Meet Ashford's Community Manager: Natalie Mell
You may have seen me floating around Ashford University’s Facebook groups serving as an online community builder, subject matter expert, and all-around academic cheerleader. My name is Natalie Mell, and I am an AU-grad-turned-community-manager for Ashford University’s social channels.
I began working at Ashford in 2011 as an Enrollment Services Advisor and joined the social team in 2018 as a community manager. So far, I’ve helped celebrate your accomplishments, recognized your issues and concerns, offered assistance and support, and shared in the joys and pains of earning an online degree as a working adult.
After two years assisting the community, I have learned so much about our amazing and supportive students, alumni, and family. However, it occurred to me that you still don’t know very much about me.
That’s about to change. Today, I am launching a new blog series where I will be addressing some of the biggest issues, concerns, and experiences that our students and alumni may face during and after earning their degrees. Kicking off this series is a blog about yours truly.
Earning a college degree isn’t for the faint of heart. Like so many of you have expressed in our social channels, I, too, struggled to understand confusing financial aid documents, fought to make it through late-night study sessions, and encountered numerous obstacles while pursuing my degrees. But with nearly 52 classes and countless papers under my belt, I am prepared to be that extra line of support that you may need on your journey to graduation. So, without further ado, please allow me to introduce myself.
Getting to Know Natalie Mell
My path to Ashford began in West Philadelphia, born and raised. Just kidding! (Any “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” fans out there?) In all seriousness, I was raised an hour outside Philadelphia. In 2006, I started my freshman year at Temple University, which is in North Philadelphia, as a marketing major and proud member of the women’s soccer team. I had a great two years attending school and playing soccer. But after several injuries, the concussions caught up with me, and my soccer career ended. That blew up my world. The plan that I had created in my mind was now shattered and left to be re-written.
The unexpected change caused me to question everything, including where I was living and attending school. “What am I doing in North Philadelphia?” I asked myself. I live for the mountains, snow, and fresh air. I decided it was time for a change. Ultimately, this bittersweet event acted as a springboard onto my next adventure in life.
I spontaneously moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, to fulfill my love of snowboarding and to attend the University of Utah, where I eventually earned a B.S. in strategic mass communication. This is where I felt the burn of scrolling through endless FAFSA documentation—only to find out two weeks into classes that my financial aid documents were incomplete and my classes got canceled. Holy s*it. I was done for an entire semester, and my parents were going to kill me. I’ll never forget giving them the call and waiting for them to reach through the phone to wring my neck. This was another blow to my “plan,” and I was so hard on myself for being so careless and unorganized.
Here I am with my long-time friend, mentor, and former manager, Narima S., at our weekly "board meeting" in Vail, Colorado.
Despite this and other challenges, I ultimately earned my undergraduate degree in 2011. Soon after, I applied for a job at Ashford as Enrollment Services Advisor and thus began my life at AU.
I enrolled in Ashford’s Organizational Management program and earned my graduate degree in 2014. All went as planned, yet there were still struggles. I worked full time as an Ashford Student Advisor, staring at a computer screen, then would go home and stare at it more while I completed my discussion posts, responses, and 10- to 15-page final papers. Time management, exhaustion, and life events that caused me to need a break from classes all made earning my degree difficult at times. But in the end, I still reached my goals.
How Can I Help You?
The fear, confusion, anxiety, and stress that I felt from these experiences left lasting impressions, but they also taught me valuable life lessons that allow me to relate to and support Ashford students in my role today. My empathic nature kicks in when I see you asking for advice, and I am eager to continue supporting you on your journey.
A lot of that support takes place in Ashford’s Facebook groups, which now have more than 10,000 members. These groups act as a consistent place for you to receive advice and encouragement from your peers and me. It’s not always easy to curate a relationship with other students over five or six weeks of the course, but the groups are a consistent, supportive place to connect with others.
Each time you start a new course, you get placed with a new group of classmates. Our groups are a reliable place where relationships get built between students, faculty, and myself. I take comments from our groups and share them with AU administration to help better your experience and help align your “plan” to walk across that stage at commencement.
I encourage you to join in on the camaraderie today. Just remember, I’ve been in your shoes and will be there to support you. I can’t wait to hear from you!
In the meantime, be on the lookout for future blogs where I will weigh in on hot topics like how to better understand your financial aid, using the student portal, time management, and passing that tough class. If you need help, please email me at any time at [email protected]
Until next time, stay motivated!
Written by Natalie Mell, Ashford University community manager