Ashaki Charles

Ashaki Charles
Major Gifts Officer
Teachers College, Columbia University
Career Field
Year of Graduation

My major was undeclared when I arrived as a first year student at Geneseo in 1996 with no concrete decision regarding a career path.  Rather than focusing on my state of indecision, I kept an open mind and took classes that were of interest to me. I also took classes with faculty that challenged me to think critically and eventually found myself taking every class offered by Professors Beth McCoy and Maria Lima! I’ve always loved reading, writing, literature, learning and hearing others’ points of view and by the end of my second year at Geneseo was more than halfway through the English major and graduated in 2000 with a double major in English and Communication. Geneseo’s focus on liberal education prepared me for my professional journey as a fundraiser, collaborator, marketer and educator in higher education.

My studies gave me an appreciation for language and a deeper understanding of the power of the world’s cultural diversity. I developed an interest in subjects such as Post-Colonial and African-American Literature, and slave/migration narratives because they helped me see the connection between culture, language and people. In intimate class discussions, I saw this in the syncretism of Roman Catholicism with the religions of the Caribbean and South American people conquered by the Spanish and with the consequential religion of African slaves. Furthermore, I saw how culture and religion habitually interacted with language and how it affects methods and style of communication. These discussions created an additional interest in the study of interpersonal/organizational communication and caused me to appreciate and understand those who see things from a different perspective due to their lens, history and life experiences.

As important as understanding and studying the history of the world around me is applying that knowledge to help others. One value that resonates today was instilled in my childhood, and that is the importance of giving back. Growing up in Trinidad, I was surrounded with a supportive and nurturing community, one that developed my natural curiosity and encouraged creativity through the arts, reading, sciences, field trips and other activities. I have used and continue to use my abilities to assist others by mentoring, through leadership positions and tutoring throughout high school, college and graduate school. Seeing the impact of these activities has further reinforced my consciousness of the need to use one’s abilities for the betterment of others.

My undergraduate studies at Geneseo and graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania have prepared me well for the path that I am on. I am currently a Major Gifts Officer at Teachers College, Columbia University where I strategically build key relationships with individual donors to create change and strengthen the nation’s first graduate school of education. I am grateful for the foundation Geneseo gave me, and I continue to be grateful to Professors Beth McCoy and Maria Lima for their dedication in and outside of the classroom. I hope my next steps professionally will help me further advance the good of humankind by solving social problems.