Ashley Jackson was on her way to the gym in Ottawa when she received the news she would be heading to the University of Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship.
“I was completely surprised. I didn’t think I was going to be a Rhodes Scholar. It’s only really starting to sink in now,” Jackson said.
Jackson was one of 11 students in Canada selected for the Rhodes Scholarship in 2022. Nick Harris at the University of King’s College was also selected. Jackson is Dalhousie University’s 93rd Rhodes Scholar.
Jackson is currently in her second year of medical school at the University of Ottawa. She graduated from Dalhousie’s medical science program in 2020. “It’s kind of changing everything, almost upending everything in a good way. Scary, but good. I’m sad I won’t be graduating with my friends here in Ottawa, but I’m not turning down Oxford.”
Jackson is now taking two years off from medical school to pursue a masters of science in oncology at Oxford. “I love the research part of medicine, I’m genuinely very excited to be doing more of it, especially in oncology.”
Eventually, Jackson hopes to be a surgical oncologist, “but the Rhodes scholarship has taught me taking opportunities means allowing for plans to change when they need to.”
Making a difference at Dal
“I owe a lot to Dal, they recommended me for the scholarship, but I also learned so much there,” Jackson said. “My deepest friendships and connections were at Dal or in Halifax, most of them are still out there.”
Jackson was involved in activism and community outreach in her first year at Dal. She brought a book drive initiative she’d started when in high-school in Chatham, O.N., to campus, collecting books and shipping them to Libraries in Ghana and Sierra Leone.
In her first and second years, she also helped run recreation activities for residents at the Camp Hill Veterans’ Memorial center, which provides health services and long-term care to veterans. “I’ve always stayed busy, It’s something I’ve been working on lately is just finding more time for me. But getting involved in the community is also really rewarding for me.”
Time with the Tigers
In her first year, Jackson also played on the Dal Tigers women’s basketball team as a guard.
She played 32 games total before breaking her ankle in her second year. This injury, along with some concussions, forced Jackson to the sidelines.
“It was really tough, I love playing so much. I love the teamwork, but I found it in other places.” Jackson took a role as assistant coach for the University of King’s College women’s basketball team, which helped her find the sense of teamwork and athletic accomplishment she was missing.
She also found solace in lab work and research. “I’m not going to say my injuries were a good thing or anything, I really love playing basketball and it was hard to slow down,” she said. “But it did give me time for school and it did open other opportunities.”
Her acceptance of the scholarship is part of a trend.
“I’m always saying yes,” said Jackson, “sometimes it’s a problem. But recognizing and taking opportunities is something I really learned to do at Dal.”
The move across the pond will be a change, but that’s nothing new for Jackson.
“I’ve never been to England. I uprooted my life when I went from Chatham to Halifax and I had a great time, and I feel like I’m still getting settled in at Ottawa,” she said. “I’m nervous, but I’m also excited.”