Ashley Birdsell '13

How has a Hood education benefitted you?

My time at Hood prepared me to think creatively, and to appreciate the interconnectivity of the world around us, both professionally and culturally. I believe these skills make me a better arts manager, and certainly a more educated and empathetic human being. My Hood education served as the foundation for my professional and personal growth.

How did your time at Hood prepare you for your graduate coursework or career?

After graduating from Hood, I spent two years in New York pursuing an M.F.A. in Performing Arts Management from Brooklyn College. My Hood education influenced my graduate coursework every single day: the managerial and marketing skills I gained at Hood served as the foundation of my arts management education. Hood gave me context and a broad foundation from which to further grow and specialize. With my Hood education, I had a critical corporate context for the not-for-profit arts industry, bringing an audience-driven approach to the table and understanding the critical differences and interplays between the two sectors.

How did you find the transition?

I felt well prepared transitioning into graduate school. While the new coursework was certainly tough, my Hood professors had similarly high expectations. To this day, the most comprehensive assignment I’ve ever completed was Hood’s Senior Seminar in Management, taught by Dr. Jose. That sense of accomplishment – and the breadth and depth of managerial insight I gained in her course – remained with me throughout graduate school and buoyed me during the toughest graduate assignments.

Did you participate in extracurricular activities?

I loved being involved on campus. My time founding and leading Hood College Student Musical Theatre served as the incubator for my passion for arts management. The leadership skills cultivated in that group serve me well as a manager. Likewise, I served as a Resident Assistant for two years, which I always say makes me feel more confident in handling “just about everything.” My involvement in Student Council, Choir, Chamber Singers, and Blazer Radio provided a diverse skillset that mirrored my liberal arts education.

Did you decide on your major right away?

Yes, I knew coming into college that I wanted to major in business management. However, I was unsure about which concentration to pursue. Dr. Jose and Dr. Van Winter were both critical in setting me on the path to becoming a marketer.

What is your favorite memory of Hood?

During my senior year, I produced and directed “Avenue Q” as the spring show for Hood College Student Musical Theatre. It allowed me to pull together my love of management, marketing, and the arts for one final hurrah. We sold out in Brodbeck each night and brought in a record-breaking amount of revenue, but the most rewarding thing was feeling like I had done something meaningful and beneficial for the Hood and Frederick communities.

Who was your mentor at Hood?

I cannot begin to say enough amazing things about Dr. Gurzick. He is, without a doubt, the most influential and supportive professor I’ve ever had, and he was (and remains) instrumental in my professional growth. From Departmental Honors to musical theatre cameos, Dr. Gurzick was involved in every step of my Hood career. I am honored to consider him a friend and so lucky to have him as a mentor.

What is your opinion on the value of a Hood education?

Hood is the best combination of breadth and depth in education. In a liberal arts education, you’ll study a wide range of topics that flow into one another — and at Hood, these studies are more comprehensive than you’d think possible. It is my wish that everyone receives such a diverse, thorough education. Combine this all with the truly remarkable, dedicated professors and professionals, and the dynamic learning community around you, and it makes for an incredibly valuable 4-year experience.

What is your opinion on the value of a liberal arts education?

I am a firm believer in the power of a liberal arts education. My studies were wide-ranging, yet each seemingly diverse topic informed one another. Today, I use the teachings from Dr. Marcus’ “Re-Visioning Motherhood” course and Dr. Sandona’s “Tempest” seminar as much as I use Dr. Gurzick’s “Analytical Methods for Management.” It prepares you not only to succeed in your chosen field, but also to be a successful participant in and champion of the world around you.

What would you say to students applying to Hood?

The choice to go to Hood is the choice not only to pursue a stellar education, but to participate in a rich cultural and social life. The Hood community is like no other, and I am grateful each day for the skills, connections, and friends my undergraduate career provided me. Your time in college is what you make it, and Hood provides ample opportunities for growth inside the classroom and out. Hood is home.

What role has your Hood education played in your career?

My B.A. led to my master’s degree, which in turn has led to my dream role, championing the arts in my hometown of Frederick. Each of these achievements has built upon the other, and my time at Hood has served as the jumping-off point for my further education, career growth, and personal growth. It all started with Hood!

Why did you choose to attend Hood College?

Hood was an affordable, high-quality choice that combined a strong education with a wealth of extracurricular opportunities. (The beautiful campus, friendly community, and downtown Frederick location didn’t hurt, either!) Though I grew up in Frederick, I never realized that an amazing educational experience was waiting for me in my own backyard.