When Ashlyn Crawford started at Winona State University, she lacked motivation and direction.

But the Minneapolis, Minn., native blossomed during her time at WSU, transforming from a follower to a leader.

“Looking back to freshman year and then seeing where I am now would be my favorite part of my WSU experience. It’s very humbling and gratifying to see and recognize self-growth,” Crawford said. “I found groups, clubs and people who pushed me to be better and to be a leader. I took initiative over my life and my education.”

However, Crawford’s journey to becoming a campus leader wasn’t always easy. She found she had to overcome one of her biggest obstacles: herself.

“I got in the way of my own success at times and I can actually admit that now,” Crawford said.

“A lot of self-doubt made this journey harder than it had to be. I was afraid to fail, I was afraid to take risks and I was afraid to be different.”

Crawford said she realized during her sophomore year at WSU that she was holding herself back. She decided to make a conscious effort to get involved on campus, and became an active member and leader in numerous clubs and organizations that she was passionate about.

Crawford sought out and joined groups that she perceived as trying to make a difference on campus. As a president of the Women of Color Association, Crawford helped empower women and establish presence on campus. Crawford took her passion for inclusion and diversity further by joining the KEAP Council (Knowledge Empowerment Advocacy Pluralism) and by becoming a student representative on the Inclusive Excellence Committee. Crawford was even the Diversity Specialist and the Campus Organizing Intern for Students United. With Students United, Crawford and others represented the needs of Minnesota State students on at the campus, system-wide and state level. Together, they focused on Get Out The Vote (GOTV) by registering students for last year’s election, and advocated for Sexual Assault Prevention, Retention and Affordability.

In her four years at WSU, Crawford went against the grain and became an activist and leader.

“I’ve learned who and what I want to be and how I’m going to get there,” Crawford said. “WSU taught me to always speak up, always share my ideas and to always listen to others.”

During her time at WSU, Crawford also found time to serve as captain of the WSU Hip Hop Team and as a member of the Paralegal Association and the Pre Law Association.

Crawford will graduate this May with a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies and a minor in Intercultural Communications.

After college, Crawford will have an internship with The Bureau of Mediation Services in St. Paul. She also plans on taking the LSAT this June and attending law school in the fall of 2018.

WSU Spring Commencement Ceremonies will be at 9 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Friday, May 5, in McCown Gymnasium. The 9 a.m. ceremony will feature the College of Education and the College of Liberal Arts. The 12:30 p.m. ceremony will feature the College of Business and the College of Science and Engineering. The 4 p.m. ceremony will feature the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. For more information, visit http://www.winona.edu/graduation/commencement.asp or contact University Communications at 507-457-5024.

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Brian Waldbillig

Brian is a Public Relations major and Communication Studies minor from Farmington, MN. His hobbies include photography, hiking and going to concerts.