After Plenty of Opportunities at Georgia State, Ashton Brasher Has Plenty of Options
“I kind of like that I don’t know,” she says. “There are times when it’s horrifyingly scary not knowing what August brings — I at least have June and July taken care of by now — but it’s also really fun to think about what sorts of epiphanies I’ll have over the next several months that might change my outlook on what comes next.”
Brasher’s uncertainty doesn’t come from not having any good options. If anything, it’s the exact opposite: In four eventful years at Georgia State, she’s had so many opportunities and been able to try so many things — both on campus and thousands of miles away — that anything seems possible. “I’m pretty confident I’ll figure it out,” she says, “and that I’ll have a unique and well-rounded skill set going into that decision.”
‘They Were Interested in Me’
In many ways, Brasher’s attitude today is a reflection of her attitude four years ago, when she says she “really had no idea what I was looking for” in a college. “I was really interested in a liberal-arts education, but I knew I could get that just about anywhere,” she remembers. “I think the big selling point for Georgia State, for me, was hearing about all the different opportunities that are so local. And I think that’s held true. This semester, I had the opportunity to intern with the British Consulate, which was conveniently right up the street. And I couldn’t have done that if I’d been somewhere else.”
The Honors College, in particular, made her feel like Georgia State would be an easy place to call home. “They made me feel like they really cared that I was a part of their small community, and l liked that idea of having a smaller liberal-arts feel inside of a big research university. I thought that was appealing because it’s kind of the best of both worlds.
“I went on a lot of college visits, and everywhere it seemed like they really liked my SAT score, they really liked my GPA, but a lot of them didn’t really seem to care about me as an individual. But the first questions they asked me when I visited the Honors College were, ‘What are you passionate about? What are you interested in exploring?’ They were interested in me. I’m really big on that sort of touchy-feely stuff, so that meant a lot.”
The strong bonds Brasher’s built with the Honors College are evident as she relates her story in the lobby of Centennial Hall — it seems like every third person who walks by, honors student and administrator alike, knows Brasher and stops to say hello. As a Presidential Scholar, she got to do a university assistantship under Honors College communications director Annahita Jimmerson, which she credits with sparking many of those relationships.
“She has undoubtedly been the most important person throughout my college career,” Brasher says of Jimmerson. “She has become my mentor, and she has helped me grow so much along the way.”
Establishing a Comfort Zone — Then Venturing Far Beyond It
In addition to friends and mentors, the Honors College also provided Brasher opportunities. One of the first was making appearances at visits by prospective students.
“When we have Honors Visit Days, the main thing that I do is sit on the student panel. It’ll be a few of us at the front of the room, and the parents and students get to fire questions at us and get the student perspective,” she explains. “It’s good public-speaking experience for me, but it’s also an opportunity for them — I know when I was visiting colleges there were only a few times I got to talk to students who actually went to those schools. You’d think that would be a given, but Georgia State really makes an effort to give prospective students that experience.”
That, in turn, led Brasher to writing assignments for Georgia State University Magazine and the 1913 Society, both of which allowed her to display and develop her communications skills. “It’s easy to positively contribute to something, but it can be hard to find a place where all of your talents are really coming together,” she explains. In the 1913 Society, though, “I get to use my communications skills, the warm, ambassadorial spirit that I feel for the university, I get to be supportive of people — when I’m wearing that suit, I always feel like I am exactly where I’m supposed to be in that moment. That’s a feeling that I’ve only felt in a couple of other capacities, so it’s really a cool thing.”
The Honors College was also Brasher’s conduit to a semester-long Press, Politics and Public Affairs Internship with the British consulate, where she did everything from updating the other consulates and the British Embassy in Washington on developments from Georgia’s state government to managing the consulate’s social-media presence and planning events.
“For example, this spring they did a big Holocaust remembrance event at the Carter Center, so I helped plan that and worked with the panelists to prepare them for their questions,” she says. “There was a survivor on the panel, and I got to have lunch with him — he was telling stories and getting really emotional. I think that’s a pretty rare opportunity in itself, to sit around with a Holocaust survivor and hear about it firsthand.”
Brasher went to the UK herself when she used the study-abroad stipend from her Presidential Scholarship to do a British-lit trip to London, Edinburgh and Dublin. She enjoyed the experience so much that she went for another study-abroad opportunity a year later — only of a completely different variety: a geosciences trip to Belize.
“Something I always wanted to make sure of in college was that I didn’t get wrapped up in just one goal or pursuit — I wanted to do a lot of different things,” Brasher says. “Going abroad was challenging academically, physically, and emotionally. The work was challenging, we were doing lots of new things like climbing mountains and snorkeling, and I didn’t know anyone on either trip. It was like a trifecta of leaving my comfort zone.”
Even More Opportunities on the Horizon
That was far from the only trip Brasher took outside her “comfort zone” — just a few months later she found herself in Washington, D.C., meeting U.S. Congressmen and advocating for legislation on behalf of women’s issues. “How many people really get to sit across from a legislator and say, ‘This is what I believe in and I think you should vote for it’?” she says. “I felt very, very fortunate.”
That trip, too, was set in motion at Georgia State, when Brasher took an honors women’s studies class her freshman year. Originally, she says she was only thinking “Eh, it fits into my schedule,” but before long “it completely changed my worldview.” It inspired her to not only attend a leadership conference held by URGE (Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity) but also establish a chapter at Georgia State. That, in turn, connected her with the Trust Women Foundation and the summer fellowship that brought her to D.C.
“Somebody asked me a couple months ago, ‘You’ve had a lot of internships, none of them seem to have a common thread, what do you think it is?’ I think, at the heart of it, I really like to make arguments,” Brasher says. “I think that’s where my initial interest in law school came from, but I’ve actually gotten into philanthropy and fundraising. And I’m doing an internship in London this summer with Scott Prenn, a firm that has clients who are nonprofits, museums and community groups and so forth, and connects those groups with philanthropists and raises money for them.”
Maybe Brasher will forge a career in the nonprofit arena. Maybe she’ll go to law school after all and even mount a run for public office. “I’ve done a million different things,” she says, “so now I have this big mess of experience in front of me, and I have no idea what I’m going to do with it!”
It’s important to note, though, that she says all this with a smile. “I think if there’s any main testament I could give for Georgia State, it’s that I have a lot of friends who are graduating now who know exactly what they want to do next. I don’t know what I want to do, but it’s not because I haven’t been able to explore what I like — it’s because I’ve been able to explore dozens of things that I like. And I think that’s a really good problem to have.”