In 2021, NACAC welcomed its first-ever chief of staff (COS) to the association. Ashley Perzyna, formerly chief of staff and assistant secretary of the board of trustees at the University of Bridgeport (CT), will join NACAC as part of an office-wide staff realignment.
CEO Angel B. Pérez said he is thrilled to have Perzyna partner with him, the senior leadership team, and the Board of Directors to operationalize the goals and priorities associated with NACAC’s new vision and strategic direction. “I look forward to having Ashley at my side to help me manage the daily operations of the executive office, ensure productive collaborations within the organization and the board, ensure success on governance issues, and monitor progress and completion of our critical strategic initiatives,” he said. “She will be the point person on our strategies for the organizational change management and cultural transformation necessary to strengthen NACAC’s commitment to professional excellence and enhance our value proposition for members and stakeholders.”
In the words of the new Chief of Staff, Pérez was looking for a “sense maker.”
Perzyna elaborated, “On the one hand, I make sense of incoming information and translate it into recommendations and action for a CEO, board, and greater organization. On the other hand, I make sense of and provide context to internal and external stakeholders regarding decisions or actions. This means I must be very well informed on a given issue/topic and see it from multiple perspectives. I am always learning and that is fun!”
Perzyna was intrigued by several aspects of the job. “My decision to apply for the chief of staff position had many facets. The opportunity to leverage my skills and knowledge in support of an organization with a clear and meaningful mission, vision, and purpose was of paramount importance to me. I have long admired NACAC’s work throughout my career in higher education,” she said.
“The Roadmap for Change: Reimagining US Higher Education as a Public Good is an inspiring document that reaffirms the critical role of postsecondary education in American society,” she added. “In this phase of my career, I am eager to make a bigger and more sustained impact in the field. NACAC is working to lead change within the admission counseling profession and in the greater field of postsecondary education, ensuring that the doors of educational opportunity are open to all—not a privileged few. I believe in what NACAC is doing and am eager to contribute.”
Perzyna said a thoughtful and deliberate chief of staff is necessary “to uplift the work of staff and translate and contextualize the vision of leadership in meaningful ways.” To accomplish this goal, she said collaboration is essential. “My work style is highly collaborative. I never hesitate to ask for feedback or verification of facts and data from colleagues within the organization,” she said. “I strive for my colleagues to feel comfortable to reach out to me when they need support, as well. In the chief of staff role, I am as much an advocate for my colleagues as I am for the CEO. My door is always open and the NACAC team can always count on my listening ear.”
Prior to joining the University of Bridgeport, Perzyna was assistant chief of staff and assistant secretary of the college at Dickinson College (PA). She also served as assistant secretary of the board of directors at the University of Illinois Foundation and as assistant for presidential communications at DePaul University (IL). She also spent time at the New England Board of Higher Education.
Perzyna earned a master’s degree in higher education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (MA), as well as a master’s in public administration and bachelor’s in political science from DePaul University (IL).
Along with her wealth of experience and education, Perzyna is committed to excellence, one of NACAC’s top staff values. “I am a dedicated and focused person with high expectations of my own work and that of others. I am committed to excellence within the workplace and find great joy in working with others to continually improve processes, outcomes, and deliverables,” she said.
Get to Know Ashley
When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
My favorite thing to do when I am not working is spend time with my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Louisa, and my husband, Jason. Louisa is the light of our lives. Any moment with her is a moment well spent.
I also love to read and cook overly complicated family dinners from scratch.
What are you looking forward to in the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia)?
I look forward to living in an urban environment that is rich in history and culture. My family is eager to visit every museum and historical landmark in the region. Admittedly, I am a bit of a coffee snob, so I look forward to finding the best roasters and shops in the area.
DC, Maryland, or Virginia? Pick one.
Virginia. The commonwealth has such a complex, layered, and difficult history. It is also quite unmatched in its natural beauty.
What five words would you use to describe yourself?
Curious, welcoming, focused, perfectionist, strategic.
What do you think others would say?
Compassionate, ethical, honest, knowledgeable, playful.
If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Ted Lasso. He is kind, caring, data-informed, a loving parent, and a great coach. He radiates positivity. He achieves success by bringing out the best in others—even when they deplore his methods. He converts his team to “The Lasso Way” and even his detractors root for him in the end. BELIEVE.
What would colleagues be surprised to learn about you?
I am a classically trained dancer. Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I was in a competitive dance company and attended ballet school. In June 2019, I had the opportunity to see Misty Copeland and David Hallberg expertly perform in the American Ballet Theatre’s Swan Lake. The White Swan Pas de Deux moved me to tears.