Ashley De Leon
MA in Higher Education Leadership
I was born and raised in Seattle, WA and earned my BA in Communications from Seattle University. During those four years at Seattle U, I became involved on campus working with the Office of Health and Wellness Promotion and Housing and Residence life, unknowingly building my student affairs resume. During this time, I was also pursuing a career in public relations, and after graduating in 2011 I worked for those next couple of years working in PR and Sales before deciding to go back to school to pursue my Higher Ed degree.
What do you hope to do with your degree?
I have a number of different interests in the world of higher education such as conduct, assessment, and educational programming. I am passionate about holistic leadership development and hope to be able to facilitate that evolvement for the students I work with.
How did you hear about SOLES, and why did you choose to enroll?
When researching graduate schools, I was specifically looking for programs that would allow me to study abroad. I thought it was exciting that USD SOLES required and international component for it’s students, and that’s when I decided to apply. Last year, I fulfilled my international component by taking Community Models of Leadership in Sri Lanka! It was an amazing 10-day experience that I believe transformed the way I view and approach my own leadership philosophies.
Are you currently working?
I am currently part of the Student Affairs Soles Collaborative (SASC) as the Programming Graduate Assistant in the Office of Sustainability. In this role, I advise the student organization Be Blue Go Green as well as the Student Sustainability Task Force. I assist these students create and implement sustainability initiatives and educational programming for their peers. Additionally, I also help our office collaborate with departments across campus with sustainability programming and events, like Earth Day, film screenings, speaker series events, etc.
Tell us about any internships, graduate assistantships, student teaching, practicum or fieldwork you have done through SOLES.
I spent this past summer as an ACUHO-I intern at Stanford University. At Stanford, I worked in the Office of Pre-Collegiate studies as a House Director for Summer College, supervising 6 Stanford undergraduate students and 85, 15-19 year-old students. In this role, I was able to do everything from facilitating the leadership development of my staff, aid in assessment efforts for the program, and sit on the Residential Committee. I also served as the primary judicial/hearing officer for violations of Stanford Summer College, adjudicating cases and outcomes for my students. This element in particular is what sparked my interest in Student Conduct, as I was able to assist and observe first hand the development of the students I worked with.
Back on campus, I also serve as the Vice Chair for the Graduate Student Council. In this role, my focus is on being a voice for the Graduate and Law students here at USD, advocating for any issues they see as important like research grants and funding, grad and law housing, support for associations, etc. Additionally, the council works to engage these students through events ranging from Social Hours at O’Tooles to trips to the Chargers games.
Tell us about any research or independent study you have done at SOLES.
I am currently working Action Research, focusing on how Peer Education/Leadership can influence peer engagement and mindfulness. I have implemented a Student Sustainability Task Force on campus, which has a group of 6-10 students representing different entities on campus, focusing on sustainability initiatives. I also hope to facilitate a Certified Peer Education program for the BBGG students, giving them the skills needed to lead programs for their peers within organizations and the res halls.
Have you completed an international experience? What did you do?
I completed my international experience in Sri Lanka! The aspect that I appreciated the most from the experience was the immersion element. We were able to live and breathe the Sri Lankan culture, working to understand and observe one of the world’s largest grass-root mobilization and organization called, Sarvodaya. We were able to not only study Sarvodaya’s leadership model, but also engage in service-learning, spending three days working with side-by-side with the people of Kelegala, a small village new to Sarvodaya.
How has your SOLES education impacted your career and/or career goals?
SOLES has impacted my career goals/life more than I had expected. It has challenged me to think beyond my comfort zone, engage in difficult dialogues, and analyze meaningful professional and personal relationships, all critical when developing my own approach to leadership.
Which class has impacted you the most? Why?
At this point, the class that has impacted me the most, aside from my experience in Sri Lanka, would have to be LEAD 550. This class in particular has its students analyze their own leadership strengths and weakness, challenging them to identify all of the systems “at play,” helping them to develop their own framework for leadership. It’s class that I continue to think and talk about!
Are there any specific SOLES faculty members, staff or administrators you feel have contributed significantly to your success?
Dr. Cheryl Getz, Dr. Christopher Newman, and our SASC Coordinator, (doctoral student) Nick Franco. All three have been instrumental in my pursuit of success here at SOLES. I appreciate the honesty and advice from each of them - academically, professionally, and personally. They have each been supportive and encouraged my involvement and interest in the student affairs world, beyond just the classroom.
What are your plans for after graduation?
Upon graduation, I plan to find a full-time job within Student Affairs. I would like to be somewhere where I can continue to learn and be challenged. I’d like be at a university where I can continue to facilitate and advise educational programming, be-it in an office focused on diversity issues, a women’s center, or health and wellness office.
Is there anything else you would like to share with prospective students?
Take your time in the graduate school search process. There’s a place for everyone. If you do end up choosing USD, you’ll find that SOLES is geared with supportive faculty and staff to help guide your success. Plus, San Diego is a great city to be in! When you are here, take advantage of the beaches and happy hours!