Kristen Ashworth, Three-time Recipient of Curry School Foundation Fellowships

Both of Kristen Ashworth’s parents are teachers, but not until after she had earned two bachelor’s degrees in business did she even consider a career in education. That’s when circumstances led her back home to southern Virginia, and she took a high school teaching job in special education on a provisional license.

“I had prayed for the perfect career path in the business world, but I found my passion in teaching children with disabilities,” Ashworth says.

Within a year, she had started working on her masters of education degree and was already thinking about how she could make more of a contribution to the field.  She eventually decided she would do that by becoming an education researcher in special education. She chose the Curry School because of our nationally ranked special education program that has some of the top researchers and pioneers in the field. 

Last summer she completed her doctoral dissertation on the effectiveness of a vocabulary intervention for at-risk first-grade readers. She began a new job this fall as an assistant professor of teacher education at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

She enjoyed many valuable experiences while at Curry, she says.  “The opportunities to teach, conduct research, and collaborate with faculty and other students are all equally valuable and have prepared me for a position as a researcher and professor.”

Another valuable aspect of her Curry experience has been the financial support she received from Curry School Foundation fellowships. Last year, the Eli M. Bower Fellowship helped defray her education expenses, and in the prior two years, she received assistance from the John B. and Florence S. May Fellowship.

“This funding allowed me to focus on my school and research that I hope someday will make a positive impact on the outcomes of children at risk for disabilities or school failure.”

“Moving from a position as a full-time teacher with a solid income to a full-time doctoral student was not an easy transition,” Ashworth says. “The fellowships allowed me to attend school full-time to develop my knowledge and skills and contribute to the field of special education in a way that I couldn't as a teacher.”  The fellowships helped her with tuition and other school expenses, as well as living expenses that she could not have otherwise afforded. 

“This funding allowed me to focus on my school and research that I hope someday will make a positive impact on the outcomes of children at risk for disabilities or school failure.”

Eli M. Bower was a pioneer in the field of early education of children with disabilities and a former president of the American Orthopsychiatric Association. The fellowship fund was established by an anonymous donor and supplemented by many friends and colleagues in honor of his legacy. It is given to students who are involved in the education of students with emotional behavioral disorders.

The John B. and Florence S. May Fellowship was established by the Mays and is awarded to students studying and conducting research in learning disabilities. John received a Ph.D. from the Curry School in 1937.

UPDATE: Kristen completed her Ph.D in 2012 is now on the faculty at the College of Charleston.

Story and photo by Lynn Bell

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