Ashley Peng chose to attend Wellesley College knowing she would receive a top liberal arts education. At the time, playing volleyball was just an added bonus. Today, as Peng prepares for her second trip to the NCAA tournament, she can't imagine her college experience without volleyball. The San Diego native established herself as a key member of the Blue volleyball team during her first year and has continued to be a stabilizing player; appearing in 94 matches for the Blue. During her four years she has tallied 307 kills and 412 digs, which has helped her team earn at-large bids to the NCAA volleyball tournament two years in a row.
Off the court, Peng pursues her passion for music through her involvement in the Chamber Music Society and her acapella group, Awaken the Dawn. An economics and mathematics major, she has been able to apply her liberal arts education to her finance internships at China International Capital Corporation in Hong Kong and at Jane Street Capital in New York, where she has accepted a full-time job following graduation. Recently, Peng took the time to speak with wellesleyblue.com to discuss how volleyball, along with her teammates, friends and professors have shaped her college experience and prepared her for a successful future.
What made you decide that Wellesley College was the right place for you to attend college?
I knew that I wanted to attend a smaller school, where I would have the opportunity to really know my fellow classmates and professors. I was also interested in a liberal arts college experience, where I could explore different academic subjects. A California native, I wanted to try living on the East Coast for a few years. Wellesley had all of these qualities and a gorgeous campus, making for the perfect home!
When did you decide to play volleyball in college?
Volleyball has been a part of my life since I was 12. When I first starting thinking about colleges, volleyball was part of the equation. As I moved further along in the process, however, I decided that while I love volleyball, I wanted to choose a school based upon academics, not athletics. Knowing I would be academically fulfilled at Wellesley College made it the perfect choice. Initially, being a member of the volleyball team was an added bonus. Today, I could not imagine my college experience without it.
Last season your team earned a bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013, what was that feeling like?
Since first year, the goal had always been to receive a bid to the NCAA tournament. So, to finally achieve that was incredibly gratifying, especially after all the hard work during the season.
For the 2017 NCAA tournament you traveled to Providence, RI for a challenging first round match against Wesleyan, can you tell me more about your experience competing in NCAAs? What was your biggest takeaway from that match?
The NCAA match felt mostly the same as any regular season match. I really appreciated how many Wellesley students made the trip to Providence to support us. The biggest takeaway from the experience was that we could compete at that level and were capable of even more. Of course, it also instilled in me an even greater desire to work harder and strive for another NCAA bid!
As a member of the Wellesley volleyball team you have experienced a lot of success, what have you learned from being part of a successful program? What is the most important lesson you have learned as a student-athlete at Wellesley?
After every season, there was always a drive to keep improving, to reach the next goal. My large recruiting class had the benefit of growing together to improve the team. My class has put in the effort to improve not just our volleyball skills but also team dynamics. Understanding that improving the game is only part of being a better volleyball team was one of the most important things I learned.
What is your favorite part of being a member of a team at Wellesley?
Coming into Wellesley, I had an instant group of friends in my teammates. Sharing a love of the sport, riding numerous two-hour bus rides to away games, going to the beach, all contribute to incredible memories that are an integral part of my Wellesley experience.
How did you choose to double major in Math and Economics? What do you like most about your majors?
During my first year, I took a broad range of classes but really enjoyed the professors and subject matter of my math and economics classes. I love the abstract beauty of math and the applicability of economics to everyday situations. I've especially enjoyed the higher-level courses in both majors, as the passion professors hold for their elective courses is evident.
Last summer your worked as a Business Development Intern at Jane Street Capital in New York, what was that experience like? What were your primary responsibilities?
Jane Street is a quantitative trading firm with a unique focus on technology and collaborative problem solving. That specific focus is what really drew me to the firm. The people and the varied work responsibilities as a Business Development intern at Jane Street made for a rewarding experience. As an intern, there was a large focus on teaching. I learned a great deal about the financial system through lectures and activities.In addition, I had various projects within infrastructure groups such as New Business Analysis, Legal and Compliance, Finance and Risk. Everything I learned and worked on was extremely interesting; so much so that I have accepted an offer to return full-time next year!
In what ways were you able to use your liberal arts degree to prepare you for an internship in the finance industry?
My liberal arts background has provided me with wide exposure to numerous subjects. Because there really is an emphasis of learning to learn at Wellesley, I was able to bring that knowledge to finance and specifically Jane Street. I was able to quickly learn on the job. I knew what questions to ask in order to completely understand the assigned tasks. Of course, it helped that the people I worked with were so open to teaching and mentoring me.
You had the opportunity to work in Hong Kong, what was it like living and working in another country? What did you learn from that experience?
I interned at China International Capital Corporation, one of China's leading investment banks. I did not study abroad so I viewed this opportunity as a mini study abroad experience. I was able to explore a new city and make new friends, both Wellesley and non-Wellesley students. The internship was my first exposure to the finance industry. I learned which elements I liked as well as those I did not like, which helped me to narrow my internship search the following year.
What are the Chamber Music Society and Awaken the Dawn? Did you always plan to be involved in music in college?
In high school, I was in orchestra and choir, and I learned that for me, music provides an outlet for creativity and stress. So, at Wellesley I continue to pursue music. I play piano in Chamber Music Society (CMS) with small ensembles performing various instrumental pieces. My a cappella group, Awaken the Dawn, had been dormant for a few years before I was a student. Myself and a few friends decided to restart it when we arrived on campus. Being the president of Awaken the Dawn has definitely been one of my biggest time commitments outside of volleyball, but I would not change that for anything. In many ways, my a cappella group is like a team, as we all work on our different parts, and when we put those parts together, we form an intricate piece full of beautiful harmonies.
How have you been able to successfully balance your school work, volleyball and all of your additional organizations?
I have always done better with a full schedule! Having a full schedule forces me to plan ahead. It also helps that I genuinely enjoy every single thing I invest my time in. Nothing feels like something I have to do out of obligation.
Other than volleyball what do you love most about Wellesley College?
I love the people. I love the professors that have taught me—the passion they bring to their teaching and investment in my education have helped me learn so much. I love my friends that I have met on my team, through my organizations, in my classes, and in my dorms. We became friends through the late-night talks, trips into Boston for Chinese food, and photoshoots around campus. I know that I will continue to be friends with them after graduation.