Information For:

Give back to HGSE and support the next generation of passionate educators and innovative leaders.

News & Events

Striving for Belonging: Steve Askar, SLP'20

The Intellectual Contribution Award recipient for School Leadership reflects on his time at HGSE and looks toward the future.
Steve Askar with son

Steve Askar: "This is a photo of me and my son (he said it's cool to use his picture). It was our first time on campus. We were filled with so much gratitude and joy for the opportunity to be here. The gratitude and joy continues to persist today."

Photo courtesy of Steve Askar

The Intellectual Contribution Award recognizes 13 Ed.M. students (one from each Ed.M. program) whose dedication to scholarship enhanced HGSE’s academic community and positively affected fellow students. Steve Askar will be honored with the Intellectual Contribution Award for School Leadership (SLP) at HGSE's Virtual Commencement on May 28.

Senior Lecturer Mary Grassa-O'Neill, faculty director of SLP, comments on Askar's selection: "Steven Askar is a transformational, empathetic, and elegant servant leader with an open mind. He listens attentively, challenges your ideas, and manages to support you while helping you to consider new ideas and ways of thinking. He makes you feel as though you are the most important person in the world. In addition, he knows how to disagree without being disagreeable, empowers others, and is an equity leader."

We spoke to Askar about his time at HGSE, his future plans, and what the new normal in education might look like:

What are your post-HGSE plans?

Steve Askar: I have launched a business with fellow student, Drew Madson. During our time at HGSE, we developed speech integration software that drives literacy improvement for all learners. We were fortunate enough to be awarded every round of funding through HILT, have launched a pilot with hundreds of students, and have secured a summer fellowship to continue scaling our product. Although somewhat terrified to step into the unknown sea of entrepreneurialism, I feel hungry to address equity gaps and improve education outcomes.

What is something that you learned at HGSE that you will take with you throughout your career in education?

SA: Three things: 1) Trust God. 2) Value Family. 3) Question Everything.

"On the spectrum of pre-diversity to racial equity, belonging is something we cannot ignore. Our continued response to the pandemic will be measured, in large part, by our efforts to generate a collective sense of belonging." – Steve Askar

Is there any professor or class that significantly shaped your experience at the Ed School?

SA: My undergraduate professor — Dr. Mike Gentry — transformed my life. I did not think it was possible to meet another professor who matched his heart and mind. I was wrong. Although I love and am deeply grateful for all my professors, three, in particular, stand out to me: 1) Candice Bocala — Integrity, Compassion, Democracy. She embodies the kind of fearless equity warrior I hope to be one day. 2) Irvin Scott — Impact, Joy, Vision. I will carry Dr. Scott's songs in my heart wherever I go — he inspires me to be my authentic self. 3) Houman Harouni — Alternative, Conscious, Revolutionary. He pushes me to stretch my soul and encourages me to do the work.

How has the pandemic shifted your views of education? 

SA: During the first two weeks of the pandemic quarantine, I called my brother, Jamshid, every day and spoke with him for hours. This was my unconscious way of seeking belonging amidst disequilibrium. With the seismic shifts in education, I wonder how kids are finding belonging in their own context. On the spectrum of pre-diversity to racial equity, belonging is something we cannot ignore. Our continued response to the pandemic will be measured, in large part, by our efforts to generate a collective sense of belonging. In this same vein, the pandemic has acted as catalyst for discovering alternative modes of belonging in an ever-evolving digital age of education.