Born and raised in Las Vegas, Ashlyn Gray has worked her way up from intern to graduate financial services program coordinator in the Graduate College. With each promotion, she learned more and more about the university resources and how to fulfill her natural drive to be an advocate for students.
Inspiration to get into your field
When I was in my undergrad at Sierra Nevada College, every summer starting my freshman year I ran the summer conference housing program. At the end of my sophomore year, my mentor, Billy Euler, hired me as the manager of the campus bookstore. It was the very first time that a student was running any department on campus. I worked at the bookstore until graduation. That’s how I started working in higher ed. And as soon as I graduated, I came to UNLV and started my career.
The pull of poli sci
When I was younger, I wanted to go in to politics, I wanted to be governor of Nevada. In high school, I was an intern for Gov. Kenny Guinn. It was such a great experience. I would send out letters in response to mail the governor received. The coolest machine I’ve ever seen was this thing where you would put paper in and an electronic pen would replicate the governor’s signature. I really thought politics was what I was going to do. I was born and raised here in Las Vegas, and so it was always really important to me to give back to the state that I’m from.
From intern to advocate
UNLV is where I’ve spent most of my working career. When I graduated from Sierra Nevada College in 2006, I came to UNLV and was an intern for about a year. Then, in 2007 I became the breast cancer awareness coordinator at the Women’s Center thanks to a grant from Susan G. Komen. When that grant wasn’t renewed in 2009, I went to work at Planned Parenthood as a health center assistant. I came back to UNLV in 2011 as an administrative assistant at the Jean Nidetch Women’s Center. I completed the victim advocacy training while working at the center and was promoted to CARE coordinator in 2014. I was in that position until I joined the Graduate College in 2016, and I’ve found that my advocacy work has helped in my current role. I am familiar with campus resources, and I can more easily recognize when a student may need help. I’m still very much an advocate.
If you had just won Megabucks and wanted to give back to the university, what would you support?
I would support the Women’s Center and the CARE Advocates. CARE Advocates are student social justice leaders who provide interpersonal violence advocacy and education to the UNLV campus. They focus on assisting victims, survivors, and secondary victims of sexual assault, domestic and relationship violence, and stalking. I think they provide really fantastic resources to the campus. I think the 24-hour hotline that they have and the one-on-one advocacy that they offer is such a necessary resource for a campus of this size. They just do so much great work that’s so necessary, and it deserves more recognition than it gets.
The last big project you completed
Conquering Workday! As the department that processes all work contracts for all graduate assistants (GAs), it was really crucial that we figure out how Workday was going to work for us. GAs are very specific in their timeframes, their payment schedule, and their deductions. It was very important that we figure out a way for it to be successful and for everyone to be paid on time. Now, we’re there. We have tools that help troubleshoot anything that comes up. Our success in Workday would not have been possible without Theresa Quinn, Connie Nolan, and the entire Workday HR team. They have become an invaluable resource to us.
What people can do to make your job easier
They can check the graduate assistant handbook before calling or emailing. Anything you need to know as a faculty member, a supervisor, or a graduate assistant is in that handbook. The handbook is available on our website and given to every GA along with their offer letter. It’s the single document that tells everyone what they need to know.
If you weren’t working at UNLV, where do you think you’d be?
I would like to be running my own creative boutique. I would like to have a shop that sells home goods and crystals. A place that also offers classes for things like crafting and astrology would be so fun.
Advice you would give your younger self
Don’t worry so much about what other people think. I spent a large majority of my life making decisions based on what I thought other people would approve of or what they would want for me. It was helpful because it got me to where I am, but it is way more fun to make decisions for yourself.
The last show you binge-watched
The Haunting of Hill House. I don’t like scary movies or shows, but something about this show is so mesmerizing. The Netflix show is based on the book by Shirley Jackson. The story is about a family of five children and their parents, and the family drama is captivating. It's hard to look away. I think I've watched every YouTube video for insider information. It’s my current obsession that I’m telling everyone about.
Something people would be surprised to know about you
That I try to go up to Red Rock Canyon once a week — and for the last three years that I’ve been going, I love taking photos of the scenery. It reminds me of my childhood and being taken there by my parents. When I was a baby, my dad would drive the loop to put me to sleep. Clearly, the place is in my bones; I just feel so peaceful and calm there. It’s a really special place to me. I’m not necessarily an outdoorsy person, but I love nature and beautiful scenery, and taking photos just adds to it.