Meet Closing the Gap Featured Role Model (April 2021): Ashley D’Antonio

We’re proud to present this month’s featured role model, Ashley D’Antonio! Read our interview with Ashley below.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your educational background

I am a recreation ecologist by training. I have a B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Ecology from Penn State and my M.S. and Ph.D. are both in Human Dimensions of Ecosystem Science and Management from Utah State University.

Q: Can you tell us about your current work and occupation?

I work at Oregon State University as an Assistant Professor in Nature-based Recreation Management. In my position as an Assistant Professor, I do scientific research as well as teach classes and mentor graduate students.

Q: What have been the proudest moments/highlights/accomplishments of your career so far?

I think one big highlight was getting my job at Oregon State University! The College of Forestry is a perfect fit for my research and teaching interests and skills. Another highlight was having my first couple of graduate students finish. Mentoring students on their path to becoming scientists was not something I was sure I would be good at. So being able to support and help my first Master’s students do independent research on their own and succeed as scientists were something I am proud of – and, I was proud of them too!

Q: What are some of your future goals or things you would like to accomplish?

From a scientific research side, I would like to conduct more research locally in Oregon. I work in some amazing places around the West (Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain NP, Yosemite), but I really enjoy doing work that benefits the communities around and near me. So it would be wonderful to do some studies in local parks and protected areas around Benton County or even in some of the National Parks in the Pacific Northwest. Teaching-wise (which is another big part of my job), I want to work towards making STEM classes more inclusive and welcoming to all students. I am really passionate and dedicated to making sciences more accessible to folks. And one place I can make a difference there is in my own classes and by sharing inclusive teaching practices with my colleagues at OSU. I am hoping to build a guide about inclusive teaching in STEM for folks in the College of Forestry.

Q: What have been some of your biggest career challenges?

Finding that balance between life and work. Science and academia can be all-consuming at times. With any career, if you are passionate about what you do, it can be hard to make time for yourself and your family. Additionally, I study something that’s also sometimes I love doing (outdoor recreation) so sometimes that makes it even harder to separate work from free time. Additionally, in academic science, you often have to find money to fund your projects from outside grants. In my field, unfortunately, it can be hard to find support for the work. So I am constantly applying for grants and, honestly, sometimes competing with friends and colleagues for money. So that can be a challenge and a point of stress for folks working in academic positions – you can’t do science without money to fund it.

Q: Many young women might not be aware of the career available in STEM fields. What do you think can be done to spread the word to women about career options in these fields?

It’s hard to imagine or to become what you cannot see. So one of the best things I think we can do is to highlight and amplify the voices of the amazing women working in a variety of STEM careers. I think the Closing the Gap program is a great example of how this can be done.

Q: Do you have any advice for women who are looking to follow a similar career path?

It’s OK if the path to your STEM career is not direct! I often tell folks that my path to my STEM career meandered a bit, like the hiking trails I study. I took a break from STEM between my B.S. and M.S. degrees because I thought I might want to be a high school science teacher. I tried teaching for a few years to see if I liked it before deciding that I liked doing science as much as I liked teaching it. And when I was studying biology at Penn State, I took as many social science and sociology classes as I could because I was also really interested in that submit! And allowing myself the time and space to explore what may have seemed like tangents at the time – brought me to my current STEM career. As an Assistant Professor, I get to do science AND teach. And my field of science, recreation ecology, combines ecological sciences and social sciences!

Q: What do you like to do for fun in your spare time?

I like to spend time outside of course, but I also really love knitting and reading science fiction and fantasy novels.

April 2021 Closing the Gap Resources

Visit our Closing the Gap page to learn more about this project and meet our other featured role models.