Staff: Ashley Harzog

For Ashley Harzog, it all started with Big Mama.

East Carolina University’s new director of alumni relations and outreach for the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences (THCAS) has a passion for animals and often fosters dogs from the Pitt County Animal Shelter through the nonprofit group Pitt Friends.

“Big Mama had been in the foster nonprofit for over a year and was not getting any hits,” Harzog said. “She was a pit mix, and those can be hard to get placed, but she was as sweet as could be. I pounded the pavement trying to find her a home. I created an Instagram account because I was going to get this dog adopted if it’s the last thing I do.”

Big Mama eventually got adopted, and Harzog and her fiancée Kelsey have three rescue dogs of their own — Bu, a 15-year-old husky; Romeo, a 4-year-old hound and rottweiler mix; and Ruthie, a 1-year-old pit and dalmatian mix.

Harzog said she’s had a passion for animals since childhood — recalling the programs she watched on Animal Planet and her dream of becoming a veterinarian.

Harzog and her fiancée, Kelsey, pose with their three rescue dogs — Bu, Romeo and Ruthie. (Contributed photo)

“But I’m also fascinated with humans, so I ended up doing something to serve people as a profession,” Harzog said.

As a business and theater major at Berry College in Georgia, Harzog became a student leader, serving as a resident assistant and vice president of the women’s rights student organization on campus. A mentor suggested a possible career path.

“When you’re a kid, no one ever says, ‘I want to be a higher education administrator.’ That’s not really on the menu of options,” Harzog said. “But I was really drawn to education and to learning and helping people feel like they belong. That’s what drew me to higher ed.”

She went to the University of South Carolina for graduate school, and her service continued. She had a variety of roles, including as the assistant residence life coordinator for the Carolina Women’s Community, where she oversaw 600 undergraduate women.

“Empowering women has always been an undercurrent of my career,” Harzog said. “Even though it hasn’t always been front and center, it’s very important to me, and education is one of those powerful tools to empower people of all walks of life.”

While working at Millikin University in Illinois, she learned about an opportunity at ECU to be on the ground floor of ECU’s new Women and Gender Office. Harzog served as its first director when the center opened in the Main Campus Student Center in 2019.

“That was really meaningful for me,” Harzog said of the work. “It was an opportunity for me to create a better world for our students.”

She said goals that she had set — such as the creation of an advancement council and the launching of a priority fund — had been met when she found another avenue to help students as Harriot College’s director of alumni relations and outreach. She started three months ago.

“This is a new role for me, but I have been around the block for a bit,” she said. “I enjoy ECU a lot. I’m glad I had an opportunity to do something different for the university.”

Harzog will be the liaison between the college’s students, faculty and alumni, and university advancement. She’ll work on making connections to raise money for students and faculty in the college. She said she’s working with a good team — led by Dr. Allison Danell, dean of the college — and is learning about the various programs within the college.

“I’m a giant nerd, so having 16 different departments to learn from is super cool,” she said. “I’m forever impressed with what our departments are doing, and I get to learn from all of the faculty and their very interesting areas of expertise.”

She said that while funding scholarships and other opportunities for undergraduates is important, she understands the need to support the college’s graduate students as well.

“Particularly for graduate students, it’s nearly impossible for them to hold outside employment to make ends meet while being full-time students and teaching or assisting with research,” Harzog said. “One of our priorities is to attract talented graduate students and provide them with the financial help they need to focus on learning by supporting scholarships, study abroad scholarships and graduate student recruitment bonuses. These opportunities would really increase the quality of academic life here and would alleviate some of the challenges faced by our graduate student population.”

Harzog is also excited about being involved in the college’s Voyages of Discovery series that brings national speakers to Greenville to address current events.

“I love to learn, and a lot of our community members love to learn, and they don’t have formal opportunities for learning,” she said. “This is one of the ways that they can engage without the costs of a formal education. They can hear from an expert and learn.”

Harzog said she is looking forward to working with the college’s vast number of alumni and is planning a college alumni trivia night.

“Our alumni are walking billboards of possibilities for our students,” she said. “They are concrete examples of the power of one of our degrees. … Connecting with alumni is a way to show that their relationship with us is not over. It’s just changed.”

In her four years at ECU, Harzog has been recognized with a Diversity and Inclusion Award, a Student Affairs Values Award, the Omicron Delta Kappa Keating Award and an Honored Instructor Award.

Though she’s just getting started at THCAS, Harzog said she’s excited to help the largest college at ECU.

“It’s a wide variety of disciplines and programs and classes and faculty and staff and students,” she said. “There is no shortage of new things to learn, so it’s very exciting because I do like to learn. There is no shortage of genius. We’ve got everything from lasers to the North Carolina Literary Review in the same college. That’s wild to me, and as someone who values diversity, that’s just exciting to me because I really value diversity of thought, so the diversity of disciplines, the opportunities, the people, the different walks of life that I get to interact with on a daily basis is really satisfying to me and exciting, and I think provides a rich opportunity for our students.”


Name: Ashley Harzog

Title: Director of alumni relations and outreach for the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences

Hometown: Johns Creek, Georgia

Colleges attended and degrees: Berry College, Bachelor of Science in business management and theater; University of South Carolina, Master of Education in higher education and student affairs


Years working at ECU: Four

What I do at ECU: I currently serve as the director of alumni relations and outreach for the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. In this role, I love connecting with THCAS alumni and donors, planning special events and recognition opportunities, and stewarding the highly impactful Voyages of Discovery series.

What I love about ECU: I love ECU’s commitment to regional transformation. Our work is essential to the health, well-being and success of eastern North Carolina and in turn, our region has so much to share with us — rich history, culture, natural resources, bright minds and diverse perspectives.

What advice do you give to students? One, sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is just show up; two, you can do anything, but you can’t do everything. If you’re saying yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. Make sure you aren’t saying no to your well-being; and three, unfollow and block your ex on social media. It’s called a breakup because it’s broken. Don’t let the past interrupt your present academic journey.


What do you like to do when not working? I foster and rehabilitate dogs at risk of euthanasia from the Pitt County Animal Shelter through the nonprofit Pitt Friends. I compete in standup paddleboard races. (Came in second in my last race in New Bern). I enjoy yoga at the local studio, cycling classes and meeting with my book clubs. I also enjoy the Greenville Museum of Art and love checking out exhibits and supporting their fundraisers as an annual member.

Last thing I watched on TV: “Parks and Recreation”

First job: Waitress/hostess at a sports bar

Guilty pleasure: Trashy reality dating shows like “The Bachelor” franchise, “Love is Blind” and “Married at First Sight”

Favorite meal: Cheesy pasta, especially from Nino’s

One thing most people don’t know about me: I am a three-time produced playwright, and I am currently working on a LGBTQ romance novel set in eastern North Carolina.