The Daily Tar Heel is featuring female members of the UNC campus and surrounding communities to highlight the impending arrival of the year 2020, which some are calling “The Year of the Woman,” to commemorate the centennial of the female right to vote.
Senior Ashton Martin didn’t always plan on running for student body president — until she felt like she had to.
“I didn't even really think about (running) until election season was starting to kick off,” Martin said. “But I was drawn in by the opportunity to kind of enact change on a higher level than I could've done as a committee chair or as a member of the executive board of officers.”
Martin is a political science major and said that when she joined student government her first year, most leadership roles were filled by white men. Martin, of Native American descent, said part of the reason she felt compelled to run in the 2019 election cycle was to increase diversity within the executive branch, while also increasing opportunities to advocate on behalf of smaller communities on campus.
As a woman and a member of the Native American community, Martin said she understands what it feels like to be a part of small groups on campus that are often overlooked in administrative agendas.
“I really believe in our work as being advocacy work above all,” Martin said. “We are not here to shove our ideas or our policies onto anyone, but really to collaborate with the community and work with other stakeholders to make sure that everyone has a place that they can call home here.”
Along with inclusion and diversifying policy initiatives, Martin also said that she is working closely with UNC Student Stores and UNC Libraries to make textbooks more affordable and accessible. She is also planning on launching a peer-based support network for mental health issues and strengthening a sexual assault awareness project on campus.
Beyond fulfilling her personal platform, Martin serves on a variety of committees, some of which include the UNC Board of Trustees, the Student Fee Audit Committee and the UNC General Alumni Association Board of Directors. She also sits on search committees for empty administrative roles at the University. Martin works closely with the Undergraduate Senate and the Graduate and Professional Student Federation.
“I kind of wear a lot of hats, from being just a student to being a Board of Trustees member, but I do really love everything that I do,” Martin said.
When asked what she’d like her legacy to be, Martin said she hopes to be remembered as someone who listened and tried to make change wherever possible.
Ariel Freedman and Serena Singh, two of Martin's colleagues, seem to already think of her in that manner.
“Ashton is amazing,” Freedman, senior and director of state and external affairs, said. “I think something that I admire most about her, and something I am learning from her, is how to learn by listening. I’ve never worked with someone who is so good at doing that – to sit in a room, take a step back and let everyone else speak first and then just step up or step back when she needs to.”
Senior Advisor Singh said, as a woman of color who understands the difficulty of overcoming feelings of self-doubt and worth, she is inspired by Martin’s willingness to take on such a significant leadership position.
“I am an activist myself, and so I can really see that activist nature; you know it when you see it,” Singh said. “So you know, (Martin) being willing to do things like standing on the steps of Wilson when that police protest came out is really powerful for a SBP to kind of take a strong stance like that.”
Freedman expressed gratitude for previous women in leadership roles on UNC’s campus who have paved the way for herself and peers like Martin to serve the community in their current roles.
“There are times when you are in the room with male counterparts and they only really listen to the man and it probably will happen in the foreseeable future,” Martin said. “But I think the most important part is knowing that you are capable and competent and (knowing that) just because you are a woman, doesn't mean you can't do the job that you set out to do.”
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