for it. The benefits far outweigh the negatives. The learning journey has been phenomenal and now I am thinking about what to do next. Plans are in progress to work with the British Deaf Association and other key organisations.”
Dr Biao Zeng, Lecturer in Psychology, said: “Working online will be part of future life. Understanding the communication pattern of deaf people conversing online will make working from home more accessible and reduce social exclusion.
“Though I was Nez's tutor, I learned a great deal from her, especially regarding British Sign Language. I am delighted to see our USW student's psychology research addressing some real problems exacerbated by the Covid19 pandemic.”