My Winthrop Experience

Name: Ashley L. Isreal '10
Residence: Clemson, South Carolina
Degree: Business administration
Occupation: Postdoctoral researcher, lecturer

Ashley L. Isreal `10 was chosen for a prestigious scholarship- selected from 40,000 individuals-with only a slim chance of defying the odds.

"I still can vividly recall the emotions I felt when I opened the letter in April 2006 stating, I was 1 of 1,000 students out of 40,000 applicants selected as a Gates Millennium Scholar funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Ten essays later, I was proud to say that I became the first scholar within my school district to achieve this prestigious award," she said.

Isreal earned a scholarship that paid for three degrees: a bachelor's degree in business administration at Winthrop, a master's degree in higher education and student affairs at the University of South Carolina and a doctoral degree in educational leadership at Clemson University.

"The scholarship has allowed me to obtain the highest level of education without the debt that can typically come from seeking higher education," said Isreal, who recently finished her Ph.D. She has accepted a Clemson postdoctoral researcher position in the Department of Educational & Organizational Leadership Development where she works on research projects to support graduate students and will teach in the spring.

Furthermore, Isreal remembered that when applying for the Gates scholarship as a rising senior, she initially doubted herself. "I always held leadership positions in school and within the community as a 4-H member, and was academically well rounded at the top 5% of my class," she said. "Nevertheless, I questioned my abilities to obtain a ten-year scholarship, which is considered the most prestigious scholarship that a student could receive."

Once she came to Winthrop, Isreal found a mentor in Barbara Burgess-Wilkerson, an associate professor of management and director of student professional development in the College of Business Administration. "She challenged and supported me," Isreal said. "Seeing a successful African-American female with a glass-ceiling shattering mentality was imperative in my development process. Her methods of mentoring motivated me, but it was her genuine nature, caring spirit that helped me to become the best version of myself-especially when she found out that I was a single parent at the age of 19."

Isreal recalled that as a young mother, many people saw defeat in her. "However, Dr. Burgess-Wilkerson saw hidden gifts and talents that I needed to tap into to reach my full potential," Isreal said.

Today, Isreal wants to help young people, possibly through a faculty career or in academic affairs, and to help demystify the graduate school process. One of her career ambitions is to become an associate dean for diversity and inclusion in a graduate school at a research or comprehensive institution. She may decide to move further up in administration and become a college president.

While at Winthrop, Isreal worked as an ambassador giving tours to prospective students and also in student affairs as an information service specialist. Then at Clemson, she served as the deputy chief of staff for the Graduate Student Government to support 4,700+ graduate students and served on the Graduate Student Advisory Board. Asked to be the commencement student speaker at the fall 2016 Doctoral Hooding Ceremony, she also received the Presidential Service Award from the student government association.

Enthused to help future generations, Isreal said one of her proudest accomplishments is her work with the Call Me Doctor Project that she co-created with a doctoral colleague. The goal of the initiative is to have underrepresented middle and high school students exposed to other underrepresented individuals who have earned doctoral degrees, particularly in STEM fields. She is delighted to showcase the project on Clemson University's campus and in public schools in S.C. that have a high population of African-American and Hispanic students.

Isreal will be the keynote speaker at the 12th Annual Student Professional Development Conference in March 2018 at Winthrop University, an event sponsored by the College of Business Administration. She is elated about the upcoming opportunity and the chance to serve her alma mater.