Ashley Cavanagh '19


Name: Ashley Cavanagh

Year: 2019

Major & Minor: Physics & Romance Languages

Pronouns: She/her/hers

Hometown: South Salem, NY



One of my favorite things about you is that you’re a figure skater turned hockey player! What was it like transitioning from an individual sport to a team sport?

It was really great because that’s one of the things I didn’t like about figure skating, that it’s just you and you don’t really have a way to make friends in the sport. I did do Theater On Ice*, which was a team, but it’s not the same where you’re really working together and relying on your teammates and no one is trying to be the star and show everyone up. Hockey doesn’t work like that. You have to all work together or it’s not going to get done. It’s also been a great way to make friends, which is something I really love.

*"Theatre On Ice (TOI) is a form of competitive figure skating that is popular in Europe, where it is known as Ballet on Ice. It combines the grace of figure skating with the excitement of theater and dance. Teams consist of between eight and 30 skaters." (


How do you feel about playing center?

It’s a lot of skating, and I’m usually very sore afterwards, but it’s a fun position because I can support everyone and I know what’s going on at all times on the ice. I also don’t really have to worry about making sure I’m in the right zone since I’m just supposed to focus on where the puck is. So it’s easier to just follow the puck than it is to think about being above the hashmarks like a wing.


What do you tell people who say hockey is a “man’s game”?

I say that they’re wrong! That’s just absurd. To me that doesn’t even make any sense because how can you say that something is “just for men”? It’s for the people that do it. Clearly there are women who play hockey, so it can’t be a “man’s game”. It’s a sport for everyone. Your gender has nothing to do with your ability to play a sport. Especially since the professional women’s hockey league was started. It’s been showing people that, yes, women can do this and women can do this professionally.


And that Disney movie, Inside Out!

Yeah when I saw that it made me so happy! I was like, “Yes! Little girls can be hockey players!” There are a lot of little boys that play hockey but they also make it hard on the girls who do want to play because they’re the only girl on the team. Girls get called out for being “The Girl” and sometimes they get made fun of, or they get told, “Tuck your hair under your helmet or else the other team will call you out for being a girl” and it’s awful. Actually, my brother plays Varsity Hockey in high school and last year I went to an awards ceremony for his league, and there was one girl. Not just on his team, but of all of the teams in his league. All of the best players were getting awards and there was one girl who got an award for this entire dinner. There were at least 50 people up there getting awards for all different teams, and one girl there. I saw her and I was so proud, like, “Get it, girl!” and my brother was like, “Yeah, she’s really good.”


What’s it like being a figure skating instructor?

It’s fun! The kids are so cute. I mostly work with very little babies who are learning how to fall down and get up and take little steps and they’re all so cute. They have their little snow suits and they’re just marching across the ice. They’re always so excited and they have fun. They’re always talking about how, “Next year I’ll be doing a triple jump!” But it’s like, “Sweetie, you don’t know how to go backwards yet!” They always get so excited. I work at this skating camp as a counselor in the summer and they do a show at the end of every week, and the kids get so excited about the show. It’s just for their parents and they make up these routines all by themselves within a week. So they’re always really weird and bad and so funny, but these kids put on fancy dresses and they skate in circles to random pop songs trying to impress their parents.


How has playing hockey affected your experience at MHC?

I think I made so many friends from playing hockey that I can’t even imagine Mount Holyoke without the hockey team. Even just having practice every week is always an important part of my day. I’m stressed and I’m busy but tonight I can go to practice, I can get it all out on the ice, hang out with my friends. And games and team bonding are such a big part of my weekend, and team brunch and everything; I couldn’t even imagine what my Mount Holyoke experience would be like without the hockey team and all my hockey friends.


What’s your favorite thing about Mount Holyoke? And what made you want to become a tour guide?

My favorite thing about Mount Holyoke is the people and the community. That was what drew me to Mount Holyoke when I was looking at colleges. I met a lot of people here because I did a shadow day, so I met a lot of current students and everyone was really different from each other, but what they had in common was how much they loved Mount Holyoke and how much they supported each other. Everyone is from really different backgrounds and also everyone has so many academic interests and extracurricular interests and things like that, but everyone is so supportive of each other which to me stands out and is not common in a lot of other schools. Especially when talking to friends from high school who go to different schools, they don’t have this kind of tight-knit community and environment that we have and that I love about Mount Holyoke. And I guess that’s also why I wanted to be a tour guide, because I really love it here. Why wouldn’t I want to get paid to talk about why I love it here! It’s such an easy job! Just be honest and ramble about how great Mount Holyoke is.


What is one class you’re glad you decided to take?

I think I’m glad I decided to take most of my classes because they’re all really interesting, but I guess the one that I wouldn’t have expected to take that I’m really glad I took was Spanish. I took French throughout high school and I was planning to do a French minor, but then the times for the French classes conflicted with my schedule but I was like, “I want to do some language, so I guess I’ll take Spanish.” And I’m really glad I took it because now I’m going to be a Romance Languages minor, instead of just French, because I want to continue with Spanish. It’s just one of those things where so many people in the world speak Spanish that I’m really glad that I can sort of understand what they’re saying—I’m still getting there. Spanish is something that I wouldn’t have expected to take. I'm really glad I took all my physics classes but I knew I would take those.


What drew you to physics?

So when I was in high school I did this 3-year research project class, it was this class that you would take 3 years in a row. So what you would do is, your first year—you start as a sophomore—you research different topics, find one you’re really interested in, and then email scientists and find someone to go work with in their lab over the summer. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I read some articles about black holes, and then I started reading some articles about quantum physics and physics stuff and even though I hadn’t actually taken physics yet I was like, “This is really cool, I want to keep doing this!” And I ended up doing this research project where I worked with scientists in this lab in New Jersey doing work on quantum computers and I found it was really cool. I really loved the chance to be able to do research in that environment, and I wrote a paper, and I presented my work. It was something I really enjoyed and assured me that I wanted to keep doing this; I want to keep doing research. And that experience brought me to physics.


Tell me about some of your goals & what you plan to do with your physics major. I definitely want to keep doing research. When I graduate Mount Holyoke, I want to get a PhD, I want to work in a lab, at a university doing research, doing physics. I don’t really know specifically what field of physics I want to go into yet, I really like quantum physics, and that’s kind of where I’m leaning. Either quantum physics or atomic physics, and definitely PhD, research, that track.


What’s one thing that would people be surprised to find out about you?

I feel like I’m very much an open book. I like to draw, I don’t know if that’s surprising though. I like art a lot. There’s so much overlap especially with physics because you can go the route of physics of color and that intersection of how you use science to make art, like sound and music. I took an art class in high school where almost everyone in the class was also really interested in science. Even people who like biology and drawing, and drawing for textbooks is a common thing.


If you would like to write for Her Campus Mount Holyoke, or if you have any questions or comments for us, please email [email protected].