National Transfer Student Week is Oct. 18 – 22. At CU Denver, the majority of our undergraduate students are transfer students. We are highlighting some of their stories to celebrate all the reasons transfer students enrich our learning community. Meet Ashley Miles, who went from being an underestimated high school student to a culinary school graduate to a pre-med student double-majoring in biology and business at CU Denver.
Military and Reservation Life
In some ways, Miles might have been predestined to become a transfer student. The child of military parents, she moved a lot during her childhood—from city to city and base to base. Additionally, she went back and forth between military and reservation life. As part of the Hopi Native American tribe and the Santa Ana Pueblo, Miles spent time on reservations in New Mexico and Arizona as well. “Both my parents are military,” she said. “We traveled a lot, and we went back and forth to visit family.”
During high school, Miles lived on the reservation and commuted to school, where she did not have a good experience. “I didn’t get as much support as I needed,” she said. “I even had people telling me that maybe I shouldn’t go to a university, but I was determined to continue. I just knew that was the right path for me, and I knew I was capable of being successful.”
Changing Careers, Changing Schools
Her university journey has had a few twists and turns, but Miles thinks changing course is part of getting to the right place. She started at a community college, where she “got a little more comfortable with the university setting.” From there, she transferred to Johnson & Wales University, where she earned her culinary degree. Along the way, she discovered that she had a passion for cooking—not a passion for being a chef. “I decided it wasn’t for me in a career setting, but I will always love cooking, especially cooking at home for my family,” she explained.
Miles decided to finish her culinary degree regardless—because she likes to finish things—and to conquer her fears along the way. “When I got to college, I told myself I’m going to take the courses I’ve always been afraid of, like math and science,” she said. So she registered for physiology at Johnson & Wales, where an impassioned professor helped her find her life’s calling. “Oh my gosh, it was so fun learning about the digestive system,” she recalled.
Once she knew she wanted to become a doctor, she decided to transfer to CU Denver as a pre-med student, with the hopes of continuing on to CU Anschutz Medical Campus to specialize in surgery, pediatrics, or endocrinology. “I knew I wanted to extend my education further, and I was looking for a university that emphasized science,” she said. “With CU Denver, there was the connection to the medical campus.”
Getting Support at CU Denver
At CU Denver, Miles received assistance from the Lynx community. “I’ve gotten so much support here through the disability center,” she said. “Support with my academics, from my professors, and I found a cultural connection with the Native American Student Organization.” A member of NASO since she began school here, she is now its president.
Miles also connected with TRIO Student Support Services (TRIO SSS), which supports first-generation and low-income students, as well as students with disabilities. TRIO SSS connected Miles to the Student Wellness Center, to scholarship opportunities, and to other students. “I met a lot of awesome people,” she said. “I even met someone from Jonson & Wales that I was friends with!” TRIO SSS also answered questions about certain classes and helped her navigate the accommodations process. “A learning disability is not really anything to be ashamed of,” she said. “I’m open about it.”
Besides the physiology class she took, Miles has personal reasons for going into the medical field. Because of her steady hand, she’s considering becoming a surgeon. “It can help my community a lot better if I’m in surgery,” she said. “I want to work on the reservation with my people.” She loves kids too, which may lead her to become a pediatrician.
Miles is also considering specializing in endocrinology so she can help her own family. Some years ago, her brother passed away due to a medical condition related to his pituitary gland. “And a lot of people in my family have thyroid issues,” she said. “If I specialize in endocrinology, I can help my parents and my family. I can be their second doctor and support them through the whole process.” Whatever specialization she chooses, Miles intends to help the Native American community.
Miles’ life has shaped her personality and her education. Moving with her military family, spending time on reservations, and transferring from two previous colleges to CU Denver have emphasized that change is an integral part of life.
Miles is now exactly where she needs to be. “I feel like I have the support that I never really got in high school,” she said. “I feel more confident, and I feel like I’m successful as an academic.”