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Excelling in the Ivy League: Ashley Unglert

Ashley Unglert stood in the hall outside her first Honors class at Middlesex County College and wondered what she had gotten into. The class was "Biology for Non-Majors." What was she doing here? She didn't even like biology. 

"It was intimidating," she said. "All these students looked so smart. I was worried. But then Professor Donna-Marie Gardener comes bursting through the door and shouts 'biology is fun!' And you know what? It was." 

Ms. Unglert '10 was back on the Middlesex campus in the fall to talk with a group of prospective Honors students at a reception. The program, headed by Professor Gardener '00 and Mat Spano '80, began several years ago as a way to promote and foster intellectual curiosity and creativity, and provide additional challenges for high-achieving students. 

Ms. Unglert grew up in Old Bridge and went to East Brunswick Vo-Tech High School. She graduated from Middlesex County College in May of 2010 with a degree in Liberal Arts/History and is now at Columbia University. So far, she is a straight A student there. 

"If you told me five years ago that I would have been attending Columbia University, I would have laughed," Ms. Unglert said. She credits the Honors program with giving her the confidence to succeed. 

"If it wasn't for Professor Gardener, I never would have applied to Columbia," she said. "She taught me how to take a class with a lot of content and manage it - divide it into managable chunks and handle each one."

Ms. Unglert also took a mythology class with Professor Spano and loved it as well. "He taught me to think outside the box, which is extremely helpful at Columbia," she said.

She also said the program allows students to develop a personal relationship with their professors. "Honors classes are very small - at most 15 students per class, so you really get to know your professors," she said. "The Honors Program is amazing. It changed my life."