Ashley Clayton ‘16PHD
Educational Research and Policy Analysis
Jo Ellen Levy Yates Endowed Assistant Professor of Higher Education
Louisiana State University
Prior to attending NC State, Ashley Clayton ‘16PHD spent five years working full time in undergraduate admissions and with TRIO Upward Bound. It was through those experiences that she discovered a passion for working with underserved populations, specifically first-generation college students, which cultivated her research interests.
Clayton’s research broadly focuses on practices and policies that address postsecondary access, equity and success. But she primarily examines postsecondary outcomes for underserved student populations, including first-generation college students, low-income students, rural students and students of color.
As the Jo Ellen Levy Yates Endowed Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the School of Education at Louisiana State University, she is involved in research, teaching and service. Clayton teaches classes on higher education finance, college access and choice, land-grant universities, leadership and assessment and evaluation.
Clayton currently serves on the inaugural editorial board for the Journal of First-generation Student Success — a role she says the higher education program prepared her to take on. While serving as a graduate assistant for Paul Umbach, Ph.D., professor of higher education and associate editor for the Journal of Higher Education at the time, Clayton had the honor of being able to serve as the editorial assistant for the journal. She learned about the peer-review process, editorial board responsibilities and the publication process. She also had the opportunity to assist other faculty members with reviewing articles.
Choosing the NC State higher education program was one of the best decisions of my life. I sincerely believe that I would not be a professor today without my experience in the NC State higher education program. The relationships I built during my time at NC State are still vital to my career today and will be in the future.
“When thinking about pursuing a doctorate, I conducted a nationwide search, met with faculty and visited several different programs. NC State’s program was not nationally ranked at the time, but I knew it was strong. When choosing a Ph.D. program, I prioritized mentorship, research and community. Not only were Paul Umbach’s research interests aligned with mine, I had a strong hunch that he would be an excellent mentor. I also wanted to go to a program that was supportive, down-to-earth and had a strong doctoral community. When making my final decision, I ultimately chose NC State to work with amazing faculty and for the community. Choosing the NC State higher education program was one of the best decisions of my life.
I had a graduate research assistantship for all four years where I worked with three faculty members: Paul Umbach, Ph.D., Stephen Porter, Ph.D., and Andrew McEachin, Ph.D. I also had the opportunity to co-teach and TA several courses with higher education faculty members. In particular, I taught two courses with Joy Gaston Gayles, Ph.D., and benefited greatly from her mentorship. Nothing prepared me more for my faculty career than working alongside faculty on research and teaching. Beyond the experience, I had true mentorship and faculty that invested in helping me achieve my future career goals. I am still working with them on research projects and know that I can always reach out if I need advice.
I sincerely believe that I would not be a professor today without my experience in the NC State Higher Education program. I am grateful for the advising, mentoring and support I received from faculty, as well as the strong cohort model of the program. I often doubted if I was Ph.D. material, and the program not only helped me build confidence as a researcher, but gave me the tools and training to become a tenure-track faculty member. The relationships I built during my time at NC State are still vital to my career today and will be in the future.”