Educator & Entrepreneur
BA '16, International Studies and Spanish
Meet Asehli Howe (BA ‘16, International Studies and Spanish), a Cal State East Bay alumna, who co-founded Survivor Alliance, a non-profit organization that works with survivors of sexual violence.
Asehli is a social justice educator and entrepreneur on a mission to create supportive communities that end cycles of trauma. With Survivor Alliance, Asehli organizes multiple events each month for survivors of sexual assault and allies to learn, connect, and heal. She also provides workshops regarding how to support survivors of sexual violence.
Q&A with Asehli
Why did you decide to attend Cal State East Bay?I came to attend CSU East Bay through serendipity. Growing up, I lived in a very chaotic household that didn't prioritize education. When it came time for me to apply for college, I didn't receive any assistance and based the schools I applied to off the knowledge that I had to get out of Orange County and it had to be somewhere affordable because I would have to pay for it myself. I figured that I must have done something wrong in my applications because CSU East Bay was the only school I got into, even though I had an above average GPA and SAT score. I didn't know anything about CSUEB before accepting my admission and saw it for the first time at orientation thinking, well this is going to have to do. Only two weeks in, I realized that I was exactly where I was supposed to be and loved my experience there.
How has your education here at East Bay helped you with your endeavors?To this day, I believe the best thing about East Bay is diversity. I came from Orange County, which was a very conservative and homogeneous society, and moved to East Bay where I was immersed in a multicultural community. Through that experience, my education extended far beyond the classroom. It helped me to dismantle the intrinsic racist beliefs that I was raised with and catalyzed me into the field of activism with the understanding that everyone deserves equal opportunity, regardless of race, sex, or class.
Tell us a little bit about your career journey.
While attending CSUEB, I worked various jobs, with a majority of them being in food service. After graduating, my friend's mom helped me get a job as a Political Reporting Specialist at a prestigious law firm. I thought I had achieved my career goals because I was making a lot of money and had benefits but quickly realized that the definition of success that I had idealized wasn't for me. I was miserable working inside an office all day, was experiencing sexual harassment, and quit within six months. After that, I was lost and feeling the post-graduation depression that I don't believe is addressed enough. I was wondering what the point of getting my degree was when all the jobs I was interested in required years of experience that I didn't have, or masters degrees that I couldn't afford. I spent the next year working odd jobs to pay the bills and decided to start focusing on my passions rather than money. I began volunteering with San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR) and MISSSEY because I finally had time to give back to my community, and quickly realized that I love supporting survivors of sexual violence. It was through these volunteer positions that I began co-founding Survivor Alliance. However, I still had to support myself and we know start-ups aren't good for that, so I decided to start substitute teaching at San Lorenzo Unified School District due to the ability to choose my own schedule with a good pay rate.
Tell us about your experience co-founding Survivor Alliance.
Co-founding Survivor Alliance has taught me so much about myself, business, activism, and society. It has been one of the biggest challenges that I have ever taken on but continues to be fulfilling in ways that I never could have predicted. I came to it because I realized that the work being done in the sexual violence space was very reactive, supporting individuals after sexual violence had already occurred, and I wanted to help create something that was more proactive. Our mission for Survivor Alliance is to educate allies about how they can take action within their communities to end cycles of sexual violence and support their loved ones who have experienced it. The first year was largely dedicated to figuring out language that engaged people and helped them to acknowledge their role in either reinforcing or stopping rape culture. The second year has been focused on bringing together community members through various events to have these difficult conversations, heal from trauma, and become educated about what steps they can take to be more supportive. It's been a tumultuous journey and I can't wait to see what comes next!
Tell us a little bit about your experience on the Alumni Board? And how you feel being the youngest board member!
I joined the Alumni Board because of my frustration that CSUEB does not have a free job database available for alumni, and was asking $35 per quarter to access AACE services. I couldn't understand how we are expected to begin paying off our student loans six months after graduating, yet we weren't offered any support in finding a job. I met with the Director of Alumni Affairs at the time and she offered me access but said that she couldn't open it up for all alumni. Thanks to my various experiences with advocacy at CSUEB, that answer wasn't acceptable to me and I knew something had to change. So, I joined the Alumni Board and am glad to say that it has been an action item for the past two years. At first, I was intimidated to be on the Board because I'm so much younger than other members, but quickly realized the value that I brought to the team since I was familiar with the current status of the university and the needs of other recent grads. I'm overjoyed that nowadays there are many more free career resources are available to alumni through the Alumni Association, but we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to re-engaging alumni in meaningful ways.
If you could share one piece of advice with Pioneer students, what would that be?
Volunteer! It may seem like you don't have enough time to do it because the Bay Area keeps us hustling between multiple jobs, but the feeling of supporting your community is unparalleled. Giving your time to a cause your passionate about is one of the most incredible things you can do, and you'll meet some amazing people along the way. Plus, it gave me the experience that I needed to supplement my resume and get a job in a field that otherwise I wouldn't have been able to access. Also, if you don't see anything out there that you want to do, create it!