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Political Science grad says York College helped draw her out of her bubble

Ashleigh Sharland York College Political Science
Ashleigh Sharland ’17, a Political Science major, says her education at York College prepared her by helping build her character.

When Ashleigh Sharland got to York College of Pennsylvania, she had a plan in mind.

Always interested in history, Ashleigh thought that would be her educational path after high school. She thought about working in a museum someday and even had internships to help guide her in that direction.

Until she took her first Political Science course with York College professor and department chair Dr. John Altman.

“I always sort of discovered things through internships,” she says. “I went in as History, but it was probably a week after the Intro to Political Science course that I went to Dr. Altman and talked to him about a double major.”

Ashleigh graduated in May 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science with a minor in American History. She now works for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, in the York location.

Her work at the food bank goes well beyond what many might think. It is a hands-on position in which one of her duties is an environmental scan of food insecurity. She is working on a grant with the goal of eliminating food insecurity in York County.

“There is a new way of thinking about hunger in the U.S. Pretty much anybody can get their hands on food, but it’s not necessarily the right food – or healthy food,” Ashleigh says. “We are not just handing out canned food anymore.”

More prepared by fending for herself

Because of not only the class experience, but the teaching methods used, Ashleigh learned to create her own opportunities, including finding internships herself.

Although it wasn’t direct career guidance that helped her, the York College community played a big part in helping her land the position with the food bank and be a part of a major project.

Having a more hands-on educational experience, with activities including campaigning and working in the school’s financial aid department, made all the difference.

“The people they bring in and do well at York are self-motivated people,” she says. “In high school, I was a very average student. But the professors at York understood that if it was a choice between working in politics and doing a paper in politics, I am going to work in politics.”

Ashleigh added that her education at York College prepared her by helping build her character. She may not use the political theory learned on a daily basis, but her experience helped form the career-driven person that isn’t just going to go to work because she has to.

“I don’t think it was any one thing,” she says of her education. “The work in my department was very rigorous and having a teacher that knew to be kind enough to let you struggle a little, but not let you sink. They’ll throw you a life saver but not pull you through it.”  

Good advisor makes all the difference

 While many students change their majors during their undergrad years, having someone help find that new direction based on the individual’s interests is huge.

In Ashleigh’s case, she had someone tell her to take the Political Science class.

“York College is very good at teaching you how to push yourself that way,” Ashleigh says. “It has a lot to do with having a really good advisor.

“Yes, I love history, but what I am really interested in was the political side of that. It takes a strong advisor to draw that out of you. Having an advisor talented enough to bring those unconscious thoughts to the surface.”

That made York College the right choice for her.

“Deciding on a college and choosing what is right – it’s not about the best program but which is right for you,” she says. “Which culture are you going to feel at home with? That’s the stuff that is going to draw you out of your bubble.”