Field Hockey's Ashley Gradwell To Be Featured In "Fearless" Exhibit

HAMDEN, Conn. - Quinnipiac University field hockey sophomore Ashley Gradwell (Fogelsvilla, Pa.) will be featured in the world-renowned "Fearless" exhibit, which portrays gay and lesbian student-athletes from a variety of sports and various universities around the country. Gradwell was photographed at the Quinnipiac Field Hockey & Lacrosse Turf Complex on Wednesday, April 14 by photographer Jeff Sheng.

Gradwell is a two-year member of G.L.A.S.S. (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Supporters), serving as the organization's co-secretary in 2009-10. Among the objectives of the group is to educate individuals in the Quinnipiac community while studying various gender topics in the media. The group holds several fund raisers each semester, including guest speakers during the "Day of Silence" as well as sponsoring a Relay For Life team.

"Being gay on campus is not a 'big' thing. I know people who are gay and aren't out, because it's too scary for them," Gradwell said. "They're afraid of being treated differently. I'm one of the few that are open about it. I think that's the best way - it's good for people to be aware."

Jeff Sheng is an artist based in Los Angeles, Calif. He teaches at the University of California - Santa Barbara and his artwork is represented by Kaycee Olsen Gallery in Los Angeles. He is best known for his activist art projects that integrate photography with social activism. Sheng was on campus on Wednesday to present his "Fearless" exhibit to the Quinnipiac Athletic Department staff as well as speaking at open forum at Quinnipiac's Alumni Hall. Sheng's "Fearless" exhibit was on display at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver as part of the PRIDE House. His exhibit has also been on display at ESPN Headquarters in Bristol, Conn., as well as the 2009 International LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Human Rights Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. He holds a degree in visual and environmental studies, magna cum laude, from Harvard Univierstiy.

"Ashley was great to work with," said Jeff Sheng. "It's very evident that her coaches and the school is supportive of her. I'm thankful for Quinnipiac for having me here. A lot of schools hope that they have an athlete that can represent them, and Ashley did a great job."

The Quinnipiac field hockey coaching staff, consisting of head coach Becca Kohli and assistant coach Cheryl Torino were also on hand on Wednesday to show support for their sophomore student-athlete.

"Like many of the players on our team, they all work to find their niche and a way to make an impression on the Quinnipiac community," Kohli said. "Ashley has chosen to use GLASS as her way to express herself. She's a prime example of both an elite Division I student-athlete and how strong her convictioins are in her sexuality and her activism. I'm very excited that Ashley will represent Quinnipiac in this world-renowned exhibit."

Sheng was originally scheduled to speak at an assembly on Wednesday night at Alumni Hall, where his exhibit was also on display, but had to fly back to Los Angeles. He was scheduled to tape an interview with world-renowned journalist Bob Woodward for a feature on ABC World News.

"What's most important for me is the ability for people to ask questions," Gradwell explained. "I'm open with all of my teammates because, for me, I'm more uncomfortable around people that are afraid to ask questions. We had a moment on a bus ride this year when all the sophomores were asking me questions about my sexuality, because they were curious. Coming out to the team has been a great experience for me. My teammates and my coaches have been very supportive and I'm thankful for it. I thank Coach Kohli everyday for her support."