Growing up near Cleveland, Ashley Meier had not heard much about Virginia Tech. But the talented soccer player knew she wanted to compete in a strong and competitive conference, such as the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“I came down to Virginia Tech with my dad and absolutely fell in love with the campus and coaching staff,” Meier said. While soccer brought her to Blacksburg, the university distinguished itself. “One thing that really stood out to me was just how nice people are in this community. When I left, I told my dad I wanted to commit.”

During her four years as a starter for the soccer team, Meier celebrated many accomplishments on the field, including being the second all-time leading scorer and winner of the 2014 ACC Must See Moment of the Year, among other accolades.

“My sophomore year, we made it to the final four teams in the nation,” she said. “That was one of the best memories I’ve ever had in my life. Being in a stadium full of people just looking around, it was awesome.”

Meier’s successes were not isolated to the field, however; the human development major was on the Dean’s List multiple times, earning top grades while also getting involved in undergraduate research and volunteer activities. “You have so many resources it’s hard to fail as a student athlete if you really want to work hard and put time into it,” Meier said.

One semester, Meier worked with a faculty mentor and other students on a research project in which they looked at student health records at a local school to evaluate any correlation between physical activity and body mass. “I’m glad I did the undergraduate research project because I learned a lot about research and how in depth and detailed it is,” Meier said. “It really helped me — an eye-opening experience.”

The project piqued her interest, in part, because of its focus on children. “When I was growing up, I loved working with children with special needs,” she said. “In elementary school and high school, I always ate lunch with them in their room and would go out with them during recess. I always loved it, so when I got to college, I volunteered with the Special Olympics.”

Meier said opportunities to give back are embedded in the university’s culture. “The community, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) — that’s what makes this community so special. The people want to help and be nice,” Meier said. “Up in Cleveland, if you go in a crosswalk, people are going to fly by and think you are nuts. Here, everyone stops and waits for you and waves as you go by. People are so genuine and nice here. They just care and want to serve.”

A 2016 graduate, Meier considered pursuing a professional soccer career, but ultimately went in a different direction. “I decided that going to graduate school was the best route for me,” she said. “I’ll still always play soccer, just maybe not at that level with that commitment.” Meier won an ACC Postgraduate Scholarship and NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship to help offset the cost of furthering her education.

“I knew from the moment I met Ashley that she was a high-achieving student-athlete that took her academics very seriously. As a sophomore, she knew she wanted to pursue a master’s in occupational therapy and proceeded to do all of the legwork in finding out how she could turn that goal and passion into a reality,” said Nick Vaccaro, assistant director with Student Athlete Academic Support Services. “Seeing the determination she had during this process was truly inspiring and a clear indicator of the successes she would go on to have as both a student and athlete.”

Now, Meier is looking forward to graduate school in occupational therapy. “My passion has always been working with children with disabilities,” she said, “so that’s what I would hope to get into as a specialty.”

Written by Alison Matthiessen