Ashland alumna, faculty member each honored by Ohio Arts Council

ASHLAND, Ohio – An Ashland University alumna and an AU faculty member were recognized by the Ohio Arts Council with Individual Excellence Awards, a peer recognition program for a creative artist’s body of work. Ashley Bethard ‘08 (pictured left), who was recently promoted to editor and chief content officer of the Dayton Daily News, and Kelly Sundberg (pictured right), an assistant professor of English, were both honored for their work in the non-fiction category.

Bethard is a dual graduate from AU having earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and then going on to a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing degree. She was awarded for a book she has been working on about the loss of a sibling due to a heroin-fentanyl overdose. A distressing subject, she explores themes such as family, place, grief and land, and how they are interwoven. One part of the winning submission was an essay, “Grief Work,” which has been published in VIDA Review.

“I’m incredibly honored to receive a grant from the Ohio Arts Council. For the last few years, I’ve been working on a draft of a book about the loss of my sibling … it’s a book about the complicated ways we love and feel loss,” Bethard stated. “I plan to use the grant to take some time away to write — to really tap into that quiet, focused state that I need to move this draft closer to completion.”

Sundberg is in her third year as a professor at AU and also serves on the core faculty of the MFA in Creative Writing program. She plans to use the grant to complete her second book, tentatively titled “The Answer Is Always in the Wound.” It is a collection of linked essays about post-traumatic stress disorder. Sundberg’s first book, a memoir, “Goodbye, Sweet Girl: A Story of Domestic Violence and Survival,” was critically acclaimed.

“The honor means a great deal to me because I’m working on very difficult material that can be hard to execute in a lyrical manner, and the validation of a jury of peers who recognize both my efforts and accomplishments gives me new energy to finish this book,” said Sundberg. “I plan to use the grant money to fund dedicated time during the summer for my research and writing, and I’m grateful to the Ohio Arts Council for both this recognition and the incredible amount they do to support the arts in Ohio.”

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally and economically. The OAC’s Individual Excellence Awards program supports artists’ growth and development and recognizes their work in Ohio and beyond.

Ashland University is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.