The college welcomes two new instructors in Fall 2021, including two-time CPHHS alumna Teresa Ashford, BS ’97, ’04, who earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Human Development and Family Sciences. “I like to tell students this was back when we were in the “College of Home Economics!” she says.
Teresa taught for five years in the OSU laboratory preschool – Child Development Center/Head Start program – and has more than 20 cumulative years of university-level teaching experience at multiple institutions, including OSU-Cascades, Washington State University Vancouver, WSU Global Campus, and Central Oregon Community College (COCC). She also owned and operated a preschool in Bend, Oregon.
“My personal and pedagogical belief in situated, intersectional pedagogies prepare me for this exciting opportunity to teach and learn alongside students in HDFS in Corvallis,” she says.
What made you decide to get into this field? Is there one specific moment that inspired your career path?
I was the rare undergraduate who came into university knowing I would major in HDFS (my mom, Peggy Hall Ashford, ’72, had the same degree!), but not really knowing what I would end up doing with it. During the summer between my junior and senior years, I was nominated to become an undergraduate research assistant on a project with the late Alexis Walker. We traveled throughout the Willamette Valley that summer interviewing women about their caregiving roles. That experience motivated my pursuit of further education, and Dr. Walker ended up serving as the major professor on my thesis committee.
What do you love about your field? What energizes you?
I love how our field is so relatable to students. Regardless of someone’s major, background or lived experience, there is something everyone can take away from an HDFS course. The content often pushes students to understand their lives in new ways and to contemplate new ways of thinking.
I love learning about new language as it relates to working with people. I am a proponent of intentional language and work to share the reasons behind that intentionality with my students. Person-first, often gender-neutral language is interwoven throughout my classrooms. For example, we may say, “The person with ovaries,” “The child with ADHD,” and “The kiddo’s grown-ups.”
Why did you choose to work at the CPHHS at Oregon State?
I am a lifelong Beaver! My grandparents, parents and myriad other relatives attended OSU. In addition to my two OSU degrees, over the past six years, I have served as an associated faculty member in the HDFS department at OSU-Cascades. When the opportunity to apply for a full-time position in Corvallis became available, I jumped at the chance!
What’s the best part about your work?
My teaching is guided by social responsibility, compassion, real-world experiences and love for the subject matter. Students engage in inquiry-based learning with interdisciplinary content to recognize the critical importance of gender and culture, diversity, and contemporary and global perspectives. Witnessing the growth and transformation of students over the course of the term and/or over several years makes for rewarding work!
What are you most proud of in your work so far?
For the past 11 years, before moving back to Corvallis, I owned and operated a small preschool in Bend, Oregon, called Aspen Academy. I built the school from scratch, and so much of my inspiration came from working at the OSU Child Development Center whilst in graduate school in HDFS. The program was a developmentally appropriate, progressive, model program. My five-star preschool program adhered to evidence-based teaching pedagogy while also serving as an internship placement site for students at COCC and OSU-Cascades. Our anti-bias, multicultural curriculum informed my academic teaching, provided real-world experiences for undergraduate students, and strengthened my credibility through lived experience.
How do you strive to affect people’s lives with your work?
I’ve never met someone in HDFS who didn’t want to make a difference in people’s lives! At all times, my teaching is guided by empathy, an equity lens, my lived experience as a member of the LGBTQ community, and my abiding love of the study of human development and early learning. Education-for-all, community engagement, and scientific exploration –- those cornerstones of our land-grant institution – serve as a constant reminder of my responsibility to enrich the lives of our students, and contribute to a culture of curiosity in my community through service. After completing my courses, students exit as well-rounded, empathic and compassionate humans who can go out into the world and be change leaders.
What is one surprising thing about you that not many people know?
I am one of the people in the bronze art installation in front of Reser Stadium! I auditioned first by submitting several photos, then came down to Corvallis to be interviewed, and made the cut. It was a full- day process – they shaved my arms and wrapped them in Saran Wrap, I had straws up my nose, donated a pair of sunglasses and a T-shirt to the project, the whole shebang! But now I am immortalized on campus and grateful it’s so high up; I can’t get vandalized by disgruntled students.
What are your favorite activities outside of work?
I am an avid reader of fiction and memoirs. In the summer, one of my favorite places to be is in my hammock, reading a book near a river at a campground. I also enjoy hiking, spending time with my pets (dog, cats and chickens), and trying out new IPAs.
Are you ready to learn from Teresa or explore where an HDFS degree can take you? Visit health.oregonstate.edu/hdfs.