Ashli Akins is a human rights advocate, artist, scholar, and social entrepreneur. She is passionate about issues related to cultural revitalization, community resilience, and socioeconomic justice, and is overly excited about most things.
When she was 21, she founded Mosqoy, an international charitable organization that works with highland Quechua communities of the Andean mountains in Peru, to mitigate the adverse effects of unsustainable tourism and development by providing economic opportunities that nurture their threatened indigenous culture. Mosqoy is now over 10 years old, operates two social enterprises, and is a strong force for marginalized youth and weavers in the Cusco region. For its first decade, Ashli acted as Mosqoy’s Executive Director, and now advises the charity’s operations as President of its Board of Directors.
Ashli is one of Canada’s leading doctoral students, ranked in the top five as a recipient of the competitive Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship. She is a PhD Candidate in the Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program with the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia. She is a Public Scholar Award recipient, as part of UBC’s innovative Public Scholar Initiative. Ashli is honoured to be supported by her rock-star committee, comprised of her two co-supervisors, former National Geographic explorer-in-residence Dr. Wade Davis (BC Leadership Chair in Cultures & Ecosystems at Risk; Dept. of Anthropology) and Dr. Kai Chan (Institute for Resources, Environment & Sustainability; Public Policy & Global Affairs), and her committee members, Dr. Mark Turin (First Nations & Endangered Languages Program; Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies; Dept. of Anthropology) and Dr. Nancy Turner (School of Environmental Studies, UVic). Her working dissertation title is: “Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage: Battles of authenticity & adaptation in the markets of Peru & Guatemala.”
In 2014, she graduated from the University of Oxford with a master’s in international human rights law; her thesis explored why the loss of culturally significant art is a human rights violation. She previously attended the University of Victoria, where she received a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies, Latin American studies, and professional writing. In 2013, to commemorate UVic’s 50th anniversary, Ashli was honoured as one of its top 50 alumni in history who have made a difference.
Ashli uses photography, creative writing, and multi-media arts to educate about social and environmental injustices; she has published and exhibited around the world. Such projects include documenting the right to health in highland Mayan communities of Guatemala; human-wildlife interactions at a wildlife sanctuary in Kenya; and artefacts found in the suitcase of a Carrier woman’s grandmother. Ashli has also worked as a researcher and science communicator for government agencies, NGOs, and universities, including a recent contract in Aotearoa New Zealand to co-create a marine cultural health index that supports Māori communities and the Federal government to co-manage marine harvest resources. She also leads workshops and field courses in Victoria, Vancouver, and Peru, and has given hundreds of lectures and presentations globally, including two TedX talks.
She has been labeled an adventure junkie at times. One of her silliest adventures took her over the last Andean mountain into the cloud forest of the Amazon jungle, with little more than a machete, a compass, and a map. In her not-so-spare-time, she’s a fiddle player, dancer, and hammer and discus thrower. Connect with her on LinkedIn!