Ms Natasha Ashley, an alumna of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at the University of Pretoria (UP), has been awarded a prestigious Skye Foundation Scholarship for the 2017 intake. She is currently studying towards a Master of Science (MSc) degree in International Business and Emerging Markets at the University of Edinburgh Business School in the UK.
The Skye Foundation annually awards a small number of scholarships to postgraduate students of exceptional merit who intend to pursue a higher degree or do research under the direction of leaders in their particular fields. This year, ten scholarships were awarded to candidates from South Africa's leading tertiary institutions. Only candidates who have been nominated by deans of faculties, are supported by academic leaders in their discipline on the basis of outstanding academic achievement, and who will in the opinion of trustees and their peers continue to achieve at a high level, are considered. Ms Ashley certainly fits the bill in this regard and is no stranger to receiving awards for exceptional achievement.
Ms Ashley is passionate about international business and about how companies operate in Africa. She explains that her interest in this area was ignited while studying towards her undergraduate degree in business management, after reading case studies highlighting the internationalisation challenges faced by multinational companies when expanding into emerging markets. After completing an honours degree in the same field with distinction in 2015, she was awarded a Mandela Rhodes Scholarship to pursue a master's degree in business management starting in 2016. She completed her master's dissertation studying the critical success factors of multinational enterprises operating in Nigeria's fast-moving consumer goods industry, again graduating with distinction.
During her time at UP, Ms Ashley was very involved in student life, serving as a house committee member at Nerina Residence, Public Relations Director of the UP chapter of the Golden Key International Honour Society, member of the Business Advisory Board for ENACTUS UP and member of the South African Gold Award Holders Association of the President's Award. In July 2015, she was awarded a travel grant to attend the International Golden Key Leadership Summit in Australia where she says she learnt a lot from the diverse group of global student leaders in attendance. She regularly featured on the Dean's List of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences and over the years received several academic awards, including the Principal's Award from TuksRes, as well as three UP Achiever awards.
'My academic career really blossomed during my time at UP,' says Ms Ashley. 'Studying in such a competitive environment surrounded by plenty of brilliant and hardworking individuals drove me to work consistently and continuously at the highest standard I was capable of. The courses in my honours degree were particularly challenging and tested my ability to assimilate information and problem solve in a creative way. UP is recognised around the world and it has high standards – I believe that the culture of excellence is one of the main reasons I now have this incredible opportunity.'
Ms Ashley started her master's studies at the University of Edinburgh Business School in September this year and says that being part of such a diverse group of students in a highly challenging and stimulating environment will deepen her understanding of global issues and how to overcome them. 'The Skye scholarship has granted me the incredible opportunity to study at the University of Edinburgh Business School and opened my mind to learning more about international business and emerging markets. The opportunity to engage with graduates from a broad spectrum of nationalities and to collaborate on projects holds great appeal for me. This coursework master's degree will better equip me to help companies entering fast-growing and often complex markets and develop stronger trade links between African countries,' she says.
Ms Ashley attributes a lot of her success to the lessons her parents taught her, which included treating her talents and strengths like muscles: if you use them they get stronger and if you don't, they get weaker. 'At the end of the day, there is no quick and easy way to academic success, I never took shortcuts. It has taken a lot of self-discipline and a great amount of energy, determination, self-coaching, sacrifice and a strong belief in my ability to meet the high standards I hold myself to. I gave up a lot in order to reap the benefits today, and it was definitely worth all the effort and long hours,' she concludes.
Click here for more information about international scholarship opportunities available to UP students.