Ever since Ashley Raithel was a little girl, she devoured books. She read books from many different genres, lounging on the beach during the summer lost in fictional worlds. It’s no surprise that she became an English professor, but her path to getting there was not linear.
When Ashley graduated high school, she was not sure what she wanted to do with her life. She ended up going to cosmetology school and became a hair dresser. After working as a hair dresser for about a year, she realized she did not have the patience – or the skill, for that matter – to continue cutting and styling hair. She decided it was time to go to college, and started as a veterinary technology major at Mount Ida College in Newton, Massachusetts. Alas, veterinary technology did not suit her either. However, she took two freshman English courses and had the epiphany she had been waiting for – of course she should be an English major! Reading was her passion! The English major was fairly new at Mount Ida, and Ashley was the first English major to graduate summa cum laude from the program. She remembers spending hours in her professors’ offices, discussing literature and life, and realizing that she wanted to spend the rest of her life on a college campus. After Mount Ida, Ashley went on to Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts to earn her master’s degree in Literature. She worked for six years as an English adjunct professor at Mount Ida College, Eastern Nazarene College, Quincy College, Southern Connecticut State University, Eastern Connecticut State University, and Three Rivers Community College before becoming full time at Middlesex.
Because of her nontraditional career path, Ashley understands the complicated choices that college students have to make about their future. She tries to instill in her students a love of reading and writing, because those two skills will help in any career path, as well as life more generally.
One of her favorite authors, Anne Lamott, has this to say about reading and writing:
“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”
The love of reading and writing begins with understanding the power of words. Those who have always loved books understand what Anne Lamott is saying – the power of words can move whole groups of people to places they never imagined. They can become invigorated by what is on the page. For students to realize their full potential, they must understand the connection between reading, writing, and the rest of the world.
At Middlesex, Ashley mainly teaches composition and introductory literature courses. She also serves as the school’s American Association for University Women representative.
Ashley lives in East Haddam with her husband, dog, three cats, and five chickens. Her favorite authors include Tom Robbins, JK Rowling, Sherman Alexie, and Anne Lamott.