18 May Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with current scholar Ashlyn Stewart
The Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board is interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova.
Scholar Year: 2013
College(s), Degree(s), and Graduation Year(s):
University of Denver, B.A. in English and History, will graduate in June 2017
When I graduate next June, I hope to continue my education by obtaining a master’s degree and then a doctorate. Right now, I’m interested in a Ph.D in rhetoric & composition because it speaks to what I’ve always loved about literature: the nitty-gritty rules of grammar, syntax, punctuation, diction, et al. I’ve also always had a love of writing, and I would thoroughly enjoy fostering a joy of the painstaking, frustrating, yet beautiful art in students as a professor. Rhetoric & composition offers a powerful, focused lens to grapple with writing and literature that I’d like to explore further. Still, other interests of mine like formalism/structuralism, criticism, library science, and, most of all, linguistics tug at my heartstrings and intellectual curiosity. I’m glad I still have another year at DU to get a firm plan together!
Tell us about what activities, groups and/or organizations you have joined in college and why you joined them.
My first rule for myself upon matriculating to DU was to only join three clubs — totally unlike the circus of extra-curricular activities I had in high school. I have since been able to dedicate thoughtful time, energy, and enthusiasm to a few instead of only having a shadowy presence in many. I wanted to join clubs that would foster my academic interests and connect me to people with similar ones, so I’ve primarily worked with the English Department’s groups, including the Foothills Visual & Textual Journal and the English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta. I’ve been the design editor of Foothills for three years now, and we’ve produced a journal to showcase student work each spring that I’ve been proud to distribute. I will be the editor-in-chief of Foothills next year, and the co-president of Sigma next year, so I think others have noticed my commitment as well!
Tell us about an important mentor you have had.
I had such phenomenal teachers in high school that I was worried I would not be able to find mentors who could compare while I was in college. Fortunately, I was wrong! One important role model and mentor for me has been the chair of the History Department: Dr. Susan Schulten. I had a class on the history of America’s presidency in wartime with her my freshman year, and with her help, have since grown into the history major I am today! She is a professor who empowers her students to learn and share, and a quiet leader who runs an amazing department. She has always made time for even my most banal questions and makes sure I truly understand her answer. Dr. Schulten is the advisor for the thesis project I will complete next year, and I can’t wait to learn more from her in my last year!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
My parents were careful to tell me that I was hard-working when I was growing up instead of telling me I was smart. When I did well in school, it wasn’t because I was smarter than other people, but because I worked harder. I still carry this sentiment with me today because how hard I work is what I can control. I can’t make my brain understand a new vocabulary term or see a sentence in a new way on its own; I have to put in the time and energy to make it happen! Some tasks might take less work for me than others, but I think every task I complete is going to take work. In line with this thinking, I believe the best advice I’ve received was actually a quote from Maya Angelou (one of my favorite writers): “Nothing will work unless you do.”
If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, who would you choose and why?
As a history major, this question is especially tough! It’s too hard to decide what historical mystery I would like to solve, so I’ll opt instead for making progress in historical linguistics. The group of people I would pick would be speakers of the English language and its ancestors across history. Linguists have done an amazing job of reconstructing how Middle English and Old English were pronounced based on limited manuscripts, and even proto-Germanic and proto-Indo-European before then based solely on inference and deduction. However, if I could hear and record how all of those languages were truly spoken, historical linguistics would have an enormous breakthrough! I suppose I’d have to figure out how to communicate with all of these people at my dinner party, but maybe that goes hand-in-hand with the time travel!