Ashley Baudouin can tell you that she can make a plan, but life doesn’t always follow it.
In 2005, Baudouin was beginning her freshman year at Loyola University in New Orleans. A native, she had intended to enroll at college “down the road” from home. Loyola, a Jesuit institution with a good journalism curriculum, was part of her plan. Move-in and the following days of orientation were part of it, too.
But Hurricane Katrina – the storm that hit on the scheduled first day of classes and resulted in the cancellation of the fall semester – wasn’t.
Now, sitting in her office as the newly appointed interim assistant dean and director of Lehigh’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs, Baudouin reflects on her life with the knowledge that Katrina affected her plan. Though the changes may have begun with an altered college experience, it’s one that, according to Baudouin, “worked out a thousand times over.” From her schooling in Louisiana to the “crazy things that happened” that brought her to work at Lehigh, the plan has continued to shift, but Baudouin has taken the opportunities and made them her own.
In the Katrina aftermath, Baudouin found out that she could emergency enroll at Louisiana State University. And so she did, three weeks late and with a transcript that read “student affected by Hurricane Katrina.” She had missed exams and sorority recruitment, and was placed in leftover upper level courses.
She had no desire to be at LSU and thought she wouldn’t be for long. The new year would bring her back to Loyola – back to her original plan.
“Then come December I started to think otherwise,” Baudouin says from her desk, above which her LSU diploma is displayed.
The day Baudouin drove back to Loyola, all it took was a little unpacking.
“(I) looked around and said, ‘This isn’t right,’ and then turned around and drove back.”
Baudouin says the experience taught her resiliency, a quality that has extended to her time in Lehigh’s OFSA. With a position overseeing all of Greek life comes challenges – from organizations, campus issues and students – but with them comes the motivation to “be on (her) game every day.”
“There are days where it’s frustrating and difficult and I feel like I’m behind on a thousand days,” she says. “And then you have that one student stop by who just kind of wants to bop up on the chair and talk to you about their stuff. And that’s great.”
Once she was settled back at LSU, Baudouin joined the Greek community through Continuous Open Bidding and became a Delta Gamma. To her chapter she credits learning leadership skills from supportive, strong women whom she looks up to even today.
Baudouin, whose office is adorned with Delta Gamma composites, says her chapter became the way she identified at school. From not intending to actively pursue a sorority, to being honored as Greek Woman of the Year as a senior, an important element had been added to her plan.
At LSU, Baudouin was able to forge relationships with staff in the Greek Life and Dean of Students offices. It was an opportunity not many had, and one that ultimately led her to reconsider her future. At her awards reception, Baudouin was seated with the dean of students, who spoke of her love for student affairs.
As she spoke, Baudouin says, “A lot of the dots started to connect.”
The value of strong relationships isn’t lost on Baudouin, nor is it on the individuals she’s fostered similar bonds with. She cites authenticity as the foundation of any meaningful relationship, and has extended that to her influential roles.
“I think she’s really good…at balancing (and) developing a working personal relationship with students and still being able to say there are boundaries to set,” says Christopher Mulvihill, assistant dean of the Office of Student Conduct & Community Expectations and Interfraternity Council adviser. “She approaches that from the personal side as opposed to the authority side.”
When Marissa Flores, ’16, became president of Kappa Alpha Theta with no prior chapter leadership experience, it was Baudouin and her approachable demeanor that served as a support system for her and the sorority.
“I felt like I could really come to her with the issues we were having and have an honest conversation as opposed to not being honest and getting nowhere,” Flores says of her former adviser.
Ricky Johnson, ’16, a former advisee and president of Delta Upsilon, has come to Baudouin for guidance both personally and within his capacity as a Greek leader. He says the very nature by which she approaches conversations is what helps them reach deeper than just surface level.
“She does things with her friendliness, with her demeanor…that makes it easy to talk about anything,” he says.
After leaving LSU and taking a gap year, a postgraduate Baudouin matriculated to Bowling Green State University where she pursued a master’s degree in college student personnel. Later, an internship at Rollins College had Baudouin researching strong Greek life programs.
The Northeast had certainly not been part of the plan. But a small school called Lehigh University had cropped up more than once on Baudouin’s assignments.
“It was my one exception to the (Northeast) rule,” she says of seeing an open OFSA position at Lehigh. “Got here, loved meeting the students, loved meeting the staff. It was very clear to me that this was a good place.”
Lehigh had left an impression. Now, in her fourth year working at the university, Baudouin has left one too.
“I do remember that when she started here, I was impressed with her dedication and her real desire to work with students from where students are coming from,” Mulvihill says.
Her first days on South Mountain were as an assistant director within OFSA, though Baudouin was promoted to an associate director position this summer, before taking on her interim role. Yet, according to Interfraternity Council President Matthew Bay, ’16, official title is the only thing that’s different about Baudouin.
“She’s still…supporting the people she works with, and just being a good person to be around,” he says, “Her attitude hasn’t changed, her job has.”
For Panhellenic Council President Ellen Weich, ’16, Baudouin’s passion stands out.
“You can just see the way she gets excited about (working), and her enthusiasm, and it comes across so easily, especially when she facilitates things,” she says.
Weich is right – Baudouin says she is excited. And it’s because of her new position, seeing student leadership strive, having important conversations and tackling something new on her calendar each day.
Just like her plan, Lehigh is ever changing. And Baudouin says it’s one of the most exciting parts of the job.
“You never know what’s going to come your way,” she says, “and I think it’s that variety – I think that’s cool.”