Ashlee Fleming poses in front of the Seahawk statue on the UNCW campus

December 7, 2021

Ashlee Fleming’s last semester has proven to be the most challenging of her academic career. Balancing activities, classes and meetings while also working two jobs was difficult – and she did it all in a hybrid learning environment.

“Being able to navigate those things came from my goal-oriented mindset and the support system I have around me,” said Fleming, a psychology major. “I’m very fortunate to have a large group of people who want to see me succeed. They were there to encourage me when I doubted my abilities and they were there to hold me accountable.”

Fleming will leave behind a legacy of leadership and service when she graduates from UNCW in December. She has been active in numerous student organizations, including the Black Student Union, the Black Women’s Association, Rhyme ‘N‘ Reason, Cultures Unidos, Order of Omega and UNCW’s National Pan-Hellenic Council. She has also served as chapter president of the Theta Iota Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the first Black Greek-lettered organization on UNCW’s campus.

She said her most rewarding service has been as a peer mentor with the Upperman African American Cultural Center’s Excellence Project. The program serves Black incoming or transfer students who may need help acclimating to the university. 

“When it came to being a mentor for the Excellence Project, I wanted to ensure I was making beneficial change. I wanted to cultivate new relationships and give advice regarding things I already experienced,” said Fleming, a recipient of the RISE Retention Scholarship, the Teal Scholarship, the Sarah Faison Jones Diversity Scholarship and the Reeder-Sheridan BFSA Scholarship.

Fleming will also be among the 25 seniors receiving the Pat Leonard Senior Medallion Award. The medallion, the most prestigious award presented by the Division of Student Affairs, is awarded to graduating seniors who have distinguished themselves among their peers through exceptional contributions of academic achievement, leadership, service to others and an affinity for UNCW.

Receiving the award is an honor for Fleming, who recalled fond memories of former Vice Chancellor Pat Leonard.

“The student body believed in how much she cared for us and her legacy of authenticity will not diminish,” she said. “When I found out that I received the Senior Medallion Award named in honor of Vice Chancellor Pat Leonard, I was humbled and grateful for being deemed deserving of such an accolade.”

Being a high-achieving student and leader comes with its own set of challenges, Fleming noted. 

“Something most people don’t know about me is that I have anxiety and depression, which can result in a lack of motivation, interest and energy,” she said. "By being more outspoken about my experiences, I hope it takes away some of the pressures that come with the stigma of mental health.”

As Fleming prepares to embark on a new journey, she said UNCW will always be special to her because of its resilience.

“Every year that I have been here, some kind of disruption has occurred from a hurricane to the pandemic,” Fleming said. “Despite all of that, we learned to adapt, be flexible, be understanding, and hopefully, we all learned new things from each other.”

-- Venita Jenkins