Amazing Students Profiles

Ashley David

Ashley David

Ashley David has already had experiences and opportunities to fill a lifetime.  Already an accomplished poet, this Ph.D. student is participating in a UGA-affiliated artist residency program in Vermont.


I’ve lived all over the U.S. and overseas, so…the planet?!?

High School:

Gainesville High School and Cambridge Rindge and Latin School

Degree objective:

Ph.D. in English/creative writing

Other degrees:

B.A. in cultural anthropology from Stanford University; M.A. in cultural anthropology; and certificate in culture and media from New York University; MFA in creative writing/poetry from University of Michigan

Expected graduation:

Spring 2013

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

I’m in my fourth year in the Ph.D. program, and I began my studies at UGA with an amazing program called Summer Bridge, which is administered by the Office of Outreach and Diversity in the Graduate School. Through the program, I met a diverse group of newly matriculated scholars from across the university, and I carved out a little bit of extra-departmental home at UGA, which continues to be a supportive part of my life. Importantly, this experience set the tone for the mentoring that I continue to do for the Outreach and Diversity office and for interdepartmental work that I continued as the graduate assistant for the Institute for African American Studies from 2008-2010. The highlight of my tenure at AFAM was working with a team of predominantly undergraduate editors as their editor-in-chief to grow Mandala Journal into an online, international journal with a diverse roster of important contributors and a significant global readership. Check it out at

My home department has also been very supportive, and I have received travel grants to attend conferences and present papers plus a research travel grant to go to Havana in May 2009 to begin my dissertation research. I can’t emphasize enough how important this support has been. Three scholarly articles that I presented at conferences in New York and Louisiana are now forthcoming in anthologies, and a multimedia piece was commissioned and published by an online journal called The Offending Adam after the editor attended one of my less conventional conference “talks.”

Most immediately exciting is this year that I’m spending as a resident-artist at the Vermont Studio Center. A collaboration between the Graduate School, the English department, and the Vermont Studio Center has made this somewhat unusual fourth year possible. Without this collaboration, my dissertation project would be merely theoretical. With it, I can take the theory into the studio and the shop and build things. What a gift!

Finally, since matriculating at UGA, op-ed features on education, the environment, and social justice that I written have appeared in The Flagpole, my poems have appeared in Greensboro Review, Alimentum, and Toad: Exciting Art; and poems were chosen as finalists for the Black Warrior Review 5th Ever Poetry Contest. My first poetry manuscript, Who are your people, Sugar?, was a semi-finalist for Many Mountains Moving Press Poetry Book Prize.

Current Employment:

I was lucky enough to receive a pre-doctoral artist-residency fellowship this year from the Vermont Studio Center, which enables me to spend 12 months living and working among an international community of artists and writers in a tiny village in northern Vermont. For my research assistantship, I’m helping to grow the international program, and for my own work, I’m focusing on my creative dissertation project called “American (post).” I began the research in Havana in May 2009, and I’ve since written 49 poems that explore dominant and non-dominant discourses about ” America” and Americanness” across the Americas. I’m now in the process of translating those poems into objects as a way to explore questions about mediation, language, power and perspective. It’s so exciting to be working across media, and while doing so, it’s an amazing experience to live, eat and work alongside 75 artists and writers.

I chose to attend UGA because…

I’m interested in the intersection of landscape, heritage and globalization. Although I’ve lived my life in many places, my own heritage has deep Georgia roots. I started spending more time here to conduct research while I was studying for my M.F.A. at the University of Michigan. It ultimately occurred to me that I needed to live here year-round for a while in order to do my work justice. The Ph.D. program in English/creative writing provided a great opportunity to dig into my work.

My favorite things to do on campus are…

My favorite place on campus is the ethnobotanical garden. It reminds me of the places I’ve lived and traveled in Mexico. I was really sad when the garden was re-painted to fit in better with the UGA color palette. The bright colors were perfect for the garden. Still, I remain grateful that we have the garden, because it reminds us that this part of America is only one part of the Americas. An interesting coincidence: When I first arrived at UGA, I discovered that Elois Ann Berlin and Brent Berlin, professors emeriti in anthropology, had spearheaded the garden project. I had traveled with the Berlins in Chiapas many years ago while I was an undergraduate at Stanford, and they were still at University of California at Berkeley. It was on that trip that I had my first exposure to the things that I find so compelling about UGA’s ethnobotanical garden.

When I have free time, I like…

Between studying for my comprehensive exams; working in my studio on my dissertation project; attending the resident artists’ and writers’ talks and readings; and fulfilling my research assistant duties, I don’t have a lot of free time. I will say that the swimming holes, the hiking, and the snow-shoeing opportunities in the northeast kingdom of Vermont are compelling, and I love hanging out with all the artists and writers from around the world who are in residence here. I also like playing with my dog and two cats, who remind me that playing is necessary no matter how much I have to do.

The craziest thing I’ve done is…

Well, sometimes crazy adventures make it into my writing, but that’s about as forthright as I’m likely to be about such things here.

My favorite place to study is…

I love to study in the the studio I built upstairs in my cottage in Athens, and my studio at the Vermont Studio Center is also wonderful.

My favorite professor is…

I have been particularly blessed by the mentorship of my committee members Barbara McCaskill, Susan Rosenbaum, Ed Pavlic and Reg McKnight. They each contribute different things to my program of study and professional development, and I’d be lost without them.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with…

In my travels and as the producer-host of The Living Writers Show for WCBN-FM while I was in Michigan from 2005-2007, I have been lucky enough to meet many amazing people, and so, to be honest, no one leaps to mind as the single person I’m most dying to hang out with. Actually, I love to spend quiet afternoons in the woods with my dog or in my garden hanging out with the dog and cats or having tea with a good friend. And, I’m really looking forward to meeting the next round of amazing people at the Vermont Studio Center…a slew of folks from across the country and around the world cycles through each month. By the time my year is up, I will have spent incredible afternoons with roughly 700 people!

If I knew I could not fail, I would…

do exactly what I’m doing, which is making art and trying to live consciously and with compassion.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to…

visit all my friends in far away places often and make a lot of really wonderful things happen in communities that have limited resources.

After graduation, I plan to…

continue writing, making art and working in the community.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be…

working with the undergraduate staff of Mandala Journal. What an amazing group of students, who proved incontrovertibly to me that it’s possible to make big things happen in one’s spare time.