Campus Student Feature: Ashley Byington

Campus Student Feature: Ashley Byington

Meet Ashley Byington, a single mom, freelancer, and aspiring entrepreneur who found her perfect fit in the Campus online business program. Her journey isn't just about hitting the books – it's a testament to how today’s students can mix personal goals, career dreams, and schoolwork to shape their future.

Working as a Vice President for a Start-Up

Like many Campus students, Ashley had some college experience before joining our online program. However, the years she spent studying led her to discover her calling: equitable access to education.

“My whole life's goal and purpose is equitable access to education in the K-12 space,” Ashley told Campus.

Ashley had made connections with some of her former classmates in a video game design program while attending a university in Boise for two years. Not long after, she reconnected with them while working as a game design instructor for a California school district.

Together, they all created an ed-tech start-up that focused on giving K-12 students access to remote learning programs for those interested in learning more about video games and esports.

As part of the initial team, Ashley earned first-hand experience in both the business space and the leadership space as the company’s Vice President of Marketing.

“I don't think I'm ever going to be a VP anytime soon again,” Ashley noted with a laugh. “That's just kind of how startups work. I was doing high-level things, and now I'm not looking for an entry-level position anymore.”

Learn more about Ashley's Campus experience with this short Campus Culture student interview

Boosting Skills with Freelance Opportunities

As a way to boost her future hiring prospects and hone her skills, Ashley has experience as a freelancer for grant writing and branding services. In fact, Ashley created a creative agency that helped with branding for local businesses in Boise.

“I actually found a niche in making Instagram stickers for small businesses, like on their stories. Just like creative brand assets,” Ashley told us as she described the services she offered.

Most recently, Ashley has pivoted to supporting other esports programs on the grant writing side. How did she get into grant writing?

“A big part of that was me trying to find creative solutions for these schools to have equitable access to, you know, getting programs,” Ashley stated.

“And grants ended up being the solution to a lot of those problems. I got really good at grant writing for these schools. I would kind of just go straight and then get them a ton of money. Now I help companies set up that model and help them write grants and stuff too.”

Considering what the future might hold, Ashley is also interested in further exploring the freelancing space.

“I'm going to try a new venture of creating a marketplace model,” Ashley explained. “For example, if you're looking for a plumber, you can put your contact information in and then I would call up a plumber and match you up with the best kind of business for your needs.”

Deciding to Go to College Again

Ashley determined that she wanted to learn the ropes of business as a means of making herself more marketable to potential employers, especially after having worked in higher-level positions for an ed-tech start-up.

Surprisingly though, she’d shared that she didn’t necessarily look to earn a degree, but to learn the course content that can help boost her understanding of running a business.

“I feel like I've learned a lot from my short time at university,” Ashley expressed as she reflected on her past college experiences. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to continue her degree track at the time due to financial issues.

After deciding that she didn’t want to go into debt, Ashley decided that she wanted to pursue a career path.

“I was like, well, I'll just take what I've got and go for it without the degree,” she explained.

“I've been pretty successful at that, but [since] I was VP at my last job and was doing high-level things, I'm not looking for an entry-level position anymore. There's some part of that where I do think having the degree will give me that extra boost to make sure that I'm on the professional level.”

When considering her options, Ashley determined that an online college program would be the best fit for her current lifestyle as both a freelancer and a single mother. The idea of commuting to and from an in-person campus was something she highlighted as a key deciding factor. As she puts it, “Being a single parent, I mean, I wasn't about to drive.”

However, Ashley was also interested in an online program where she could connect with her professors and classmates in real time.

“I did not want something asynchronous,” she noted. “I wanted something synchronous but flexible — and that was Campus.”

What’s more, when Ashley heard about Campus’s mission for accessible education, she knew that she’d found the program that was a perfect fit for her.

As she explained, “Really the reason that I'm at Campus now is because of the mission of equitable access to education because that's like a hundred percent aligned with my path in life.”

Finding Balance

With that said, finding Campus was only the start of Ashley’s journey to earning her associate degree in business. The next step was finding the right balance for her in navigating attending classes while working, taking care of her daughter, and spending time on other responsibilities.

Reflecting on how her online classes have fit into her schedule, Ashley shared her thoughts.

“I'm freelancing, I'm still trying to find a full-time job, I'm taking classes at Campus, and I really don't feel that overwhelmed,” she noted. Instead, she went on to explain that while sometimes taking the courses can be challenging, it has been a great fit for her busy schedule.

She further explained how taking classes held primarily in the early evening fits within her schedule specifically when it comes to taking care of her daughter.

“Between classes, I'm rushing over to my kid's preschool and picking her up,” Ashley expressed.

“I do have to sacrifice a little bit of my time with her in the evenings so that I can take classes, but I'll take my laptop downstairs and we'll watch a movie. I'm not paying attention [to the movie] because I'm in class, but at least we can be physically together. It was a hard change, but we've got a good balance now.”

Despite the challenges, Ashley has taken it all in stride and has found that with each completed term, she feels a little more empowered in knowing that she’s taking control of her education, and paving her own pathway.

“I just feel like I'm so much more in control of my life,” Ashley told us as she reflected on the college journey she started in comparison to the one she is on now. “I know how to move forward in things. I know how to solve problems. Whereas, you know, back then, I was just doing it because this is what everyone else is doing and letting other people kind of decide my path for me.”

Planning for the Future

This same empowerment has led Ashley to make some great career moves even while going to school. Shortly after completing her interview with us, Ashley was offered a new full-time position with a software company.

"The job is essentially about being eager to listen to HR professionals who are currently using the software and see how I can help them solve any pain points they have,” Ashley explained. “My whole marketing and sales journey revolves around being good at building relationships, so I'm excited to be able to do that with our clients."

Landing a position with a new company is a great opportunity for Ashley to grow in her career, and it’s a starting point that can help her prepare for all of her other future endeavors. For example, Ashley has dreams of starting her own company and taking it to the next level.

“I have my own business plan that I plan on starting at some point, but I want to wait until I've built my own wealth,” Ashley said.

“I don't really want to have investors because that's the reason I got laid off from the last job I had. [Instead], I want to bootstrap things, so I'm just holding onto my business idea until I'm ready. That could be in 20 years, that could be in five years — I really don't know. I want to just see what happens.”

Speaking of seeing what happens, Ashley also shared her ambitions to potentially continue her education after earning her associate degree in business from Campus. As she shared with us, “I will say every day I'm kind of leaning more towards getting a bachelor's degree, which is funny coming from me.”

Regardless of what the future may hold for Ashley, we’re thrilled to be part of her learning journey and can’t wait to see where she will go even after completing our degree program!

Learn More About the Campus Experience

If Ashley’s story resonates with you, or her words about Campus have caught your attention, be sure to check out the Campus online associate degree in business program or request more info here.

You can join inspiring students just like Ashley by applying to become a Campus Scholar today!

Responses have been edited for clarity and length.

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