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Eastern Kentucky University graduate student Ashley Twehues is the 2017 recipient of the Rho Phi Lambda National Outstanding Graduate Student Award, the highest national award given by the organization to students in the parks and recreation field.

Twehues photoThe Sleepy Hollow, New York, native first came to EKU as an undergraduate student in the fall of 2010. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in public relations in 2013, she spent the following year traveling and contemplating her next step. Though she was unsure about a career path, Twehues knew she wanted to further her education. So, when a position became available in Eastern’s Office of Institutional Research, she quickly applied, and was offered the job, allowing her the opportunity to continue her studies without the burden of student loans.

Twehues then began the process of choosing a program. After talking with several friends in the Department of Recreation and Park Administration (RPA), she met with the department chair, Dr. Jon McChesney. By the end of the meeting, Twehues had found her new home.

“One of my favorite aspects of RPA is the department is like a family,” Twehues explained. “We attend events to show our support for each other, we partner with surrounding parks and recreation committees to plan city events, and we plan events to raise money for RPA scholarships.”

In Spring 2016, Twehues became a member of Rho Phi Lambda, a national honor society for parks and recreation students. She served as president of EKU’s chapter for the next year. Over the last two years, Twehues excelled inside and outside of the classroom, presenting nearly a dozen scholarly posters and technical reports at various conferences. She also helped Paintsville, Kentucky, achieve official “Trail Town” status, boosting tourism and the local economy.

That project, along with her academic record, led to Twehues receiving the Outstanding Graduate Student Award.

“This award represents everything I have worked for with my education. It represents all the hours of sleep I have sacrificed, the endless hours of studying, the days that turned to nights when all I did was research and write,” she reflected. “It represents the impact I want to make in the world of parks and recreation.”