Ashley Cray: Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award/Outstanding Student in Individual and Family Studies

A photo of Ashley Cray.
Photo courtesy Ashley Cray.

Ashley Cray is the 2024 recipient of the Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award, as well as the Outstanding Student in Child Development and Family Relations, Individual and Family Studies concentration award from the University of Maine College of Education and Human Development. Cray will graduate with minors in education and music. During her time at UMaine she has been a member of All Maine Women, the University Singers, UMaine Renaissance, the Honors College Student Activities Board and Backcountry Squatters. Read more below.

Hometown: Readfield, Maine

High School: Maranacook High School

Parents: Cynthia Cushing and Chad Cray

Tell us about your undergraduate research experiences: For the past two years, I have worked with the Servant Heart Research Collaborative on the Attachment Theory Team. In 2016, the University of Maine Honors College Servant Heart Research Collaborative Attachment Theory Team began developing a six-module workshop to introduce attachment theory and other evidence-based family-strengthening practices to caregivers in Sierra Leone. Developed in response to the global movement to phase out institutional care and reintegrate children who have experienced trauma into families, one of the core competencies of the AT Workshop is that it is designed to be accessible to low-literacy and non-literate caregivers. In the years since, the AT Workshop has been regularly and successfully offered in Sierra Leone and has been adapted for Haiti and Uganda. 

In my time with the AT Team, I have worked with other students to research parenting styles in countries such as Sierra Leone, Haiti and Uganda, to adapt the Attachment Theory Workshop, and create additional resources for our partner organizations. More recently, I was awarded high honors for my Honors Thesis, titled “Program Evaluation of the International Attachment Theory Workshop: A Program Evaluation and Analysis of the Evaluation of People Who Are Low-And-Non-Literate.” In this thesis, I researched and outlined best practices for evaluating people who are low-or-non-literate in human development training settings. Research on this topic is minimal and my thesis sheds light on the need for further research on the matter. 

In addition to my Honors thesis research, I worked with a team of fellow CHF seniors to research political action following school shootings in different states. We analyzed bills introduced and passed in different states following mass shootings to determine the kinds of legislation that were successful or unsuccessful in becoming law following these events. We presented our research, titled “The Impact of Shooter Attacks at U.S. Schools: An Analysis of Gun Legislation Introduced Following School Shootings,” at the UMaine Student Symposium on April 12, 2024.

Special thanks: Thank you to the professors who have supported and guided me over the last four years. You have helped me become the person I am today! Thank you to my peers, friends and family who have been sounding boards and sources of joy and inspiration on this journey. I would not have been able to do it without you all!

Favorite UMaine memory: My favorite UMaine memory is going on a concert tour of Italy with University Singers! We traveled to Rome, Florence, Venice and Lecco and got to experience Italy in the summer. I will always treasure the beautiful time we spent there and the wonderful music we were able to share with our audiences!