The 40 under 40 distinction recognizes the personal, professional and philanthropic achievements of UGA graduates under the age of 40.
This interview with Ashley McMaster (ABJ ’06), vice president of membership and development at America’s Essential Hospitals, is one of a series of conversations with Grady’s honorees this year. Other honorees are:
Eric Jones (ABJ ’12) Jamelia Outlaw Smith (ABJ ’03) Mikaya Thurmond (ABJ ’12)
Grady College: What experience during your time in college had the biggest influence on where you are today?
McMaster: “The decision to walk into the Grady career services office had the biggest influence on where I am today. I knew I wanted to start my career anywhere but Georgia – and a big city was my ideal. Before talking with Cecil Bentley, Grady College’s former director of external relations, my search had been focused in Atlanta because I wasn’t sure where to start, and I knew I needed a job by graduation. This was 2006, and Internet job searches were still relatively novel. Cecil had access to job postings that I never would have found. One of those positions was at SmartBrief, a digital media company based in Washington, D.C. Cecil encouraged me to apply despite my knowing very little about the city; I got the job and have been in Washington ever since.”
Grady College: What advice do you have for current students?
McMaster: ” I give the same three pieces of advice to all college students:
Study abroad. I know it’s expensive, which is what prevented me from doing it, but the experience will be worth it. You’ll always be able to pay it back later, and there are scholarships available if you can’t manage to find the money. In fact, my husband and I recently endowed a scholarship at UGA for this exact purpose — Bobby Friedmann Passport Terry Scholarship.
Get to know your professors. Each semester, pick at least one professor and get to know him or her on a first-name basis. These relationships are invaluable when you want to know more about the subject, require a letter of recommendation for grad school or need a professional introduction. It will enrich your educational experience and pay dividends in your career.
Go to class. As with most of life, half the effort is just showing up. Also, you’re a student, so treat class like it’s your job. You’ll learn more, get to know your classmates and develop discipline. And if you find you absolutely hate the class … deal with it? Most of adulthood is suffering through stuff you don’t really want to do.
Oh, and one other thing: ditch your high school boyfriend/girlfriend. You don’t need the baggage, and there are so many people to meet. Trust me on this one.”
Grady College: What motivates you?
McMaster: “Helping others. Whether through work, serving on a board, volunteering time, giving money or voting – my motivation is supporting other humans and seeing them succeed, be happier or improve their circumstances (whatever that may be). My husband and I often talk about whom we’d help, and how, if we won the lottery. Until then, though, I’ll keep working hard and being kind to people.”
Grady College: What was your vision for your career? Have you followed this path?
McMaster: “I thought I would be a journalist, specifically a writer for Rolling Stone magazine. I did not follow this path. Although I started my career as an editor, it has taken a number of twists and turns. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never be a writer or reporter, and I really enjoy my career in membership and development. Regardless, I will always need the writing and editing skills I learned in journalism school. I’m content to have live music be my hobby, if not my career!”
Grady College: How have unprecedented times in 2020 challenged your work as a professional?
McMaster: “I’ve worked fully remotely twice in my career – first, between 2007 and 2009 and again in 2017. What makes 2020 different is that I had just started a new job two weeks before the world went remote. In this position, I manage a team of five people, who I was just getting know, and I work in development, which typically requires travel. Plus, I now have a son, who has been at home doing schoolwork and enjoying way too much television on summer break. All of this has taught me to be more flexible, more discerning in time management, and to build personal relationships with my team beyond our professional goals and day-to-day.”
Grady College: What did you love most about your time at UGA?
McMaster: “The friendships were what I loved most about UGA. Making friends as an adult can be challenging. College is such a special time – you’re out from under your parents, have very little responsibility, and get to spend unchecked amounts of time with your friends to build lasting memories, make mistakes and define who you are and want to be.”