Meet Ashley Simmons '17

Year: 2017

Major(s): English and Creative Writing

Minor(s): Film, Television and Interactive Media and CAST

Hometown: Washington DC

Her Campus: What activities are you involved in on campus?

Ashley Simmons: A lot of things I do are based around writing. I’m an English and Creative writing UDR, a SSSP peer mentor and a Study Abroad Ambassador for my program. I blogged for the Odyssey and also for the Huffington post. I was also one of the managers for BranVan. 

HC: Where did you study abroad?

AS: I studied abroad in Granada, Spain with IES Abroad.  With my study abroad program I also made a blog and I got blog of the year with the program. 

HC: That’s so cool!

AS: Yeah, yeah it was nice. I got to go to Chicago for the annual conference and I got to meet all the people I was talking to via email the entire time.  I love my study abroad program, I would definitely go back abroad again. I can see myself living in Spain and working there. When I was there I interned and taught English to Spanish speaking students at the school in the local neighborhood. That was pretty cool too—and seeing the interplay between language and learning and teaching at the same time.  I’m definitely going to travel—travel and write. 

HC: Do you have a dream destination?

AS: No…I just like being near water. But there isn’t really any specific place I want to go to.  I guess Australia but that’s not where I want to stay permanently.  People ask that question a lot, and I’m just like, ‘everywhere!’  I love places that have a lot of culture a lot of history. 

HC: Are you planning to continue writing after graduation?

AS: Oh definitely! I’m never going to stop writing.  I created the culture show Unapologetically Black: wrote it and directed it and all that jazz.  Writing for the show alongside budgeting and learning how to direct and getting a whole bunch of students together…it was really exciting and stressful, but the excitement outweighed the stress because the end product was worth it.  I think that’s something I will also like to do in the future again—writing something, probably with a team. That kind of creative direction was really fun for me.  I think I want to do that again and stay on that route—maybe not just theater though.  I would love to go into film production of video games, because I like video games. I like how the stories of video games…how detailed they are.  And I feel like playing video games have helped me be more detailed in my stories and my own writing. 

HC:  Could you tell me a little more about Unapologetically Black?  

AS:  I came up with the idea for the show in November, December. It started in my head the day after the election.  I was trying to figure out a way to best serve myself and also serve other people, basically how I could use my creativity and my writing to nourish not just myself but also other people too. That was coupled with my experience with Brandeis' Night for Africa. At Night for Africa during the rehersal a lot of participants got on stage with their flags and I noticed that I didn’t know what flag my ancestry related to. I also don’t feel like the flag for this country truly honors me and my life, so I wanted to create a space here on campus that was for other students who felt that same kind of displacement and who felt like they had a culture but they don’t know exactly where it is or it’s not really acknowledged or celebrated here.  So, Unapologetically Black was created to acknowledge and celebrate black lives and black culture, specifically black American culture.  I wanted to grab the help of a lot of first years and sophomores because I knew that this was something that they could continue as a tradition in a place where it didn’t exist prior in different culture shows or campus events.

The show consisted of three short scenes written about blackness. One was about the prison industrial complex, one on Black Lives Matter and one on uplifting black women.  And then there was a jazz performance alongside me performing spoken word.  There was a dance component at the end and there was also a fashion and hair show, which was probably the most fun part for me.  It made me feel very wholesome at the end to see the audience members get up on the stage and dance with everyone. It went way better than I thought it would. I really enjoyed doing it and working with everyone and writing the scenes. It wasn’t really hard to write them because I felt like I was just pulling on my own narrative and my own life. And I felt like a lot of things in my life that I hadn’t noticed were important suddenly became important.  The whole show was a way for me to pay it forward but also recognize my own creative capacity at the same time.

HC: On a different note, what advice would you give to first years?

AS: Not everybody needs financial advice, but I would say just be smart about how you’re spending money.  If you can work while you’re in school, work—it’s worth it.  Pay off your unsubsidized loans if you can and get them out of the way. Also, some of the first advice that was given to me when I came in was major in a professor, not a major.  If you’re in a certain major and there’s one professor you can take several classes with, do that. It will be a good networking opportunity and maybe that person can give you a letter of recommendation for something. At the same time you can possibly make a friend instead of just having a professor.  I would also say to let everything that happens, both the good and the bad, just let it happen and always be true to yourself.  If there’s moment where you have to be down, be down, if there’s moments where you have to be up, be up.  Just letting yourself feel the full range of emotions and not invalidate your own feelings or experiences.  Brandeis is definitely a place where you can feel like you want to do a million majors and minors, but if you want to focus on one, do one.  Find your niche and find your community, and you’ll be able to get through it. 

HC: Do you have a favorite Brandeis memory?

AS: When I was first year, my peer mentor through SSSP noticed that I was pretty depressed my first semester. And so, she forced me to be a part of the Spring 2014 Vagina Monologues. That was probably one of the best experiences I have ever had and it really helped me understand myself and my individuality and my identity more.  And then, like I said, I like seeing things paid forward and coming full circle.  As a peer mentor I forced my mentee to be a part of Unapologetically Black and it was pretty cool to see that all kind of come full circle.

HC: What’s something you’re excited about for the future?

AS: Probably publishing my book, finally.  That’s definitely something I’m excited about, but I’m also excited about whatever growth I’m gonna experience. I feel like I’m constantly growing and constantly changing—there are parts of myself that I feel like I haven’t quite created yet.  It’s, it’s always good to look at myself as a foundation for something more than I could be, something that’s constantly evolving. 

Fun Facts:

Favorite Food – Chicken Alfredo…or Salmon, but probably Chicken Alfredo.

Favorite Video Game – The Last of Us.

Favorite Spot on Campus – My room. Does that count? If not my room then probably the Stein. 

Usdan or Sherman – Usdan!

Favorite Book – That’s the worst question anybody could ask me. Umm, I would say Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn right now.  I really like mysteries and mysteries were my first reading love, so to read a mystery as an adult—a really good one, has just been really cool. 

Favorite Place You’ve Visited – Probably Cabo de Gata which is in Spain.