Where does a passion to help others come from? For Brescia alumna, Ashley Boyes ‘13 this was developed within her at an early age, when her parents – both Protestant Pastors – would regularly engage her in discussions about important world issues, such as poverty, homelessness and human trafficking. While pursuing a double major in Political Science and Global Culture Studies at Brescia, Ashley’s passion to help others only increased, causing her to realize she was ready to make change on a global scale – through pursuit of the law. Following her time at Brescia, Ashley went on to achieve a combined Juris Doctor from the University of Ottawa and a Masters in International Affairs at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University. Throughout law school, Ashley remained actively involved both inside and outside of the classroom, volunteering at: The War Crimes Research Office in Washington, DC; International Justice Mission’s Philippines field office and the UN Women National Committee Canada. Today, Ashley remains committed to making a difference in our world – both through her career as an Associate of Civil Sexual Assault Law and through her volunteer work, bringing awareness to human trafficking within Canada and beyond.
Why did you choose Brescia for university?
Choosing Brescia was a combination of a few different factors for me. First and foremost, a driving force was that Brescia has an incredible scholarship program. And, while this was a very practical reason, it was a big motivation as to why I chose to study at Brescia. Another equally significant motivation was that Brescia is Canada’s only all-women’s university. I have always believed in the importance of feminism, equality and surrounding yourself with strong women mentors and leaders. I knew that Brescia aligned with my values and would be a great place to start my career.
What path led you to your role as an Associate at Lerners LLP?
When I was completing my undergraduate at Brescia, I was able to take classes on all four campuses – Brescia, King’s, Huron and Western. Because of this, I had the opportunity to be exposed to a variety of different areas, concepts and people. And, through this experience, I soon realized my true passion was advocating for women’s issues – particularly issues surrounding violence against women and human trafficking on an international level.
Growing up, I had considered law as a career, but Brescia really nurtured and transformed this consideration into a passion – propelling me to finally apply for law school at the University of Ottawa.
While I was in law school, I was provided with an incredible opportunity to work in International Justice Mission’s Philippines field office. During my two months there, my work was focused on anti-trafficking and helping girls who were being trafficked in the Philippines. I quickly fell in love with this work, as it was a perfect combination of my education in the law and my passion to help others. At the end of this experience, I came back to Canada excited to help others but unsure of my next steps.
After I finished law school, I articled with the Office of the Attorney General of Ontario, where I received great hands-on practical experience advocating on my feet. Although this was a positive experience for me, I wanted to diversify my skillset and moved to a role in Commercial Litigation at a global firm on Bay Street. While my work in Commercial Litigation was rewarding, I knew that I wanted to get back to helping women through the law. This past summer I reached out to Lerners LLP, as I knew that they had a growing practice group in Civil Sexual Assault Law, which I thought would be a perfect fit for me. However, I also knew that this was a very niche area of the law and never thought they would be hiring. Luckily, timing was on my side, and someone ended up reaching out to me for an interview before offering me a role as an Associate on their team.
In addition to my work at Lerners, I am currently volunteering on an anti-trafficking initiative, called Project Maple Leaf. Originally titled Project ONroute, this media campaign aims to drive awareness to the underage trafficking of girls across Canada – particularly along the 401 series highways, where 65% of all of Canada’s human trafficking occurs.
To help drive awareness, this past July 30th – on World Day against Trafficking in Persons – we encouraged people to visit their local ONroute on the 401, where we had ambassadors and activities ready at each location. The event garnered strong media attention, and brought in media and political leaders from across the province. I look forward to continuing working on and growing this campaign to drive awareness for this important Canadian issue.
What are some of the learnings that you have been able to take away from your experience at Brescia and apply to your career?
One of the things that I loved most about Brescia was its small class sizes. I found that because I wasn’t simply a number and had the ability to regularly interact with my professors, I was able to learn the material faster and more deeply. The opportunity to interact with professionals and academics while you’re a student is incredibly beneficial to maturing and preparing you for your future career.
I also give a lot of credit to Brescia’s professors. For me, Paul Barker was instrumental in me choosing to stay at Brescia. Professor Barker was incredibly engaging, but more than just that, he really took pride in his students and wanted to see each of them succeed.
To what do you attribute your professional success?
A combination of many things! First, the amazing experiences that I had while at Brescia and at the greater Western level have remained with me to this day – particularly because I was exposed to a variety of people and topics on the four different campuses. This exposure helped me realize and centre-in on my passion for international issues. The female leadership and mentorship, in addition to the rewarding extracurricular experiences I had while completing my undergrad were also ultimately what supported and motivated me to apply to law school and get where I am today.
What advice would you give to Brescia alumnae and students?
Get involved! It sounds cliché, because everyone tells you that – but it’s for a good reason. Your time at university will be so much more rewarding if you put yourself out there and get involved in one way or another – whether that be through a club, Students’ Council, academically or an internship.
I lived off-campus while studying at Brescia, and I found that I had to work harder to get involved. I would encourage anyone from London, who may be living at home, to force yourself to get involved. It will be these opportunities that will expose you to new possibilities and provide you with a well-rounded university experience.
Secondly, and very simply, I would encourage students to remain dedicated and work hard throughout your undergrad. We have all heard of someone who thinks that they can “coast” through school, but if you are someone who aspires to further your education, then your grades will matter – as will what you do in your spare time. Your undergrad will be busy, so be sure not to waste time by doing your best the first time. Frankly, I always found the busier I was, the more enriched I was, the better I did and the more fun I had.
How do you define leadership? Or, what characteristics make a great leader?
I define leadership as an individuals’ ability to influence and impact the lives of others. I believe that good leadership starts with good service, and that you can’t be an effective leader unless you have a desire to serve – whether that be in your community, work, school or family.
What are your hopes for Brescia in the next 100 years?
Today, more than ever, I think Brescia has a unique position as Canada’s only women’s university. I hope that as the University enters its new century, it keeps this position in Canada. I also hope that as Brescia’s alumnae community grows, that more and more alumnae become actively involved. I know that I personally would love to get more involved at Brescia and see how I can help influence the next generation of women. The future is female!
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