Ashton Chaffins considers himself the “NOVA Dad.” His love for helping students and wanting them to do their best in college and life is a main priority to him because while he was in college, he did not have the opportunities that NOVA students do.
He is an academic advisor for the NOVA program and is responsible for the digital representation of the program. His job also includes helping students through college and answering general questions students may have. NOVA is a program that serves first generation students regardless of income. In 2004, Chaffins went to Alice Lloyd College because it was close to home and gave him the ability to take care of his sick mother and go to classes, but he did not like it. He transferred to EKU in 2005 and explained that it was better, but he felt lonely due to having very few friends. He was still having trouble getting used to college because he did not have anyone to mentor him and he felt lost.
While Chaffins said that he was not a first-generation student, he cares deeply about first generation success.
“I get my passion for working with first generation students,” he said, “because I’m a product of a first-generation student going to college.”
His mom attended EKU in the 1970s and was the daughter of a coal miner, so she did not have much money. Chaffins attributes his drive to give back to students to his mom’s experience in college and how much she gave him. Although he was not a first generation student, he said it felt like he was because financially, his parents could not afford college and he did not receive much financial aid. Also, it had been such a long time since his mom had attended college that she could not give much advice.
“I wish I would’ve had this [NOVA] program,” he said.
Chaffins wishes he would have had connections like students do with NOVA such as making friends, having resources and having a mentor to give him advice. There were times when he would be hungry and did not have money for food, so he would have to make ends meet. NOVA focuses mainly on the many needs of students, including academic needs and food security. Had NOVA been a part of his college career, it would have been a life changer for him and helped along the way.
Before NOVA, Chaffins worked in EKU Housing and Admissions but could not help students on the level in which he wanted. He wanted to make connections with students and build relationships, and that’s what led him to NOVA.
Spring 2018 is when Chaffins joined NOVA. He loves the job because of how he gets to mentor, nurture and help students the way he wishes he would have had while in college.
Chaffins graduated from EKU in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in history with a minor in women and gender studies and later obtained a Master of Arts in student personnel services in higher education in 2016. It took him eight years to get through college but two of those years he stopped because his mother passed away. He believes that it is important for students to make sure they are taking time outside of school for their home lives and that it is okay to take a break from school because you can always come back and finish what you started.
Students who are a part of the NOVA program come from all over the country and each have their own story to tell.
Jacob Smith, a junior broadcasting and electronic media major from Frankfort said, “Ashton has helped me a lot, he’s super chill to talk to and he listens.”
Several students, including Smith and senior broadcasting and electronic media major from Louisville, Joshua Staples explain that he’s the NOVA dad because, “he is the father figure they have never had in their life.”
Although, he is the only male advisor in the program, Chaffins explains that he is just “nurturing, fun and supportive to the students.”
Staples agreed with Chaffins, “the staff at NOVA is so warm and caring,” Staples said.
Chaffins uses the word “love” because he wants students to understand that he cares and is there whenever they need advice or someone to talk to about a class. NOVA has meant nothing but family to him since he has been a part of it.
“If you want a family that will wrap their arms around you and you want support, NOVA is right for you, said Chaffins.
To learn more about NOVA visit nova.eku.edu.