It should come as no surprise that Ashleigh Smith has enrolled in Otago Polytechnic’s Bachelor of Leadership for Change.
A crusader for a more compassionate world, Ashleigh is chairperson of Central Otago anti-bullying group Sticks 'n' Stones, which she helped establish in 2013.
She’s been busy ever since.
Appointed New Zealand’s Queens Young Leader in 2017, Ashleigh has presented on panels and at conferences here and around the world.
Most recently, Ashleigh was named a finalist in the Young Leader section of the 2018 Women of Influence Awards.
She has also been invited to be an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society for her commitment to Commonwealth values and improving the lives of it citizens.
The third-year Nursing student – yes, she’s doing two degrees at Otago Polytechnic – was a member of the Presbyterian Women of Aotearoa New Zealand delegation to the United Nations' 62nd Commission on the Status of Women, held in New York in March.
Ashleigh also attended the Women of the World Festival in Brisbane in April, which she described as “a celebration of women doing incredible things”. In addition to sitting on a panel discussing online safety, she attended lunch with 24 other women and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
"I was asked to stand up and give a little information about Sticks 'n' Stones," says Ashleigh, who celebrated the launch of Sticks 'n' Stones’ online help tool, ICON, earlier this year.
Ashleigh was also one of 1000 young people who attended Unleash, a global innovation lab that included collaborating on ideas and solutions for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“It was an incredible experience. I grew up in a rural area where you aren’t exposed to a lot of other cultures, so having the opportunity to identify, discuss and offer solutions to a range of issues with young people from 108 nations was both challenging and empowering.
“We have a long way to go in society in regards understanding and respecting other cultures, but it gives you hope to see all these young people from so many countries working together.”
Ashleigh says the Bachelor of Leadership for Change directly supports such experiences, providing a rigorous framework for her ideas.
“The degree has enabled me to share my ideas and get critical feedback from others. It has supported me to better articulate my experiences. It is all very well to go overseas to such events, but it’s what you do when you return home that matters most.”
Ashleigh also sees connections between her Bachelor of Leadership for Change “learner journey” and her Nursing studies.
“Nurses have the opportunity to lead every day. They show leadership in multiple ways and this is not just within managerial positions. For instance, patient advocacy is an important aspect of leadership.
“I have a number of philosophies about leadership and how I should act. But it’s a work in progress. Every day I learn something new that changes my perspective on the world, big or small.
“I believe the Bachelor of Leadership for Change will have a significant impact on my future.”