Ashley Gleiman is an Adult Education Program Coordinator at Kansas State. She’s a military spouse, a mother of two beautiful children and a lifelong learner. Over the last fourteen years Ashley supported her active duty soldier through deployments, commands, and everything in between. During that time she moved seven times, changed jobs seven times, had two beautiful kids, survived nine deployments, took twelve years to get her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, and made countless friends all over the world. According to Ashley, “I live an amazing life and I am incredibly grateful for it.”
Q: Can you tell me a little about your life and work at Kansas State?
AG: Over the last four years I’ve worked with Kansas State University in several different roles. For an extended period of time I was the Adult Education Graduate Program Coordinator, where I recruited and advised military students and their families. Over the last four years I’ve also provided support and was part of an interdisciplinary team of academics who developed and implemented the Command Team Spouse Development Program – Brigade level for the U.S. Army, which is a pre-command and self-awareness/leadership course for spouses of senior military leaders going into brigade command environments. Currently I am transitioning out of this role and will assume a position as an Editorial Assistant with Adult Education Quarterly, which an international academic journal in the field of adult education.
Q: What made you interested in military spouses? What insight do you have to share that others might not know about the world of military spouses?
AG: My first experience as a young military spouse over fourteen years ago was not pleasant. In fact, I still remember walking into the unit for the first time and feeling like I had stepped onto another planet all together. The military can be really intimidating, especially for a new spouse at any age. For me, I was young, inexperienced, and suddenly thrust into a world where I was expected to have it all figured out. This, along with a great deal of uncertainty and lack of self-awareness led to several bad experiences and a reaction to withdraw from any active role in the unit. For a long period of time I felt resentment towards the military and found it easier to blame “them” for my problems. However, maturity, education, and good experiences eventually began to replace the bad ones and I came to realize that being a military spouse was a blessing. Over time you learn that you hold more in common with others than you think in this lifestyle, which leads to lifelong friendships and culturally rich experiences one otherwise wouldn’t have. Essentially, I came to realize that military spouses are the “rocks” in our families and the backbone of our military communities. It’s not easy, but the positives can often far outweigh the negatives.
Q: Congratulations on your doctorate! Can you tell me what the process of earning a doctorate while mothering two kids was like?
AG: It was definitely a challenge! Working and raising kids while also being in a doctoral program was incredibly exhausting. The key was that I enjoyed the subject and found amazing support. I am fortunate to have an amazing husband, who is also one of the most brilliant individuals I’ve ever met. To make things interesting, he also decided to pursue his doctoral degree at the same time. I guess we challenge each other in that way, which is great. His support and our shared love of education brought us closer in a way I did not expect. I also found amazing support in the friendships I made with my fellow doctoral students and the many military families I have as neighbors in our community.
Q: What are some of your greatest accomplishments?
AG: Aside from having my beautiful children, my greatest personal accomplishment was completing my dissertation, which focused on spousal education in the military and in particular the Command Team Spouse Development Program that I was part of. I found a topic that was important to me both as a spouse and an academic and it provided me an opportunity to give back to the many military spouses I’ve come to know. It’s a very BIG deal in my life that I am the first in my family to graduate with a doctoral degree.
Q: Where do you find balance? What brings you joy?
AG: I find balance in spending time with my family, walking my beautiful Border Collie, and laughing with friends. I find joy when I see my children’s faces as they learn something new for the first time or when they laugh so hard at one of my husband’s corny jokes that milk shoots out their noses. My mantra in life is that I’ve always wanted to work to live, not live to work. While I value my career and love what I do, moments with my family are everything to me.
Q: What question did I miss? What else should I know about you?
AG: Naturally, I am a huge introvert. So, I often need a lot of time by myself to decompress and relax. I’ve learned over time to be extroverted and to be social, but if given the choice I will always choose to stay in my pajamas and read a book over going out. The problem with this is that both my husband and my children are completely the opposite! Something that took me a long time to learn about myself and I now pass along to others as advice is to take care of yourself first. If you are not balance, nourished, rested, and happy then you cannot take care of your family or anyone else. As women, mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, and caregivers this can be incredibly difficult to do!