Ashley de Leon

MA in Higher Education Leadership

What do you hope to do with your degree and/or credential, and why?

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 trainings and leadership experiences that promote growth. 

When did you begin your program, and when do you anticipate completing it?

I began in Fall 2013 and anticipate completing my degree in May 2015.

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 SOLES required an 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 transformed the way I view and approach my own leadership philosophies. 

What is your background? For example, where are you from, where else have you earned a degree, and where have you worked?

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 a couple of years in public relations and sales before deciding to go back to school to pursue a degree in higher education. 

Are you currently working? If so, do you work full-time or part-time, and what do you do?

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 students in creating and implementing sustainability initiatives and educational programming for their peers. Additionally, I 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. Where did you work, what did you do, and how did it impact you?

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 six Stanford undergraduate students and 85 students between the ages of 15-19. 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 responsibility 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 currently 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 residence halls. 

Have you completed an international experience? What did you do?

I completed my international experience in Sri Lanka. I most appreciated the immersion element of the trip. 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 side-by-side with the people of Kelegala, a small village new to Sarvodaya.  

Are there specific SOLES faculty, staff or administrators you feel have contributed significantly to your success? How have they helped?

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? What is your dream job?

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 a health and wellness office.