Ashley Hahn’s lifelong passion for community service began when she was barely a toddler, tagging along with her father at local fire department events in her hometown of Allamuchy, N.J. At Bryn Mawr, the same commitment to community drew the psychology and political science double major to the Praxis program, where she was able to develop her career aspirations as an advocate for victims of abuse. “I’m kind of obsessed with helping people — it’s what I want to do for my career and it’s what I’ve been focused on in my community service and academically,” she said.
In her first Praxis experience, Hahn worked with children between the ages of three and six with psychological, behavioral, and emotional issues in a Norristown preschool intervention program as part of an educational psychology course taught by now-President Kim Cassidy. That opportunity evolved into a summer internship through an Alumnae Regional Scholarship in her sophomore year.
In the summer of her junior year, Hahn was awarded the CEO Summer of Service internship and began a volunteer position as a domestic violence counselor at the Women’s Center of Montgomery County where she became interested in the legal process surrounding domestic violence law.
When the opportunity arose for the summer internship to extend into a yearlong volunteer position as a court advocate for victims of domestic violence, Hahn was encouraged by several of her professors to incorporate the opportunity into a Praxis Level 3 course.
“All of my professors have been so supportive of everything I do, whether it be applying for a fellowship, or law schools, or applying for an internship,” she said. “My Praxis faculty advisor, [Professor of Social Work and Director of the Law and Social Policy Program] Raymond Albert, really helped me think about things in ways that I’ve never thought about before and helps me tackle major philosophical and ethical debates that I’ve encountered as a court advocate.”
Hahn now serves as a domestic violence counselor, domestic violence court advocate, and a court-appointed special advocate for children.
Her experience directly informs her political science thesis, which will examine victim empowerment and paternalistic intervention for justification in situations of domestic violence. The experience also inspired her post-graduation plans as a Thomas J. Watson fellow, where she will travel to the United Kingdom, Australia, Guatemala, Brazil, Kenya, and Ghana to research the approaches taken by organizations in different societies and cultures to assist children recovering from traumas such as abuse, exploitation, poverty, and armed conflict.
“This is honestly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to combine my passion for helping children with my desire to travel,” she said. “Through the experience, I hope to explore my identity as an abuse survivor and learn different approaches to helping children that I can utilize as a political and legal advocate for abuse victims.”
Hahn’s advocacy has spread to the campus community, as well. As a hall advisor, she invited staff from the Women’s Center of Montgomery County to give presentations on domestic violence as part of hall advisor training. Hahn said she finds her commitment to support and service reflected beyond the classroom as a natural, dynamic part of the campus community.
“In a way, these experiences are bridging all of these gaps and are arguably about helping the community itself grow and experience more things, more than just myself.”
In 2015, after completing her Watson fellowship, Hahn plans to attend law school.