Ashley Wells, M.A. Student in American Studies

Ashley is an M.A. student in the American Studies Program here at CSER. Her research interests focus on Black women and mental health. We asked Ashley a few questions about her program and her time at CSER. See her answers below!

Where do you call home?

Long Island, New York.


Why did you choose to get your M.A. in American Studies at CSER?

I chose this M.A. program because I know that I would like to get a Ph.D. in American Studies in the future. I was confident that this program would give me the training that I need to thrive as a future doctoral student in this field. My interests reside at the intersections of Black studies, women & gender studies, ethnic studies, and english literature. I do not believe that any of those individual fields truly encompass my research, hence my interests in American Studies’ interdisciplinary nature.

What are your particular research interests?

At CSER, I am focusing on Black American women and the mental health crisis currently taking place. I am examining how Black women’s identity made it much more difficult for them to be diagnosed with and receive adequate/comprehensive treatment for mental health disorders. As a Black American woman, I hope that my scholarship can have a positive impact on my community and on future Black women leaders.

What has been a highlight of your time at Columbia?

A highlight of my time at Columbia has definitely been being on the executive board of the Arts & Sciences Graduate Council (ASGC). As the Communications Chair for the board, I am responsible for taking minutes during all meetings, communicating with department representatives across GSAS, and distributing the weekly ASGC newsletters. It’s been a really exciting experience, and I feel as though I’ve been able to connect with my fellow students in a way that wasn’t sure I would be able to do during Covid-19.

What do you do in your free time?

In my free time, I work as a research assistant in the History department, and I am also a member of the OADI Research Collective. The Diversity Research Collective is a cohort-based, year-long program comprising GSAS graduate students across multiple disciplines. All participants must be actively conducting research on topics that have particular relevance for communities affected by persistent marginalization and exclusion. In the collective, I am able to get a head start on formulating and articulating my future thesis to my peers, and this training has been invaluable.

Do you maintain any creative or political practices outside of Columbia which resonate with your studies?

While studying at Columbia, I also work full time as the Chief Business Development Officer of a non-profit called The Prosp(a)rity Project. The Prosp(a)rity Project is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to uplifting & advancing Black girls and women with the resources to help them thrive in all areas of life – financially, professionally, and holistically. Founded in the summer of 2020, our first initiative is to help alleviate the $35B in collective student debt that Black women are saddled with. This, coupled with their average financial literacy rate of 35%, places them at the sharpest socioeconomic disadvantage and diminishes their ability to build generational wealth. Our Economic Empowerment Initiative awards our 22 award beneficiaries with 100% student debt relief, one-on-one financial literacy training, and a professional mentorship program.

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