Born in Missouri, raised in Aberdeen, Washington, it’s fair to say Ashley Dickerson’s roots are actually in Tacoma. “My parents met at Wright Park,” said Dickerson. “My dad was playing basketball and my mom was hanging out on the swing set. He walked over and started talking to her and they’ve been together ever since.”
Dickerson’s father—an Army veteran—moved the family to the Pacific Northwest after getting out of the service. Ashley and her three siblings grew up in Aberdeen. After high school she enrolled at Grays Harbor College where she got her associate’s degree before transferring to Western Washington University. “As soon as I got up there I realized it wasn’t for me,” said Dickerson. “I wanted something a little smaller.”
Dickerson may not have lived in Tacoma but she came up here frequently to visit family. She took a year off from school to consider her options and kept coming back to the idea of moving to the area. “Tacoma is one of my favorite places and I was really drawn to the idea of living here,” she said.
Dickerson did some research and attended a couple of information sessions on campus before deciding to transfer to UW Tacoma. She initially majored in accounting but switched to law and policy. “Accounting wasn’t my passion,” said Dickerson. “I took a class called ‘Race and ethnicity in the US’ from Tanya Velasquez and after the first day of class I knew what I wanted to do with my life.”
Dickerson is interested in social justice and civil rights. Making a difference is a big part of her approach to life. Dickerson used to tutor high school students through the AVID program and that experience left a lasting impression. “I worked with some students who didn’t think they were going to graduate, they’d kind of lost hope,” she said. “I was able to work with their teachers and get them back on the right track and they ended up going to community college.”
Dickerson has been heavily involved with the UW Tacoma community. Besides being treasurer of the Black Student Union, the 22-year-old was a Resident Advisor at Court 17, the campus’s first residence hall. “Becoming an RA is probably the biggest decision I’ve made in college,” she said.
Life as an RA can be pretty demanding. It’s a 24-hour-a-day job that requires being able to interact with diverse sets of people and dealing with multiple crises at once. Dickerson loves the work. “It feels good to be a resource, to be a friend to people who might be feeling nervous or might need help,” she said.
After she receives her undergraduate degree, Dickerson is considering graduate school at UW Tacoma. She feels a connection to the city and the university, one that started with her parents and their chance meeting at Wright Park. “Tacoma has been good to me. I’ve met so many people and gotten involved with so many amazing things that it would feel like a waste to just go to school here, live here, then leave when I could give back to the community,” she said. “I love this place and I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org