Bush School Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Frank Ashley spoke to faculty and students at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University, as part of the School’s Brown Bag Series, sponsored by the Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
The focus of the Brown Bag was a discussion of diversity issues between Dr. Ashley and the student body. Throughout the hour-long discussion, Dr. Ashley shared his personal experiences growing up in the segregated south, including witnessing the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, attending a newly integrated high school, and being the only African American student and later faculty member at his Alma mater.
“We need to understand where a person is coming from before we can really hear what he or she is saying,” said Dr. Ashley on starting difficult conversations about diversity. “All my experiences have helped shaped me.”
Dr. Ashley joined the Bush School in November as senior associate dean for Academic Affairs, the second-ranking administrator at the School. Before coming to the Bush School, Dr. Ashley served as director of Admissions, interim provost, and vice president for Academic Affairs at Texas A&M University-Commerce. He also served as associate dean for Undergraduate Studies and Teacher Education at Texas A&M University’s College of Education, and later as vice chancellor of Academic Affairs and vice chancellor of Recruitment and Diversity at Texas A&M University. Most recently, Dr. Ashley served as senior vice president of Membership and Higher Education Engagement at the College Board.
In addition to his personal anecdotes, Dr. Ashley spoke about the value of diverse perspectives and ideas, particularly in an academic setting.
“Diversity makes us more creative, more diligent, and harder working. What school wouldn’t want that?” said Ashley.
Dr. Ashley compared diversity to his grandmother’s colorful quilts. He recalled how different colored rags came together to make something beautiful, just like diverse people make our country beautiful. Dr. Ashley instructed the students to embrace diversity and advocate for its benefits.
“My grandmother used to tell me, ‘You have to go out there and stomp out ignorance, because there is a lot of it,’” said Ashley. “To stomp out ignorance, you have to embrace differences. You can’t force it [diversity] on people, but you can talk about its benefits.” Dr. Ashley continued, “Live diversity, and be an example for everyone else because, believe it or not, people are actually looking.”
Dr. Ashley finished his talk noting how special he believes Bush School students are.
“The students at the Bush School are something special with your passion for service, and I believe you will make a difference in this world.”
The Bush School Diversity and Inclusion Committee hosts Brown Bag Talks at least once a month. To learn more about diversity and inclusivity at the Bush School, go to http://bush.tamu.edu/diversity/.
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