Where Are They Now?
Name: Ashleen Williams
Grad Year: 2011
Major: Political Science
Hometown: Snohomish, Washington
Current Residence: Oxford, Mississippi (previously was in Northern Ireland, Bahrain and Qatar)
Scholarships received at UM: Western Undergraduate Exchange; the Outstanding Student Leadership Scholarship; Watkins Research Scholarship; and the Payne Scholarship for Political Science.
Why did you choose UM?
My family has longstanding connections to Montana, and it felt like the right place to apply. A spring visit to Montana with my uncle really cemented my decision to attend UM – the campus, the people and the Missoula vibe still call me home.
How did private support help you in college?
Scholarships helped offset the cost of college for my mom and me, but it also reinforced that UM was the right place for me. There were times, especially in my first year, that I wasn’t so sure that college was a good fit or that I was “doing it right.” Scholarships helped remind me that the University community was invested in its students – I had the chance to be intellectually curious and take academic risks that I wouldn’t have if I needed to graduate as fast as possible.
Where are you working/studying now?
I currently teach at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi as the Senior Barksdale Fellow. I am also a full-time adventurer trying to pursue a part-time Ph.D. in History.
How did your UM education help you get to where you are today?
UM taught me that education is what you make of it, and then challenged me to do just that. At UM, I started taking graduate courses because I wanted an intense seminar experience, and this gave me a foundation for my own teaching and research. I also took classes in Irish history, Middle East studies and Arabic, and pursued an eclectic educational experience.
Outside the classroom I was very involved with ASUM as a senator and then president, and as such I was able to connect with people from across campus. I think that these experiences (along with personal statement bootcamp!) are the reasons why I received the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Bahrain, and then the George J. Mitchell Scholarship. The Senior Barksdale Fellow position at the University of Mississippi is designed to put alumni of the prestigious UK scholarships in the classroom. While the Mitchell scholarship got me in the door, Montana informs my approach to education.
What advice do you have for current and future UM students?
Take intellectual risks! Go to every campus lecture or event that you can – one of the best things I did was attend the President’s Lecture series regularly. What other chance do you have to attend a no-stakes seminar or lecture with a world-class mind?
What is a favorite memory from your time on campus?
I have many, but a few stand out: first, I was a faithful student member of the Academic Standards and Curriculum Review Committee. It sounds strange to say my favorite memories on campus involved ASCRC, but that committee put me in contact with some of my favorite people on campus who remain mentors and friends today.
Second, at a DHC event I met Ann Boone and in addition to actually enjoying a dinner where I would have otherwise felt out of place, I knew that we were going to become friends.
How have you given back since graduating from UM?
I try to donate my time to the Alumni Association in small ways – meeting with students who are interested in coming to UM, writing letters, and connecting with Griz across the South. It’s occasionally embarrassing, but if I see someone in Griz gear I always take the occasion to introduce myself, ask them about their UM experience and try to engage them in the broader Griz community. So, if you’re wearing Griz sweatshirt in Alabama at a gas station at midnight, know we’re going to meet!