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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

‘Soul work’: One of first to graduate with acting for digital arts degree looks toward future

Photo courtesy of Auryonna Webb
Senior Auryonna Webb will be the first of two students to graduate from Wichita State with a bachelor’s degree in acting for digital arts.

It took Auryona Webb some time to figure out she wanted to — or even could — be an actor. She began her journey into performing and digital arts in high school, starting in a choir before being asked to help the theater department in her junior and senior years. This switch “hooked” Webb.

“I did (theater) shows those last two years, and it was like, ‘I might be onto something,’” Webb said. “Because for some reason, my brain didn’t connect the idea that I could be an actor as a viable career.”

When Webb got to Wichita State as a game design major, she still hadn’t decided on pursuing acting; the university didn’t even have the major at that point.

“I was going to be a character artist,” Webb said. “And then once the acting for digital arts program came out, like officially debuted, I was like, ‘It’s a sign, surely.’”

Nearing the end of her final semester at Wichita State, Webb will be the first of two students to graduate with a bachelor’s in acting for digital arts, which focuses on teaching students acting skills in the video game, film or recording industry.

The soon-to-be graduate said much of her class time is spent at Shocker Studios, attached to WSU Tech.

“It’s really a project-based degree path,” Webb said. “Half of it’s not even, like, learning how to do it. It’s just, ‘Here’s a project, go.’”

Throughout her time as a student, Webb has dabbled in various areas of the arts. Some notable projects include doing voice acting for Tanganyika Wildlife Park and Vizling, an app that aids visually impaired people with reading comics.

Webb has also done plenty of other work involving game design, motion capture and more.

“Auryona was one of those students that she came in, and she really kind of took the bull by the horns when it came to what she wanted to get out of her education,” Shocker Studios Director Justin Rorabaugh said. “And I saw her do that at a voracious rate.”

Webb said she is motivated by “having the opportunity to learn something that, one, I wouldn’t be able to afford, and two, wouldn’t know where to begin.”

“I’ve been doing projects to really test if this is what I want to do,” Webb said. “I mean, where else can you get training for motion capture work in the Midwest? Nowhere.”


Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Webb said it was a “culture shock” coming to Wichita State.

“For a long time, when I was down there, I was the only African American woman,” Webb said. “So it was strange coming to Wichita State, which is a PWI (predominately white institution).”

Despite this, Webb said the environment was “welcoming.”

“The community down there (at Shocker Studios) — because it’s so small and tight-knit — it’s like a little family,” Webb said. “Especially with the acting classes, you see the same five people, and for a time, it was just the same three people.”

Molly Strickler, the only other student about to graduate with a bachelor’s in acting for digital arts, said she and Webb were often partners.

“We’ve definitely gotten close, and she’s really fun to work with,” Strickler said.

Webb and Strickler said being one of the first students to graduate with a new degree comes with its challenges.

“Just in the three years I’ve been doing the program, they’ve already improved on things; they’ve gotten new faculty to teach things,” Webb said. “That’s what’s frustrating is that the opportunities are coming later, and we kind of missed it. So we’re getting the weakest version of the education.”

Webb said there can be pressure to perform at a level that validates the new program’s creations.

“If it fails, it’s like history dies with it,” Webb said.

Despite this, Webb said she and other acting majors are doing their best.

“We did it because we loved it,” Webb said. “Once it’s all over and done, we can make the faculty proud.”

What’s next

Webb’s next big project? Finishing graduate school. She’s currently on an accelerated track to finish her master’s degree in communications in spring 2025 and plans to teach as a graduate teaching assistant.

“I think it’s more advantageous for me to expand my horizons than for me to just kind of sit and … be like ‘I’m (just going) to settle down because this is what I’ve been doing,’” Webb said.

With her master’s tuition covered as a graduate teaching assistant, Webb said the reason for getting another level of education is “multi-layered.”

“I owe it to the people before me,” Webb said. “I also owe it to myself and also to the legions of women before me who couldn’t even get an education. I will get a master’s in their honor.”

While Webb isn’t sure what she’ll do after getting her master’s, she knows she’ll move back to Kansas City.

“There’s a lot of stuff I could try once I get back home,” Webb said. “The initial plan is always, like, ‘I’m going to Texas’ or ‘I’m going to go to California.’ No. I don’t want to go there. The cost of living is too high. So I’m just going to kind of embrace the blessing that I was born in Kansas City, go back there, try new things out, see how far I get in KC.

“I don’t need the name and lights. I just want to have that spark.”

With her formal acting education coming to a close, Webb offered some advice for aspiring actors.

“You have to do a lot of soul work, which is different, I think, from a lot of other jobs,” Webb said. “It’s going to require a level of maturity and soul work that you’re not ready for, but it’s worth it because … you get to ask yourself the hard questions really soon.”

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About the Contributor
Mia Hennen
Mia Hennen, Editor in Chief
Mia Hennen is the current editor in chief for The Sunflower. Before becoming editor, Hennen was the news/managing editor. They are a junior at Wichita State majoring in English and minoring in communications and Spanish, hoping to pursue any career involving writing or editing.

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