In a successful organization, there’s that key person, the essential cog in the machinery, someone who may not have the highest profile but who makes sure the policies set by the decision-makers at the top get carried out, who helps coordinate the activities of everyone within the organization.
At Arizona Western College, that person would be Ashley Herrington.
“I serve students at Arizona Western College,” she said, describing her responsibilities. “Through my role as the chief of staff at the college, my primary responsibility is to serve the students and ensure their success and support resolutions where they have issues.
“Secondarily, I support the president, Dr. Daniel P. Corr, and the publicly elected (AWC) District Governing Board of five individuals, to support the general operation of the college.”
In a nutshell, Herrington’s duties include following up to make sure decisions made by the governing board and college administrators are carried out; managing the timely and successful completion of complex special projects; providing briefing materials to Corr prior to governing board meetings and other events, and helping to ensure effective communication between the office of the president and the college faculty and student body.
And in Corr’s absence, she takes on the president’s duties with the help of the AWC Executive Team.
“Every day I have the opportunity to help someone,” she said. “Higher education is not the industry to choose if you want to make money, but it is the best industry to be in to initiate change and be a supporter for someone who comes to AWC and wants to continue with education and create their path to a successful future.“It may sound cheesy, but when you can help a student who doesn’t have anyone else to lean on, it’s really great to know them by name, and see them walk across the stage at commencement with a huge smile. It is servant leadership at its best.”
For Herrington, her most memorable professional moment came at AWC’s 2019 commencement, a celebration for more than 2,000 graduates of AWC and of the AWC campus branches of Northern Arizona University, Arizona State University and University of Arizona.
“It put a smile on my face to see students celebrated with such pomp and circumstance and have fireworks support that. Fireworks remind me of celebrations surrounding victory – the Olympics, athletics games at the national level, 4th of July and military service returns. It is only fitting that obtaining a degree should be part of that winning environment.”
The COVID-19 pandemic put a damper on plans for a live graduation in 2020. But Herrington remains committed to the mission of “getting students across the finish line.”
“This health pandemic has (forced us to find) ways to do things in new ways in education that were long overdue. I want to see another successful year of graduates and then – fingers crossed – take a vacation to a beach.”
What is your favorite quote?
“Impossible is nothing.”
What advice do you have for other young professionals?
You don’t need to have all the answers; you need to be willing to listen, try, fail and try again. Don’t let the fear of failing prevent you from doing something different. Also, never underestimate the value of a written thank you note.
If you could describe yourself as an animal, what animal would you be?
I would be a horse. A horse can carry heavy loads and has endurance to run, race or trek over long distances. I would consider my stamina as a professional to “carry” those with me when they need the help to be similar to that of a horse. And I love the strength of a horse paired with the gentle and calm demeanor most have.
If you could hang out with any celebrity, who would it be and why?
Jennifer Garner – she is humble, kind and likes to produce her “Pretend Cooking Show.” I want to be on it with her! She also likes to drink wine, eat good food and hang in her garden with her family. That sounds like fun, carefree and full of laughs. Sign me up!