MURRAY, Ky. — Ashleigh Deno, an alumna of Murray State, has been awarded the Edmonds Summer Fellowship from Human Rights Educators USA. The fellowship supports hands-on leadership experience in human rights education and works to engage young people in building human rights-friendly schools and communities.
Deno graduated in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in Secondary History Education. She was actively involved on campus and served as the vice president of the English Student Organization where she helped plan events for the department on campus. She was also the community outreach chair of Phi Alpha Theta’s Murray State chapter, a national history honor society. In this role, Deno worked to connect the college to local school systems to help expose students to historical studies early. In 2020, she received an award for Outstanding Undergraduate Research for her paper on the effects of hurricanes in the Old South. Deno spent the last two years working as a historical researcher at Wrather West Kentucky Museum where she specialized in women’s history in the Jackson Purchase Area, creating both physical and digital exhibits for the local community.
Kristen Swisher, the Education Placement Coordinator for the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, contacted me directly about the fellowship,” says Deno. “She thought I would be a perfect fit for it and that it seemed to align with my interests in human rights education as a social studies high school educator.”
“Ashleigh is one of the strongest student teachers that I have had,” says Swisher. “I began working with Ashleigh in January 2019 in her field experience placements, then again in Fall 2019. I was her university supervisor for student teaching at Murray High School this semester. She is a remarkable scholar and educator and is dedicated to her students. I cannot say enough good things about her!”
To be eligible for the fellowship, students had to express their commitment to the mission and vision of Human Rights Educators USA and be able to serve 100 hours during the summer on the organization’s projects. The 2021 summer fellowship projects include virtual Human Rights Educators USA training for action plan development, an online media strategy project, and organizational landscape mapping and outreach.
“It’s so exciting to win this fellowship,” says Deno. “I’m in good company with the other two fellows and this is such an amazing opportunity to have before I enter my first year of teaching. I can take what I learn about human and civil rights education in this fellowship and transfer that knowledge to my students and my district.” “Anyone who spends time with Ashleigh realizes that she is passionate about becoming a history and social studies educator,” says Dr. Olga Koulisis, assistant professor of history. “She not only loves history, but also loves getting more people involved in understanding the importance of the discipline as evidenced by her student teaching and her work at Wrather. As an HRE fellow, I know she will use the skills she learns to integrate human rights education into her classroom teaching. I’m excited for her and her future students!”
Deno believes her education at Murray State has prepared her well for her profession and life after graduation.
“I have absolutely loved my time as a history major here at MSU. I’ve had a lot of great mentors within the department and it’s almost bittersweet to graduate and leave all of these great people, but I’m ready to move on and become a teacher and become a mentor myself,” said Deno. “It’s incredibly important to study history so that we can be well-informed people, both of our own country and of global history. By studying history, I can be a life-long learner since there’s always something new to learn about.”