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Undergraduate Student Spotlight

Our students are driven to inspire and engage others through teaching and education. Their efforts will make a difference in countless lives for years to come. Learn more about what they are doing to prepare themselves for their rewarding and challenging careers ahead through our Student Spotlight feature.

Ashlie Ryan SassAshlie Sass

Major: Special Education
Hometown: Carmel, IN

Ashlie Sass, a senior in special education mild and intense intervention, has been interested in special education ever since she became involved in her high school’s Peer Facilitator program as a sophomore.

Flash forward to her senior year at Purdue University. After she completes her 50 days of student teaching in Carmel, Indiana next semester, she’ll head off to Ennis, Ireland for a 10-week long student teaching experience within one of Ireland’s special education programs.

“It gives you a cool experience of living overseas,” says Sass. “Most people do a home stay, so you’re staying with someone who works at the school you’re going be at. You really get immersed in the culture.”

Coming from a family of multiple Ball State alumni, Sass’ decision to go to Purdue wasn’t taken lightly. However, she’s found that her involvement in multiple extracurricular activities on campus, including her membership in the Cooperative System and being involved in the Council for Exceptional Children, has provided her a home away from home.

“[The Cooperative System] has been something super cool and unique. I’m super glad that I came here because if I had gone somewhere else I wouldn’t have had the living situation I’m in now, which is one of the best parts about being at Purdue,” says Sass.

It wasn’t just her involvement in the Cooperative System that drew her into Purdue. The small class sizes and ability to get to know her professors on a personal level is something that she champions as a highlight of Purdue’s education program.

“The education department is really good here. Especially [in] my major because I’m in mild and intense, and I think there are eight of us who have gone through classes together. I’ve had a couple of classes where it’s just the professor and the eight of us,” says Sass. “We’re all super close. It’s like a group of people that I’m with all the time that I really like. And the professors are phenomenal.”

Even though Sass doesn’t know anyone very close to her who lives with a disability, she finds working with students with disabilities has helped her feel inspired by their capacity for learning and growth.

“I think the most rewarding part is when you see a student make progress toward reaching a goal,” says Sass. “For some students, progress is very slow and it’s hard to see it in the day-to-day how they’re doing. It may seem like they’re not making any progress, but when they do, it’s really exciting. It’s definitely the best part of [working in] special education. Working with the students [is another favorite part], because they’re all so unique and fun.”

Sass’ long-term goals post-graduation include looking towards teaching on military bases that have special education programs. Her mother and father served in the armed forces and the navy respectively, so this is a way she feels she can give back.

For now, she plans to look for jobs around the Carmel area when she returns from Ireland so she can stay close to family. Her interest lies in elementary education, and she plans to focus on kindergarten through fifth grade life skills teaching.

Written by Lori Bowes, writing intern, fall 2019