We asked CSHP alumni, Ashley Townes, to share a little bit about her experience with us at IU, her research, and her exciting career at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Ashley graduated with a Ph.D. in Health Behavior in May 2019.
Why did you choose to come to the Center for Sexual Health Promotion?
I decided to come to CSHP because I wanted to further my knowledge and develop research skills in the field of sexuality. I had visited the school a year prior and learned about all of the fantastic research that was being conducted within the School of Public Health, but more specifically CSHP. I knew immediately that it would be the perfect fit!
Where are you now?
Currently, I am in an ORISE HIV Prevention in Communities of Color Postdoctoral Research position. The position is housed in the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, Epidemiology Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga.
What experiences did you value the most during your time with the CSHP?
I valued all of my experiences, however, the most memorable were the biweekly CSHP meetings. In those meetings, we met a variety of speakers and faculty, we prepared for each step of the PhD program, and we built a camaraderie with faculty and students associated with the Center. It was a great way to collaborate on projects, become familiar with datasets, learn about applying for grants, and truly express our interests as researchers. We were able to discuss research projects, plan for conference attendance, and work on manuscripts for publication.
Why did you choose a career in sexuality research and/or education?
I had been working in seuxality education for nearly 8 years before attending Indiana University. I began as a Peer Educator in 2008 and had worked in various settings before deciding to get into sexuality research. I realized that there were few sexuality educators and researchers that looked like me and I wanted to change that for my community.
When you’re not working, what are your hobbies and interests?
When I am not working, I am enjoying time with my family, working out, traveling, or watching sports.
What projects are you currently involved in or excited about?
Currently, I am working with researchers from CSHP and external partners to disseminate data from the 2018 National Survey for Sexual Health and Behavior. I am also a blog contributor for The Buzz, created by Pure Romance.
What are some key pieces of advice for prospective or current CSHP students?
The first piece of advice may sound cliché but know your research interests and why you are pursuing your degree. The program is intense at times and CSHP is a great resource, however, it is truly up to the student to do the work and stay committed. My second piece of advice is get to know your advisor and build a working relationship with other faculty. The committee you decided to have is critical. They should be your support system, meaning, they believe in your abilities but will also challenge you to do your best. Yes, the goal is to finish the program, however, the long-lasting relationships that you build in the program are priceless.