Ashely Hill ‘15
By Michael Gurr
In her senior year of high school Ashely Hill ’15 had her mind set on one of the big state schools.
She had always envisioned herself at a large university as a little fish in a big pond. However, after her mother made her tour a small, liberal arts university in Tacoma, Washington, she knew the charming campus with it’s dedication to relationship-building was exactly what she needed.
Ashely says she was always a little shy. Coming into PLU she was looking for any way to make friends and connect with her peers. One day she saw a flier for the Students of Color Retreat and the rest was history. The retreat ignited a passion in her to meet and advocate for students of all different cultures, beliefs, and ages. It gave her the opportunity to express herself among people with similar experiences, but vastly diverse backgrounds. The retreat got the ball rolling in her Diversity Center journey. “The dCenter offered me the best opportunity to expand my worldview without even leaving the state.”
In her time at the Diversity Center, Hill worked on many projects. One of her favorites was challenging microaggressions against people of color. My Language My Choice took pictures of PLU students ripping up signs depicting common microaggressions. Ashely chose the phrase “What are you?” The phrase hit home for her because it was something she had heard many times before. Ashely took a specific liking to projects like this because she enjoys enacting change through art.
Beyond the projects she participated in at the Diversity Center, Ashely recalls the freedom she felt while being there. She says the ability to be light-hearted and authentic among peers is maybe an overlooked aspect of life in the Center. “Being able to be in those spaces and be light-hearted and not have to, like, have these deep conversations all the time … just being able to relax and kick, it is refreshing.”
Ashely takes these experiences and uses them in her everyday life today. Being a part of the Diversity Center for 4+ years gave her the opportunity to learn and grow in different leadership roles. The Center taught her how to effectively communicate and share respect with people from different walks of life. She carries these experiences with her in her job at Western State Hospital as a forensic psychiatric social worker. Going from a community that celebrates diversity to one that is not always so well-versed in such ideas taught her how to enact change and influence those around her. Her experience at PLU and the Diversity Center equipped her with cherished tools that helped form how she operates in professional, public, and social settings.
When she visited PLU as a high school senior, Ashely probably would never have dreamed of having the experience she did at a small, private school in Tacoma. But four years of Diversity Center experience gave her a true passion for social justice and an appreciation for people from all walks of life.