After graduating from Ball State in 2011, Ashley C. Ford took her English major to New York City to work for BuzzFeed covering stories mostly relating to LGBTQ issues.
Her connection with this movement traces back to her time at Ball State when she attended Spectrum meetings, hosted a drag show and made friends with people who were very involved with the cause. This was also a time when she was exploring her sexual identity.
“At that time, I didn’t really identify with being bisexual, and I didn’t really know what that meant,” she said. “Through different relationships, I figured out that I’m a queer person—I’m attracted to people all along the spectrum of gender.”
Just as her involvement in Spectrum helped her identify her interest in LGBTQ issues, her journey through "quite a few different majors" led her to her major in English.
“Ultimately, it was the thing I didn’t hate to do. It kept me constantly interested,” she said. “Even when I was frustrated with what I was reading and writing, [English] still kept me engaged.”
Ford worked for Pivot Marketing in Indianapolis for a stint while writing for The Rumpus before landing a job at BuzzFeed, influencing her to move to New York City.
“I would have never imagined I would get this far, because I spent a lot of years mentally putting limits on how far I could go,” Ford said. “Most of the dreams I had in college have just been doors to opportunities that go even further. It’s both beautiful and terrifying.”
A native of Fort Wayne, Ford emphasized that she never would have had the courage to move across the country to seize this opportunity if it weren’t for the encouragement of her Ball State mentors, especially Mitch Isaacs, the vice president for student affairs.
“He was always on my case to believe in myself more,” Ford said. “He really is the reason I moved to New York.”
Even though Ford’s accomplishments may come as a surprise to her, those who know her well expect nothing less.
“Asking me to describe how I feel about her is a like asking me to describe how I feel about family…. It doesn’t take any special talent or insight to see the greatness within Ashely," Isaacs said. "Her intellect, warmth and sincerity are obvious from the moment you meet her. I am not surprised by her accomplishments because anyone who knows Ashley knows she is destined for great things.”
Other faculty inspirations for Ford include Jill Christman, Cathy Day and Maude Jennings.
As her professor for a creative nonfiction class, Christman saw Ford’s potential for writing early.
“Ashley was a dynamic leader in the creative writing community when she was a student in the English department—full of energy and enthusiasm for good writing,” Christman said. “The creative nonfiction class she took with me stands as one of the most exciting and memorable in my 20 years of teaching. Those students wrote like their lives depended on it, and I remember telling Ashley: 'This is a book. You need to write this book.'”
Now, Ford is indeed working on putting her first book into the world.
Out of her published work, Ford said she is the most proud of her BuzzFeed essay “The Year I Grew Wildly While Men Looked On,” which is about dealing with being a woman and growing up.
“When a woman’s dealing with her outsides changing, we don’t have ownership over how that’s perceived,” Ford said. “There’s a changing perception of who we are, and for a lot of young girls it’s a very sad time. It feels like a loss—it shouldn’t have to feel that way.”
Ford said she couldn’t have gotten as far as she has without her Ball State education.
“The ways Ball State helped me was really two-fold,” Ford said. “It both helped me gain the confidence to be involved in things I initially didn’t think I was smart or skilled enough for, and it also taught me that the world around me is something to engage in, not just react to.”