Nothing traditional about Ashley

Ashley Festi’s answer is direct when asked why she wanted to study Criminal Justice program at Blackhawk Technical College.

“I can’t tell you why, but it’s in me,’’ she said.  “I know that may sound weird, but somebody has to do it.’’

Festi, who received her associate degree in Criminal Justice, is an example of a Blackhawk student who studied in a field that is aimed at what is called a non-traditional occupation. In other words, Festi is a female looking to enter a field where women comprise 25 percent or less of the workforce.

Festi took advantage of BTC’s Wingspan program, which financially assists students studying in a field that is considered non-traditional for your gender.

Non-traditional occupations for women most often focus on technical and industrial careers such as HVAC, IT, welding and automotive, as well as criminal justice. Non-traditional occupations for men are most often aimed at health, administration and child services.

“Being in school, it was interesting because of the number of women who were in my classes,’’ she said. “But out in the field, you are going to see a lot more men.’’

Blackhawk Technical College offers 22 career programs for women and eight for men who qualify for the non-traditional program. Wingspan provides financial assistance, grant money and scholarship support to help students in the program offset transportation and school expenses.

If you want to see if you qualify for the Wingspan program, contact Wendy Schultz at (608) 757-7728 or at

Now take a moment to read more comments from Festi on non-traditional studies.

How did you become interested in the Criminal Justice field?

I became interested in the Criminal Justice field when I was younger. I believe that helping people can
            better the world.

What kinds of career exploration activities did you do?

  I have attended the career fair here on campus and I have talked to many of my instructors whom have
experience in the field. I have also been an active member of the Criminal Justice Association here on
campus and have taken all opportunities given to me in attending trips and seminars.

What are the advantages of this occupation?

       The advantages are endless, depending on which aspect of the field you enter.  I love working with people always try to see the good in everyone, and if you can change just one person’s life you’re doing the world a favor.

Do you believe women are or can be treated differently from men in your field?

I think that the possibility is always there for anyone to be treated differently, but I think society has grown to a point where women are welcome in the Criminal Justice field.

Do you believe being a woman gives you any special advantages in your chosen field?

I would say the only advantage a woman may have if any is to handle a hostile person in a calmer manner. It’s all about professional communication.

Did your family support your decision to pursue this nontraditional career?

Everyone always asks me why I want to do this or do I think I will be able to. I think they want me to second guess my self. But in the end they support me in any decision I make.

Are there disadvantages to pursuing a nontraditional occupation for your gender?

One disadvantage I have faced is the amount of people that look at me and prejudge me. Also this field is about more than just book smarts. I sometimes found myself intimidated by some of the men due to the strength factor

What are your career goals?

My short term goal is to get a job in corrections and hopefully return to get my bachelors so I can move up in the field.

If your peers try to discourage you from pursuing a nontraditional career, what argument would you use to change their minds and support your decision?

I would tell them that anyone can do anything they set their mind to. It’s not about gender it’s about passion, and my passion is with criminal justice.