Gatepost Interview: Ashley McDowell, professor of communication arts

Photo by Melina Bourdeau

Can you briefly describe your resume and educational background?

I got my undergrad degree at Syracuse University, where I studied art photography. I then got my master’s degree at MassArt, also in photography. In between, I worked at a digital print-making studio, and I also taught at New England School of Photography before I came here.

Can you tell me about one of your biggest accomplishments?

Any time I have the opportunity to show my work and have a conversation about it, I always feel proud.

Are you currently working on any projects?

Yes, my foundation is work about my family that is centered around the struggle a family goes through when you have someone with a substance abuse or some form of addiction. I am continually working on that project, but I have also started to photograph people in recovery, which I am still in the beginning stages of.

What is the best part of your job at FSU?

I would say the best part is meeting all the different types of students who go here. I am presented with challenges all the time, and am continuing to learn as an educator. For me, I think the most rewarding part is making a connection or bond with the students, and at the end of the day, leaving feeling like I’ve influenced them in some way.

What are some of the challenges of your job at FSU?

That you can’t always have that with the students. There are some students that you won’t have that connection with, or won’t be able to motivate and inspire.

What would students be surprised to know about you?

“The Diary of Anne Frank” is my favorite book. I have read it so many times, and I just love people telling their stories. Since it is directly from her, I feel like it’s a really special writing.

What was your best undergraduate experience?

Going into my senior year of undergrad, the program I was in had you focus on one project, and that is when I was going through some personal things, and decided to focus on the family aspect. My professor at the time, who was a huge inspiration to me, really pushed me when I needed to be pushed. That relationship and cultivating that project, which has been ongoing since, is probably the most influential and best experience I’ve had. I’ve been working on the project for almost nine years, and it definitely influenced how I look at my own life, and I think my professor’s support and encouragement gave me the strength to pursue the project.

How would your students describe you?

I would hope they would describe me as passionate, knowledgeable and intelligent. I think they would say I care a lot about them and their success.

What advice would you give students?

I would say work hard, but right now is the time to try new things and try to expose themselves to different aspects of what they’re studying, so that they can make decisions later about what they really want to do. Right now isn’t the time to get so narrow-minded about exactly what you want to do. Right now is the time to be experimenting with all different kinds of studies.

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