SUNY Empire State College Student Ashley Caldwell Named to US Olympic Freestyle Skiing Team for Second Time

January 27, 2014

Caldwell Graduates with BS in Business, Management and Economics

Ashley Caldwell, 20, a student at the State University of New York Empire State College, has been named to the 2014 U.S. Olympic Freestyle Skiing Team and will compete for a second time in women's aerials. As a resident of Lake Placid, N.Y., she first made the team in 2010 and finished 10th at Vancouver. Today she lives and trains in Park City, Utah.

Caldwell has completed her requirements for the B.S. in business, management and economics with a concentration in finance.  The SUNY Board of Trustees will confer her degree at graduation this spring. Caldwell earned her degree online through Empire State College's Center for Distance Learning.

The nontraditional, open college of the SUNY system, Empire State College educates many students entirely online, as well as face to face and through a blend of both at the associate, bachelor's and master's levels.

“With online learning at Empire State College, I can do my homework on the plane to Russia, on the way to the gym, in between training sessions, late at night, early in the morning and on days off,” said Caldwell. “Online learning at Empire State College allowed me the flexibility I needed so that I could still pursue aerials and also pursue my education, which has always been high on my priority list.”

Caldwell's online degree program shares much of the content and all of the academic rigor of the online B.S. in business, management and economics selected for inclusion in the launch of Open SUNY, and provided the academic choices she wanted.

Open SUNY is the systemwide effort designed to maximize online-enabled learning opportunities for all SUNY students across 64 campuses. Two of Empire State College's online bachelor's programs were selected for Open SUNY because they meet New York's workforce needs and expand access, completion and success for students.

“I have a lot of different interests. Empire State College had a really diverse catalog of classes to take. Since I am a math and science geek, that was good, as I could pick and choose. Not every online program has that variety, but Empire State College does and that's why I went there and why I stayed there. I am really thankful because now I am 20 years old, on my way to my second Olympics and already have my undergraduate degree finished.”

“This is an astonishing achievement made by an extraordinary student, and we are deeply proud to have Ashley Caldwell represent SUNY at the Olympics,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “Ashley's two-time Olympic participation exemplifies the benefits of online learning and the necessary flexibility that a SUNY Empire State College education provides for nontraditional students. We wish her the best of luck in Sochi.”

Empire State College President Merodie A. Hancock shared the enthusiasm of the entire college community. She said, “We all are very proud that one of our outstanding students has now been named to the U.S. Olympic Team for the second time. Like the college's 70,000 alumni and 20,000 other students, Ashley was able to complete her degree by accessing the open, flexible education options available at Empire State College through diligent study, mentoring by the college faculty and support from our staff. A college without athletic facilities or teams, residence halls or a traditional campus educating two-time Olympian Ashley Caldwell is a great success story for innovative education.”

“All of us at the Center for Distance Learning take great pride in Ashley's accomplishments,” said Tom Mackey, dean of the college's Center for Distance Learning. “Ashley's success in completing her bachelor's online and in being named to the U.S. Olympic Team exemplifies the commitment to excellence shared by our online students. We will be following her with great enthusiasm throughout the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.”

Online or face to face, the college pairs each undergraduate student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career.

“The faculty at Empire State College are great,” said Caldwell. “They worked with me and my schedule and understood that when I am in China, I might not get my work in on time. They are supportive of what their students are doing outside of college.”

“Bravo Ashley, we are all very proud of her and wish her the very best,” said Faculty Mentor Anant Deshpande, an assistant professor and academic area coordinator in business, management and economics and Caldwell's primary mentor. “The online academic programs at the college are rigorous, allow for collaborative learning, yet are designed to cater to individualized needs of those students who have taken a different path in completing their degree. Ashley is a shining example of our students' success because she has balanced her life, athletic career and studies while she has excelled at everything.”

“Ashely Caldwell is the personification of what Empire State College does every day and what Open SUNY seeks to accomplish on a large scale,” said Hancock.

About Ashley Caldwell
A native of Ashburn, Va., Caldwell was a competitive gymnast for 11 years before she watched Olympic skiing on TV and thought it would be “totally awesome” to try aerials. After only three years of training, Caldwell made the U.S. Ski Team at a selection event in the beginning of the 2010 season and then went on to have an outstanding rookie season.

Later that year at the age of 16, Caldwell claimed top 15 results in her first three World Cup competitions. She finished 10th at the Olympics and claimed a silver medal at the U.S. National Championships, a feat she repeated in 2011.

Then, in December of 2011 and again in 2012, Caldwell sustained serious injuries to both her right and left ACLs (anterior cruciate ligaments). Overcoming both injuries, she earned a silver medal in women's aerials at the World Cup competition held Dec. 15, 2013 in Lake Beida, China, on her road to Sochi.

The college community will be following Caldwell as she competes in the XXII Olympic Winter Games on Twitter, @AshleySkis, liking her on Facebook and watching her on TV. Opening ceremonies for the games take place Friday, Feb. 7 and Caldwell's competition is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 14.

More information about Caldwell is available on the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association and the U.S. Ski team websites:,

About SUNY Empire State College

SUNY Empire State College was established in 1971 to offer adult learners the opportunity to earn associate, bachelor's and master's degrees from the State University of New York.

The college serves more than 20,000 students worldwide at more than 35 locations in the state of New York and online. Its 70,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more. More information about the college is available here.

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit

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