Four Questions with Dr. Ashley Bennett
Ashley L. Bennett, EdD is the director of college counseling at Emma Willard School. Dr. Bennett joined the community last year after serving as director of college counseling at KIPP Sunnyside High School in Houston, Texas. We asked her four questions about her experience at Emma.
#1 — What brought you to Emma Willard School?
I came to know Emma Willard around 7-8 years ago when my previous institution was in the process of rebranding. I was in charge of my department's website and the consulting agency we were working with pointed me to Emma's website as the schools were a bit similar in nature and mission.
I was impressed by Emma Willard’s emphasis on educating the whole student and the progressive and affirming messaging on the website. From there, I visited the site a few times a year to see what Emma was doing. I never thought to apply for a job, but this place had a pull on me from the very beginning.
By the fall of 2020, I was the mom of a little one and the guardian of my teenage sister and I desired more balance in my life. I also wanted to be in a place more in line with my values, so I found myself casually searching for opportunities outside of my home state. I knew wherever I landed had to be a fit for my family. Aijah (my sister) was in her junior year, attending school virtually, so she was open to a new adventure that would offer in-person learning. When I saw the posting for this role at Emma, I turned to my husband, Chevy, and said, "Wanna brave New York winters?" We laughed!
Emma pulled me in again. I applied and the rest is history. From the application process to onboarding, and beyond this has been one of the most rewarding professional experiences of my life. Aijah started with the Class of 2022 in the fall and was welcomed immediately by the class leadership. She is a naturally shy young woman, so I worried about her finding her place. My anxiety proved unfounded because she has friends, she's been accepted to colleges, she played two roles in Revels, and she now considers herself a New Yorker!
#2 — What is a typical day-in-the-life at Emma like for you?
A typical day for me includes working with juniors and seniors on their college counseling goals, working with the Adult Diversity Working Group, partnering with the Academic team, and enjoying all the delicious food dining services prepares for us!
#3 — What is one thing about the work of the college counseling team at Emma that would surprise people?
I think folks would be surprised to know that we don't have any preferences about where our students decide to go!
The college counseling team does not have an agenda other than helping students determine their best fit. Sure, it could be a “big-name” school. Or it could also be a small college in a rural area that offers everything a student is looking for. The right fit could mean a gap year, work, community college, etc. We love and affirm our students right where they are and are proud of the paths they choose for themselves.
#4 — What is your favorite space or place on Emma's campus?
Admittedly, this is a tough one for me since I started at Emma during the pandemic so I have not been fortunate to explore campus in depth. I spend the majority of my time in the Academic Suite in Slocum Hall, which is where the college counseling offices are located. In the common area, we have an acceptance wall where students are excited to share their college acceptances. I love this space because it's great to see them celebrate each other's accomplishments!
We also have a compassion corner where students share college news that was hard to hear. This is also a place where students support and uplift one another.
And, when the weather is nice, I really love seeing students on the senior triangle. My own senior has never invited me to step on the triangle so I look forward to receiving an invitation someday!