Ashley Katon ’09 recalls a dynamic class discussion led by Political Science Professor Ali Ahmida during her freshman year at UNE: “He asked what we knew about veils or headscarves. I had only associated veils with traditional wedding gowns, and I had misconceptions about what they meant and how they were used around world. I was so fascinated by what I learned that three years later I chose to do my senior thesis about veils.”
Katon learned that headscarves can be symbols of oppression, modesty, fashion, religion, and even power. She realized that, like revealing the many stories under a scarf’s delicate layers, considering what’s not always evident at first glance and never jumping to conclusions is a valuable skill. “A lot of people pass judgment on things they don’t understand, so raising awareness is important to me.”
The insights Katon acquired during her undergraduate experience–independent thinking, respect for diversity, problem-solving, the importance of teamwork–prepared her for her current professional success as a project specialist with TD Bank, N.A.
“As a poly-sci major at UNE, I learned you don’t take something at face value. You ask, what caused this? What are they asking for?” says Katon. She has applied the same inquisitive approach to her career and has been promoted four times in as many years at TD by asking, “How does that work? How can I help? What else can I do?”
Katon entered UNE with aspirations of becoming a lawyer, but she says her “eye-opening academic experience” changed both her perspective and career goals.
Katon says she never expected to find a similar philosophy in corporate America, but she is thriving in what she calls TD’s “culture of learning.” At TD Bank, she has participated in training sessions on microinequities, working with difficult people, and having hard conversations. Katon’s job responsibilities range from writing business continuity plans to assessing risk to helping develop new business lines.
She relishes the many hats she wears and the varied perspectives of her colleagues and clients, from Maine to Florida. Though a lifelong resident of Saco, Maine (population 18,542), Katon has a worldly outlook and maturity that belie her 26 years.
“Diversity in all its forms benefits us. When we are more open, the people around us can be more open. When people work together, they tend to be more productive.”