Ashley Green liked attending Harrisburg University, but she always thought that after her first year, she’d return to San Diego, the hometown she left as a teenager when her family moved to the Harrisburg area.
She changed her mind as she came to realize the depth of personal attention she was getting especially the help that got her through a challenging freshman year. Though she had graduated from Central Dauphin East High School with a 3.8 GPA, her grades plummeted while she lived on her own and held down three jobs to pay her living and schooling expenses. She borrowed textbooks to study for her classes and laptops to complete her assignments.
“It took a lot of motivation to get me through and get over the discouragement,” says the HU graduate, Class of 2012. “My professors and friends said, ‘You have potential.’ It’s like a little family at HU. The fact that it was so small and everybody knew who you were and you knew who everybody else was, that made it fun, but there were no surprises.”
Ashley found her real turning point in her sophomore year. The biology major had always been intrigued by the workings of the human body and aimed to be a gastroenterologist someday.
“The human body is miraculous. It’s an amazing thing,” she says. “As much as we try to figure out what happens and for what reason, we’ve barely touched the surface.”
HU found Ashley an internship with the Dauphin County coroner’s office, and suddenly, all the pieces clicked. She participated in autopsies, with hands-on experience that included removing organs from bodies. Her fascination with anatomy merged with the challenge of solving mysteries.
“There are so many different things that can lead to someone’s death,” she said. “It may be normal on the outside, but when you get on the inside it’s totally different.”
The internship fueled a consuming drive to become a forensic pathologist. Her classroom studies with Dauphin County Coroner Graham Hetrick, an HU corporate faculty member, and Dr. Mrunalini Pattarkine, associate professor of biotechnology, provided kick-in-the-pants motivation.
“Those two were always on top of me,” Ashley says with a laugh. In Dr. Pattarkine’s classes, Ashley never wanted to be “that one person she calls out in class. Once you give her an ‘A’ paper, you’re done, because she knows what you can do and expects an ‘A’ paper every time. You don’t want to let her down.”
With her sights set on medical school, Ashley knew she had a long climb to bring up her GPA to at least a 3.0. Her professors did everything they could to help. When she struggled with calculus and feared having to retake the class, her prof put calculations in medical terms. Calculating the area of a bell curve became a puzzle in liver functions. “If a guy is sitting in bar and drinking,” he asked Ashley, “how long before his liver processes the alcohol?”
“Somebody at HU is always ready to listen,” she says now. “I never had a professor who said, ‘I don’t have time for this.’ Nine times out of 10, they say, ‘Here are your problems. How can we fix this?’”
When she graduated, Ashley was so proud of her 3.1 GPA that she posted on Facebook, “Good things don’t come to those who wait. Good things come to those who work for it.” She was shocked, and pleased, when then-HU President Mel Schiavelli cited her posting in his commencement speech.
“It was touching to know that people are paying attention, and people are watching, because sometimes you feel like you’re doing it for nothing,” she says.
Today Ashley works at Eurofins Lancaster Labs as a Chemist in Pharmaceutical Product Testing. In her time at HU, she has helped with freshman orientations, and she hopes to stay involved and help young students find the same fulfillment that she achieved through HU.
“I loved my experience at HU,” she says. “I’ve gotten so much backing and mentoring from them. I had a wonderful experience.”