July 14, 2014
From Nixa to Drury to Oxford, Ashley Maher is an example of how a liberal arts education can open unexpected doors.
The Nixa native graduated from Drury in 2008 with a degree in English and creative writing. But she began as architecture major. She was then able to combine her interests in architecture and literature while earning a Ph.D. at Washington University in St. Louis. Her dissertation looks at the influence of modern architecture on 20th century British authors, many of which worked as contributors or editors for architectural journals. This fall she will begin a three-year Junior Research Fellowship at Oxford University.
Maher was interested in studying architecture from the time she was in the third grade, and Drury’s architecture program was one of the major reasons Maher decided to attend Drury.
“I liked math, art history, and the fine arts and my father manages a lumber and hardware store, so I had some early exposure to the building industry,” she says. “I also took a couple of drafting classes in high school. I found the architecture classes I took at Drury interesting, but I felt that a change of major might be in order when I realized my favorite part about the classes was writing the analysis papers.”
Maher appreciated how her instructors at Drury made themselves available to continue discussing topics raised in class during their office hours. Several faculty members were great sources of advice as she began her own academic career. She also had the opportunity to study abroad in the U.K. where she conducted research at the archives of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
“Studying abroad in London gave me a better understanding of British politics and culture, which fanned my interest in 20th century British literature,” Maher says. “I’m looking forward to digging into the literary archives at the British Library and other locations around the U.K. when I move to Oxford in September.”
The Oxford fellowship is extremely competitive and is typically awarded to those approaching the end of their doctoral research. Maher will use the fellowship primarily to expand her Ph.D. dissertation into a book and to start her next research project. She will teach classes as well as participate in seminars and other programs across the university.
Maher and her husband David Ruvolo, are excited to start their journey in London as newlyweds.
“As for the charm of Oxford, the university has wonderful archives and academic resources,” Maher said. “I look forward to interacting with and learning from the scholars working there who are further along in their careers than I am.”
After Maher completes her three-year Junior Research Fellowship, she hopes to find a position as an assistant professor either in the United States or London.
Story by Colombe Iyeza, Drury marketing & communication office intern. A version of this story first appeared in the Springfield News-Leader.