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Ashley Peterson's path to student body president at Oklahoma State University has been anything but typical.

A Spears student's path to president

Monday, December 11, 2023

Media Contact: Jeff Hopper | Communications Coordinator | 405-744-1050 |

Ashley Peterson’s collegiate journey has been anything but “typical” and has led her to places she never thought she’d be.

Growing up in an Oklahoma State University family, Peterson always knew that she would eventually call Stillwater home. Going to games with her dad and hearing stories about her grandpa’s time as a professor in veterinary anatomy, Peterson felt OSU was the only choice for college.

“Growing up, you think, ‘Oh well, I’ll apply to a bunch of places and see what fits best,’” Peterson said. “But I knew from a young age that OSU was the college experience I wanted.”

Peterson initially enrolled in an ag business, pre large veterinary course track. However, after she interned at a veterinary clinic, she quickly realized that veterinary medicine wasn’t her life’s calling.

Following some advice from her mom, a marketing professional, Peterson switched majors to marketing and she has flourished since her move to the Spears School of Business.

Throughout her first few years at OSU, Peterson made it a point to get out of her comfort zone and try new things. She became involved in several different extracurricular activities, joining the marketing club, becoming a LeadHership Fellow and joining a sorority to experience Greek life.

Her involvement inside and outside of the classroom has afforded Peterson the opportunity to meet and learn from a broad range of faculty, administration and peers. The LeadHership program, in particular, has allowed Peterson to meet, learn from and develop relationships with strong women leaders from across campus and the state.

“I’ve really learned a lot from being a LeadHership Fellow,” Peterson said. “It has provided a growth opportunity to me by allowing me to learn from successful, strong women who have made the most of the opportunities in their lives and been able to flourish in roles that you don’t see a lot of women in.”

As her roles in various organizations continued to grow and evolve, Peterson noticed that there seemed to be a slight disconnect between the leadership of OSU, its organizations and the student body. 

The promotion and dissemination of information regarding resources available to students on campus seemed lacking. Seeing a void that could use her specific skills and expertise, Peterson made a decision in December 2022 that she didn’t anticipate.

“I grew up in a family where public service and doing for others was ingrained,” Peterson said. “My dad was a politician and always looked out for the greater good of his community. I didn’t think I’d follow in my dad’s footsteps of politics, but I saw an opportunity to do something positive for my community. So, I decided to run for student body president.”

Outside of paging at the Oklahoma State Capitol in high school and picking up a few things from her dad, who served as a state representative from 2000-2008, politics was never something Peterson thought she’d pursue.

“I was never involved in student government prior to this,” Peterson said. “I always thought students involved in student government were the political science majors, and I’m not. However, after noticing the disconnect of information and marketing, I knew it was something I had to do.”

Peterson’s platform was one of transparency. She wanted students to understand the reasons behind some of the decisions made by administration, and she wanted an open line of communication and flow of information to give students the best experience possible while at OSU.

The campaign process was anything but glamorous. Balancing the life and workload of a student with her extracurriculars and the demands of a campaign was a rollercoaster ride that Peterson wasn’t sure would ever end.

“Those two to three months were unlike anything I’ve experienced in my life,” Peterson said. “There were struggles physically, mentally and emotionally. I experienced some of the highest highs and lowest lows of my life during those months. It pushed me to my limit more than anything in my life ever had.”

While the challenges were ever present, Peterson relished the opportunity to speak to numerous classes and student organizations, learn about what students wanted, and connect with people in various roles across campus. Peterson knew that regardless of the hardships of running for office, it was what she was meant to do.

The campaign process was tough enough, however after the election was held, it was nearly a month before Peterson and her competitors learned of the results. Due to some unforeseen circumstances in the university political system, Peterson had to endure a grueling three-week period during which something she invested an incalculable amount of time and effort in, hung in the balance.

“It was tough,” Peterson said. “After all of the work and effort, I had to sit and wait what seemed like forever to learn of the results. However, it all paid off and provided me the opportunity to learn how strong I am and that I do belong in this position.”

This past April, Peterson was sworn in as the new student body president, and officially took office at the beginning of this semester. Nearing the midway point of her term in office, Peterson is excited about what she’s been able to accomplish and the goals she has set for the spring semester.

She is nearing completion of an agreement with university leadership that will allow students to pay any parking ticket under $30 by either direct payment to the parking office or donating needed items to the student stash network, a network of food pantries around campus.

“I’ve learned so much in the short time I’ve been in office,” Peterson said. “My goals have evolved over time and I’m learning the realities of change within the university system. So, I’ve had to make some concessions here and there, but I continue to fight for transparency and for things that will better the student experience at OSU.”

Peterson’s college experience has changed tremendously since she stepped foot on campus. She now gets recognized at most places and has to be ever-ready to answer questions or field concerns from her constituents.

“It’s a battle not to lose myself too much in being student body president,” Peterson said. “I always have to be prepared to be president at a moment's notice, which can be tiring sometimes. However, my support structure keeps me grounded and helps remind me that I’m still Ashley and can still enjoy my time as a student too. 

“And so, although it might not be the typical experience, and a lot of people would probably hate to be in the position I am in, I love it. I see it as a huge blessing and opportunity to make a great impact on the lives of the students of OSU. I was called to do this.”

The senior, who will graduate in May, isn’t quite sure what the future holds. She is currently exploring a possible career in the economic development sector, which could serve as a perfect combination of politics, marketing and business. No matter what path she decides to pursue, Peterson knows that her time at OSU has prepared her for whatever comes her way. 

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