Alumni Spotlight

Personal Strength and Determination to Continue to Fight Through it All

Ashley Werdann ’13

Alumni Spotlight

Ashley Werdann ’13 developed an interest for medicine and law at a young age. She encountered many adversities while growing up, especially during middle school and the first years of high school. Werdann experienced many forms of bullying during her early years and extreme cyber bullying in high school.  Peers wrote hurtful comments such as, “Ashley needs to disappear and die. She is a waste of oxygen and does not deserve to live. When will she ever get the hint that we hate her and she will never belong?”

While in high school, Werdann’s plan was to begin an architecture program to pursue a career in residential construction for low-income families. Her interest in medicine and law persisted, especially when she discovered that the majority of her bullies came from broken homes, were exposed to abuse, participated in risky behavior and had underlying medical conditions.  “My thought was that if they had received the proper assistance from medical and legal professionals that maybe they would not have been bullies,” explained Werdann.  I could not help but ask myself if this was their way of asking for help.”

Werdann began her educational career at Philadelphia University as an Architecture student. She was eager to begin the Architecture program, but after a year, something did not feel right and she switched her major to Pre-medical studies. This program allowed her to examine the world of science and medicine.  She formed rapport with several of her professors and later conducted research with them. Werdann also became a teaching assistant and loved it. “During my duration as a teaching assistant I had the opportunity to work with students from all walks of life, with different needs, strengths and weaknesses, unique personalities, medical conditions and behavioral issues,” noted Werdann. The research allowed her to explore the correlations between medicine and law. She switched her major one last time to Biology because it would allow her to perform additional research and gave her the opportunity to take classes outside of the pre-med curriculum. Most importantly, it would broaden her options and not limit her to only applying to medical school.

The professors at PhilaU had a great impact on Werdann, what she did not realize was, she also had a significant impact on them.  Law and Society professor, Alan Barr, Esq., described her as one of his favorite students and a force of nature.  “When Ashley undertook a writing or research project, she put her head down and took command of the project like a great fullback dominating a defensive line,” explained Barr.  On one occasion, Werdann gave a presentation to her class and had all of her facts.  Barr said it was the finest led student presentation he had ever seen at PhilaU.  Frank H. Wilkinson, Associate Professor, Biochemistry also had wonderful things to say about his former student.  “Ashley was a campus leader and demonstrated attributes that we strive to develop in all of our students.” Werdann led an organizing and clean-out effort of the laboratory spaces in Hayward Hall. She applied the skills she learned working in her father’s auto parts store to develop an inventory system that has greatly increased the efficiency of finding materials.

Werdann’s time at PhilaU was described as a roller coaster. School and work have always been her outlets when life gets rough.  Werdann’s life has been far from easy.  She experienced bullying growing up, survived two life threatening surgical procedures during her time at PhilaU, her grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer and Werdann endured the devastation of Hurricane Sandy which adversely affected her parents and grandmother’s home, as well as her father’s business.  These life altering events caused Werdann to miss several weeks of classes on two separate occasions and she assisted her family as much as possible with their finances.

Today, Werdann is living in Florida. She began classes at Florida Coastal School of Law (FCLS) earlier this month.  Her ultimate goal is to utilize her study of the legal profession and her interests of medicine and law to help alleviate the pain families endure and provide people with a voice.  “The one thing that I have learned through my personal experiences is that having an advocate makes all the difference,” noted Werdann.  She is excited to start this new chapter in her life but will miss cooking and shopping with her mom, fishing and talking cars with her dad and listening to oldies with her grandmother.  Werdann hopes to specialize in family and juvenile law or health law, work alongside medical professionals and return to her original roots and work in the Keansburg School District in New Jersey, the same district where she endured many forms of bullying.  “Though my experiences as a victim of bullying cannot be compared to others or my time as a teacher assistant cannot compare to the true role of a certified educator, the understanding, determination, and guidance that motivated me to speak up, I believe, are the tools necessary for others to find their voice,” explained Werdann. I also know that I cannot change the entire world and remove all of the pain, but with the knowledge of law I can strive to make the lives of some a little brighter.”  Werdann concludes, “When you feel like giving up, give more!”