Staff Spotlight: Ashley Waggener

International Manager


Ashley Waggener is the International Manager- North America for UNSW Australia. Based in Washington, DC, Ashley is responsible for marketing, recruitment, and other regional management. Previously, Ashley was the Senior Study Abroad Advisor for Service Learning at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, before returning to the USA as the Regional Director for Service Learning. She has a B.A. in Psychology and Teaching Certification from Southern Methodist University and a Master of Education from Curtin University.

What has been your career path so far?

My career began as an elementary school teacher in Texas. After a few years of teaching, I decided to pursue my Masters in Education and I chose to do so in Perth where I had dreamed of returning. While I was in graduate school, I looked after the study abroad program I had gone on myself. I enjoyed watching the changes to the students over the course of the semester through their experiences in Australia.

It was amazing to see how the cultural diversity on campus and the lifestyle in Australia changed their perspectives on life. From there I made the switch to international education when I finished my Masters. I worked briefly for my Alma mater, Curtin University, when I moved back to the US. I met someone at a conference who knew my current position was being created and the next thing I knew, I had moved to DC and I was working for UNSW Australia.

What position do you hold at UNSW?

I am the International Manager - North America for UNSW Australia based in Alexandria, VA. I market UNSW programs throughout the region and I assist American and Canadian students who are interested in studying abroad or gaining their full degree at UNSW. I answer questions about UNSW and assist with the application process.

I attend a variety of study abroad and full degree fairs and I also visit campuses to do pre-departure briefings. I work closely with our third party providers to make sure that they have everything they need to provide the best service possible for our students.

As an American who has studied abroad and obtained a Masters in Australia, I am able to use my personal experiences to better assist students. I will also be working to put on study abroad alumni functions in the US and to assist study abroad alumni who would like to return to UNSW for post-graduate study.

What does your home-country's culture value that is taught in your program?

In Sydney, over 40% of the population have a parent born overseas. As a result, the city is very diverse and evidence of this is visible in the food, music, and festivals. It’s also noticeable in the acceptance and tolerance displayed by local Australians. UNSW Australia has been accepting international students for over 60 years and about 25% of our student body is International with students coming from over 120 different countries.

Students who study abroad here will get the chance to meet and live alongside both the local Australians and the other international students. This allows for a very multi-cultural study abroad experience as well as the opportunity to begin an international network. I know language learning is highly valued in the field of international education and as a result some people expect a less cultural experience in a country where everyone speaks English, but I can assure you that isn’t the case with Australia.

Did YOU study abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?

I studied abroad in Western Australia at Curtin University in Perth. I aspired to go to Australia for as long as I could remember. I’ve always loved the wildlife there, as most children do, and all the photos I’d seen were breathtaking. I was nearly swayed by friends to go on a different study abroad trip and I am so glad that I didn’t listen to them.

I’m happy that I stayed true to my dream and did what I wanted to do. Those friends had a good time even though the start of the Iraq war and SARS kept them from getting to many planned ports (they participated on the Semester at Sea program) but that’s not why I am glad I didn’t go with them. If I had gone with a big group of friends, I wouldn’t have reached out and met as many people as I did or have left my comfort zone as much as I did.

What was your favorite traveling experience?

Every travel experience I’ve had has been memorable in it’s own way and I’ve learned something about myself each time. However, I took a trip to New Zealand when I was studying abroad that truly taught me the value that comes from going beyond your comfort zone. It was my first experience staying in hostels and learning of the camaraderie that exists amongst fellow travelers no matter where you come from or where you are headed.

It was also the first time I realized the depth of my adrenaline fixation. I swam with hundreds of wild dolphins, climbed a glacier, went hang-gliding off the top of the Remarkable Mountains, went skydiving over Queenstown, and the most terrifying and rewarding of all was my first of now many bungy jumps. Since then I’ve always pushed myself to move past the fear and to try everything I can when I am in a new country.