By Claire Cameron
With writing an honors thesis, applying to grad school and participating in rodeo pageants, Boerne senior Ashley Bergfield knows how to handle more than just schoolwork.
Born on a ranch in Nebraska, Bergfield said she and her family moved to San Antonio when she was only four years old. She said rodeo and horses are just one of many passions.
“Horses are my life,” she said. “Growing up, I was an only child, so it could get lonely. But through living on a ranch with horses, they became my passion.”
Bergfield said she has been competing in rodeo competitions for as long as she can remember, doing competitions in barrel racing, goat tying, pole bending and showing her horses. In 2011, she started competing in pageants.
In June, Bergfield participated in the 2013 Miss Rodeo Texas pageant and won first runner-up overall, and also won first place in appearance.
Bergfield said the pageant is “Miss America meets rodeo.”
“It’s a lot like a normal pageant, but for the talent portion, all the girls show off their horsemanship and give a speech about Texas,” Bergfield said.
Bergfield competed in 2011 and won first place in the Miss Rodeo Austin pageant.
She held the title Miss Rodeo Texas Austin for a year, during which she traveled around Texas making appearances.
Bergfield said two of her favorite memories from that year were when she made an appearance at the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and when she was invited to the Off Shore Energy Conference that honored China.
“I got to see Sandra Day O’Connor at the hall of fame which was really fun, and at the conference, I got to meet Neil Bush, who was one of the Bush brothers,” Bergfield said.
Pageants are not the only thing Bergfield loves.
Bergfield is an international studies major, and she said she hopes to go on to graduate school once she graduates from Baylor. After that, she wants to work with the Middle East in some way.
“I love to travel,” Bergfield said. “My family and I were supposed to take a trip to Israel and Jordan a few years back when the Arab Spring happened, and we were advised not to go.”
Bergfield said she first fell in love with the region after taking a Middle Eastern studies class from Dr. Jerry Long, director of Middle East Studies and associate professor in the Honors College.
“He shaped my whole world view,” Bergfield said. “I wouldn’t have considered being an advocate in the Middle East if it wasn’t for him.”
Bergfield said her main reason for wanting to work over there is to erase stereotypes.
“People have a lot of misconceptions about the Middle East and I want to be like an advocate for them,” Bergfield said. “I want to inform people about their culture and what they believe and about what is going on over there.”
Bergfield also said she was considering being a voice for women’s rights in the Middle East.
“I have had people discourage me from wanting to go there because I have blonde hair, blue eyes and I’m a woman,” Bergfield said
Bergfield is very involved on campus and said she postponed graduating early just so she could be involved with more campus organizations and take more time with her thesis.
“She’s a leader,” said Dr. Ivy Hamerly, a senior lecturer of political science.
Hamerly said she was Bergfield’s teacher and also her mentor in the honor society for international studies majors, of which Bergfield was an officer.
“Ashley is very organized and very bright,” Hamerly said, “She has ambitions and seeks out unique opportunities.”
Bergfield said she has such a love for the region that she applied to go to Saudi Arabia this summer.
She said it is a program where, if she is chosen, she will spend two weeks in Saudi Arabia and after she returns, she would be a representative for Saudi Arabia and travel around America speaking.
“I’ll be a voice of some sort,” Bergfield said.
Even with all her plans to travel the globe, Bergfield said she is not done with pageants yet. Bergfield said this summer, she will be competing in the Miss Rodeo Texas pageant in San Antonio. If she wins, she will advance to the National Miss Rodeo pageant held in Las Vegas.
“Not to toot my own horn, but I think I have a good chance of winning,” Bergfield said.
To prepare for the pageant, Bergfield said she would be helping out with the upcoming Miss Green and Gold pageant Baylor is hosting Nov. 1.
Bergfield said she wouldn’t be competing, but that she would help train the girls nominated for the pageant.
“Pageants are a great way to prepare for the real world,” Bergfield said. “They teach you how to speak in public and how to conduct yourself. They really help give girls self-confidence.”
Bergfield said she hopes helping these girls will get her in shape for upcoming pageants she hopes to participate in, like Miss Rodeo Texas.
“The scholarships involved with these pageants are really great,” Bergfield said. “The Miss Rodeo Texas winner gets a $20,000 scholarship.”
After she graduates, Bergfield said she hopes she can win the Miss Rodeo Texas title and then continue on for the national title where, if she wins, she will take a year off to travel and make appearances at rodeos and conventions across the country.
“Pageants and rodeo don’t sound like they go together, but I love it,” Bergfield said.