Applying Skills Developed in the Army to the Study of Forensic Science

Student veteran credits military service for the discipline, leadership, confidence, and integrity that fuels her academic success

If you ask Ashley Hart to explain her success as a student, she immediately points to her military background as a huge factor.

“I learned skills back then that I continue to use today,” says the Suffolk student veteran, who spent nearly seven years as a member of the U.S. Army, including a one-year stint in Iraq.

She talks about discipline, leadership, confidence, and integrity – qualities that now define her life as a college student.

“In the military, you’re taught to hold yourself to a higher standard,” she says. “For me, the transition to Suffolk was easy.”

As a human resources specialist, Hart was responsible for handling the logistics of running a military company. She would conduct meetings in front of large groups of fellow soldiers, which provided her with a skill that came in handy once she arrived at Suffolk.

“Public speaking was part of my job,” she says. “That really helped me when I got here.”

Besides its Boston location, it was the forensic science program that attracted Hart to Suffolk. “I love science and solving problems, so it was the perfect fit for me,” says the single mother of a 9-year-old daughter. Hart is attending Suffolk on the post-9/11 G.I. Bill.

Hart, a senior, is majoring in biochemistry with a concentration in forensic science. Her educational experience includes an internship at the Boston Police Department Crime Lab. 

“I’m mainly researching sexual assault cases and learning about the inner workings of how to analyze evidence from a crime scene,” Hart says. “I’m fortunate because this job connects me to what I want to do.”

She first learned about the internship while taking an introduction to forensics course, taught by Donald Hayes, a senior lecturer in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department. She later approached him for more details and applied for the job.

“Ashley is a bright young woman who has a sense of maturity and purpose,” says Hayes, who also is the Boston Police Crime La's director. “The experience she is getting will give her basic knowledge of different procedures and what goes on in a forensics laboratory. She is developing a good background, and that’s one of the traits we look for.”

Hart decided to get involved with the Student Veterans Organization at Suffolk a year ago and is now treasurer of the student-run club that helps student veterans reintegrate.

“Joining this club has definitely made my experience at Suffolk a whole lot better,” she says. “It has allowed me to connect with other people who have a military past just like me. It’s a great support system and I have met some amazing new friends.”

Hart still remains friends with some of the people she served with in the military. She reflected on Veterans Day in a contemplative moment.

“I don’t see Veterans Day as a day to congratulate myself, but a day to honor the veterans I deployed with and the men and women who lost their lives overseas,” she says.