Graduation is upon us and Ashley Foley, a senior political science major, will be completing her undergraduate degree program one year early with honors.
Foley found out she was pregnant last February, and gave birth to her daughter, Amelia, in October one week after midterms.
“I didn’t get much of a break,” Foley said. “I went back to my classes two weeks after I had her.”
Despite feeling ill all throughout her pregnancy, Foley stayed enrolled in all of her classes and ended up with a 3.8 GPA last semester.
Foley said this semester has been especially challenging having a newborn at home while also being enrolled in 18 credit hours.
“Amelia is a really good baby,” Foley said. “She sleeps through the night and barely cries, but she’s still a huge distraction.”
Foley says when she’s at home she doesn’t get much school work done because Amelia requires a lot of attention. She gets most of her work done at school, sometimes spending up to 12 hours at a time on campus.
Foley and her fiancé Ben Welch just closed on a house, and Foley said she had three papers due during the moving process last week.
Foley is currently enrolled in an accelerated graduate program for global studies and has had Ashley Leinweber as a professor three times.
Leinweber is an associate professor in the political science department and specializes in international and African politics.
Foley said she wants to teach political science at a university someday to have a part in instructing future politicians and researchers.
Leinweber said graduating early with honors is an admirable feat for any student to accomplish, but Foley’s success is especially impressive due to all of the challenges she faced and overcame during her time as a student at Missouri State.
“She’s a really good student,” Leinweber said. “She’s consistent about turning in her assignments, you’d really never know she has a pretty significant disability.”
Foley was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare genetic disorder that involves a breakdown and loss of cells in the retina, when she was born.
Foley said she had better sight when she was younger, but now her central vision is gone.
“I can’t really see straight ahead,” Foley said. “I see more out of the corners of my eyes, but it’s not very detailed.”
Foley uses Apple screen reading technology to complete most of her homework. She said this makes skimming the text impossible so she has to listen to readings in entirety, which can be very time-consuming.
Leinweber says Foley requires very few accommodations in the classroom and is very independent.
“Her disability does not define her in any way, shape or form,” Leinweber said. “She’s wonder woman.”
Foley said when she does need assistance, the staff at Missouri State have been very helpful in regards to her disability.
The disability research center recently worked with Leinweber to create a raised braille map of Africa so Foley could complete a test over the location of African countries.
Foley says she often deals with people’s ignorant comments and assumptions about her disability.
Foley said people say things about her in front of her, acting as if she is unable to hear them.
She said there is a difference between asking curious questions about her disability and making judgmental comments.
Foley said when she’s out with her daughter, she uses a chest carrier with a diaper bag on her back, making her hands free to use her cane.
Foley said there are often people she encounters that want to help too much.
“I’ll just be walking and someone will grab my arm to help me cross a street,” Foley said. “I don’t need that, I know how to cross a street.”
Foley said despite some people’s ignorance, she is grateful for all of the understanding people in her life, especially her fiancé.
Welch drives Foley to and from campus and takes care of their daughter when he gets off work from his job as a welder.
“Ashley can do almost anything,” Welch said. “We go bowling, I help her aim but beyond that it’s all her, we also went putt putt golfing last fall and she beat me.”
Welch said Foley is very good at getting things done, he said if she says she going to do something she always follows through.
“People have always told me I can’t do things because I’m visually impaired,” Foley said. “My biggest motivation has been proving them wrong.”