In December 2019, Ashley Souk joined the Office of Advancement team as Assistant Director of Advancement for the College of Education at Illinois.
Born and raised in Champaign, Illinois, Ashley earned her bachelor’s degree in Organizational and Leadership Communication and Political Science from Illinois State University. Prior to coming on board with the College of Education's Office of Advancement, she worked at Home Sweet Home Ministries in Bloomington, Illinois as a donor relations coordinator raising funds in a variety of ways for people experiencing homelessness.
Ashley looks forward to the day she can begin scheduling in-person visits with alumni and donors to discuss the power of their investment in Education. But as we all know, the global coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we travel, visit, and gather for the foreseeable future.
So in lieu of face-to-face introductions, we’d like to offer this opportunity to "meet" Ashley and learn about her excitement for being With Illinois. Please read on!
Q: Tell us about your Illinois story—what does the university mean to you, personally?
AS: It’s funny, because while the university has always been in my backyard, its influence affected my family members, rather than me—until now. Now my story feels somewhat full circle.
I met my significant other, Maxwell, nearly 15 years ago while a sophomore in high school. His grandfather, John McGill, had relocated here from New York to be a professor, eventually settling in with the College of Education.
My grandmother met her loving husband of 40 years because of Illinois. My grandfather, Jim Souk, came to the University of Illinois from West Virginia to earn his law degree while my grandmother earned her bachelor’s degree in English Education. My grandfather never returned home! When I visited the Education Building for my interview and saw the Law Building located just across Sixth and Peabody, I imagined my grandparents literally bumping into each other crossing the street with books in hand. Though that wasn’t exactly the case, I replay that romantic scene every day when walking into work.
Champaign is home to Max and me because of the University of Illinois, and more specifically the College of Education.
Q: What particular projects or initiatives are you most looking forward to being involved with for the College of Education?
AS: YLF! The Youth Literature Festival is what drew me to the College of Education. As a child, I struggled to read, which drove me to dreading it as homework or reading aloud in the classroom. I think that’s why I never took interest in the Harry Potter series; I couldn’t visualize those tricky words… quidditch! Now reading the entire series is on my pre-thirty years old bucket list. It brings me so much joy that I will get to connect children with reading because of passionate alumni and friends.
Scholarships have the ability to change the trajectory of a young person’s life, and I can’t wait to be a (very) small part of these. Being raised by a single teenage mom, graduating from a four-year university was not just a goal, it was my dream. While being a first-generation college graduate is my most proud accomplishment (running my first marathon last fall is now a close second!), if I had been better informed about scholarship opportunities, my educational and career path may have looked different.
Q: During your short time in the College of Education, tell us about one gift or scholarship that has or will have a powerful impact on a students’ life—and potentially, the world!
The named scholarships for Max's grandfather and grandmother (John E. McGill and Connie McGill Atkins) are near and dear to my heart, obviously. However, just a few weeks into my new role, I received a scholarship inquiry from alumna Susan Meister. Susan has decided to honor her mother’s memory by creating a scholarship in her name. Her mother, Constance (Connie) Anna Wachs, was an Education at Illinois graduate and Bronze Tablet recipient in 1962. After talking with Susan and learning more about her mother Connie’s legacy, I knew I made the right decision coming to work at Illinois. It's truly a dream to be able to connect philanthropy with education… and I am finally an Illini!
Feel free to email Ashley at email@example.com.