Ashley Church: Reaching Goals, Becoming a CSI, and Being a Boss at 25
With a love for science, “CSI: Las Vegas,” and a desire to serve justice, Ashley Church, 25, has dedicated her time and energy, since high school, to becoming a crime scene investigator. She offers advice on reaching one’s goals.
- We all know and love the popular crime shows, but what exactly does being a CSI actually entail?
Job role: Apply scientific principles to identify, classify, and analyze physical evidence related to crime scenes. Job duties: Search for, collect, photograph, and preserve evidence. Identify hair, skin, tissue, blood, bones, or human organs. Process the crime scene using chemicals, light source enhancement, and other methods. Reconstruct crime scenes, preserve marks or impressions made by shoes, tires, or other objects by plaster casts. Sketch or draw details of crime scenes. Collect and package evidence for presentation in court. Prepare reports or presentations of findings, methods, and techniques used to support conclusion. Act as a liaison between crime laboratories, investigators, prosecutors, and defense attorneys. Submit evidence for examination to FDLE and/or FBI labs. Testifying in court hearings about work performed.
- What inspired you to pursue your field?
I’ve always loved science since I was in elementary school. It may sound cheesy, but I became inspired to pursue a career in crime scene investigations when CSI: Las Vegas became popular. Applying science to catch bad guys and put them in jail? I thought, “How cool would that be!” So everything I did from high school, to college, to graduate school was to prepare me for a job in crime scene investigation.
- What are the best and worst parts of your job?
Of course, the worst part of my job is being there on what is probably the worst day of someone’s life. The best part of my job is when I help solve a case or bring someone to justice as a result of evidence that I had collected or processed.
- Who inspired/inspires you? What do you do in your day-to-day that you feel is a key to success?
My parents always have and continue to be an inspiration for me. My father has climbed his way to the top of the Florida State Park system and in turn has guided me through the job market, helped me prepare for interviews, and provided me with the skill set I need to be a successful leader in my career and in life. My mother is a kind and compassionate woman, always thinking of others before thinking of herself. She has supported me through the good times and the bad, and has cheered me on when I felt like giving up. Although it is challenging at times, I find balancing my father’s confidence and my mother’s selflessness is the key to being successful in day-to-day life.
- Do you have any advice for women in science/workforce, and any for life in general?
For some reason, many find it surprising when a woman in science is attractive and wears makeup or when a business woman is intelligent and may have insight on other topics than those brought up at work. Don’t let others limit you by confining you to a stereotype. Trust me … when I was in high school whoever thought a female band geek could win a school pageant while lifting weights on the weightlifting team?
- Have you had to make sacrifices to get to where you are? Is there anything you would change?
I started dating my husband when I was a senior and he was a junior in high school. I always knew I wanted to go to the University of Central Florida for my bachelor’s degree. Not even a year into our relationship I moved to Orlando, Florida and we spent the next year living 2.5 hours apart. We continued dating and he followed me to UCF after he graduated. Three years later we were separated again. I started graduate school at the University of Florida while he finished his bachelor’s at UCF. It was definitely difficult to keep a long-distance relationship for two years, but he has always been nothing but supportive and I couldn’t have married a better man. Although it was tough, I wouldn’t change a thing. Of course, there were times when I wished things had gone differently. But it’s those challenges and experiences that make me who I am today.
- Did you ever have doubts in your journey to becoming a CSI?
Of course! I loved learning, but it was difficult for me to sit there and just read a textbook word for word. I was more of a hands-on learner. So when it came to exams, I was never a top student. But when it came to projects or class presentations, I excelled. The first phase of the application process for my current job consisted of a 50-question exam. Needless to say I was nervous and knew that I wasn’t going to be at the top of the list. I did well enough to get a call back for an interview, where I was able to overcome the exam score by showing I was knowledgeable and had a well-rounded personality. I made the cut and the rest is history
- Are there any differences in your line of work for women versus the work for men?
At my job, twelve of the sixteen employees in the Forensics Unit are women. I’d say that’s pretty impressive! As a young woman, I have found sometimes others struggle to take me seriously because I’m new to the job and have a friendly, upbeat personality. Thankfully, I have supervisors (both male) that keep an open mind and trust my judgment.
- Do you have a favorite quote?
“Every journey begins with a single step.”
- Any routine you do in your day-to-day that you feel is a key to success?
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, mentally and physically, is essential for success. Of course, it is important to have a good work ethic. But it is also important to take mental breaks (meet an old friend for lunch, go somewhere you have yet to explore, live life!) and make healthy choices (nourish your body and exercise). If you don’t take these mental and physical breaks, you’ll drive yourself and the people around you crazy.
- If you weren’t a CSI, what other field would you be interested in?
I really love exercising. I try to motivate and empower other women to lift weights or run a 5k, especially if they’ve never tried it before. I would be most interested in becoming a personal trainer at a local gym.