Texas Tech University

Human Development and Family Sciences Alumna Helps Texas Tech Students Discover Future Careers

Breck Gavin

September 28, 2023

Ashley Penner

Ashley Penner utilizes HDFS knowledge to understand student needs as associate director of the Texas Tech Career Center

Ashley Penner graduated from Texas Tech University in 2012 with her bachelor's degree in Human Development and Family Studies, now known as Human Development and Family Sciences (HDFS). She went on to receive her master's degree in Counselor Education with a focus in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. Today, Penner is the Associate Director at the Texas Tech Career Center and is a doctoral candidate in the Counselor Education and Supervision program.

From her time as an undergraduate student to the early years of her career, Penner has held various positions on campus including student assistant in the TTUS Chief Financial Officer's office and coordinator for graduate admissions in the College of Education. During her master's degree, Penner was introduced to the Texas Tech Career Center through an internship and found it to be an immediate fit of work that she enjoyed.

Today, Penner directly helps students develop career skills and aids them in determining their career paths. Her exposure to a variety of course topics in the HDFS program has properly equipped her to help students with all different backgrounds.

“The courses that focused on multicultural competence and understanding that a person's culture and background play a significant role on their experience is something that I utilize daily,” Penner said. “This was further reinforced in my master's program, but that need to individualize and practice cultural competence started in the HDFS program.”

One of Penner's most valuable experiences during her Human Development and Family Sciences undergraduate program was her practicum experience at Buckner Aftercare. There, she supported foster youth aging out of the foster care system. The experience was so valuable that she now recommends students to pursue similar learning experiences, regardless of their degree.

“In my time at the Career Center I have also emphasized and encouraged students to engage in experiential learning,” Penner said. “This is a direct result of my time in the HDFS program because I learned the most from my practicum experience and my opportunities to serve the community regarding the type of setting I would thrive in.”

Reflecting on the value of her degree, she also recognizes the impact that the HDFS program has had on her personal life. Penner said that she utilizes many of the skills she learned in the program, specifically those that help her to communicate more effectively.

“The content in the courses that I took not only inspired me professionally but personally,” Penner said. “I was able to apply practical lessons regarding communication and family systems and service almost immediately. I've consistently considered myself someone who takes a developmental approach and I credit that to the program.”

Penner enjoys the opportunities that she has at the career center to influence and help students directly. In the future, she hopes to continue making an impact and hopes to explore innovative programs that will support the career development of many more Red Raiders.