National Academy of Sports Medicine® and the Athletics and Fitness Association of America Offer Free Access to Award-Winning Fitness and Wellness Conference

Health psychologist and author Kelly McGonigal to speak at eighth annual Optima Conference October 13-15

GILBERT, Ariz. — National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), the worldwide leaders in fitness certifications, will host the eighth annual Optima Conference virtually October 13-15, 2022. Registered attendees will receive free access to more than 100 educational sessions, workouts, and networking events, including a keynote speech by health psychologist and international bestselling author Kelly McGonigal, PhD.

McGonigal is best known for her TED Talk, “How to Make Stress Your Friend,” which is one of the top 20 most viewed TED talks of all time, with over 23 million views. She is also the author of several books including The Willpower Instinct, The Upside of Stress and The Joy of Movement.

“We are very excited to have Kelly joining us for Optima, as she brings transformational knowledge about the physical and mental benefits of exercise,” said Laurie McCartney, president of Ascend Learning’s fitness and wellness brands, including NASM and AFAA. “By making this a free event for the second year in a row, we are able to give the largest possible audience access to the newest and most groundbreaking developments in the industry.”

The three-day, virtual event will include sessions on a variety of health and fitness topics, a virtual exhibitor hall with new vendors and enhanced group fitness experiences.

Optima was awarded a Gold Stevie International Business Award for “Best Educational Conference,” making it one of the top events for members of the health and wellness industry. Last year, the conference welcomed more than 10,000 attendees from all facets of the fitness industry including personal trainers, wellness coaches, athletes, massage therapists and health club managers.

The Full Access Pass is free with registration, however; attendees will also have the option to purchase the Full Access Pass with Continuing Education Units (CEUs) which enables attendees the opportunity to earn credits toward recertification requirements based on their attendance and participation throughout the conference.

For more information on Optima and to register, visit www.nasm.org/optima-2022.

For more information on NASM, visit nasm.org. To learn more about AFAA, visit afaa.com.

About NASM: National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) is a global leader in fitness and wellness certifications and learning tools. Building on over 35 years of expertise, NASM programs create a roadmap for fitness professionals to help their clients achieve better physical and mental performance in athletics and everyday life. NASM provides an industry-first training system, with the Optimum Performance Training (OPT™) model, creating robust courses and content based solely on science-backed research. NASM has been the choice of over 1.4 million fitness professionals in over 100 countries, creating a global space for optimal wellbeing and fitness. To learn more about NASM, visit nasm.org or call 1.800.460.6276. For news and industry insights, follow on Facebook or Twitter at @NASM.

About AFAA: Since 1983, Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) has issued over 350,000 certifications in 100 countries, providing generations with the practical skills, science and hands-on experience necessary for effective group leaders and trainers to motivate and inspire others to move toward healthier and happier lives. To learn more about AFAA, visit afaa.com or call 1.800.446.AFAA. For news and industry insights, follow us on Facebook or Twitter at @AFAA_fit.

Five Ascend Panelists Contribute Thought Leadership at Global EdTech Conference

2022 ASU-GSV Conference Recap

Speaking on topics ranging from filling critical roles in healthcare and access to education to the state of AI in education and learner pathways to employment, five leaders from Ascend Learning contributed their thought leadership as panelists at the 2022 ASU-GSV Summit, April 4-6 in San Diego. Now in its 13th year, the annual event — a partnership between Arizona State University and Global Silicon Valley — is the world’s leading education innovation summit from PreK-Gray connecting startups, investors, educators and professionals.

Leaders from Ascend came away from the event with fresh perspectives on how to better align higher education and employers’ assessment of mastery; fostering an exchange of ideas and knowledge through cross-disciplinary collaboration; how humans and technology can work in partnership to improve learner outcomes and address workforce shortages; and how the innovation of AI has empowered learners.

Aligning Educators’ and Employers’ Assessment of Mastery

Ascend Learning CEO Greg Sebasky was one of several EdTech CEOs in a panel exploring trends underlying the realignment of higher education and the workforce. He said many companies are learning that there is a need to improve the connection between employers and educators, focused on an assessment of mastery to be effective in a job.

“Today, schools evaluate graduates based on outcomes that they define, and employers generally have a different view,” Greg said. “We need to come together to develop a framework that serves the students and employers, especially in a job market where there are not enough candidates and with key skills and abilities changing rapidly in the digital economy.”

Exchanging Ideas & Knowledge in Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration

Two team members from the Ascend healthcare segment served together on a panel together discussing ways to create new pathways for students and educators to support the evolving needs of a healthcare industry facing a shortage of both workers and educators.

Beth Phillips, strategic nursing advisor with Ascend Learning brand ATI Nursing, said the conference confirmed for her that cross-disciplinary collaboration and new applications of technology will be key tenets in addressing challenges facing the healthcare industry.

“Many of the issues across healthcare and education are similar, and we can learn a great deal from collaborating across disciplines,” Beth said. “I found the ASU-GSV Summit to be filled with energetic, motivated people, ready to move their agendas forward and appreciated the opportunity to learn about new companies and ways of using technology to improve and enhance education.”

Kathy Hunter, vice president of product strategy at Ascend Learning brand National Healthcareer Association, said she was grateful to exchange excitement and ideas with other panelists for unique ways to build lifelong learning pathways for physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals.

“The talented EdTech community at ASU-GSV provided thought-provoking ideas on the future of education,” said Kathy. “It reinforced my passion and our goals to drive accessible and equitable solutions that enable meaningful healthcare careers and career-growth pathways. I can’t wait to share what I learned with others.”

Humans & Technology Working in Partnership

Patty Knecht, chief nursing officer at ATI Nursing, served on a panel examining ways healthcare providers have reevaluated the ways they attract, develop and retain talent as well as how nursing schools can evolve to serve working adult learners. Patty said she felt a palpable sense of urgency throughout the conference that while the pandemic accelerated challenges and trends in healthcare, a tremendous opportunity exists for humans and technology to work in partnership to create solutions. 

“EdTech and humans can and should exist side by side, empowering each other to excellence, and our collective response needs to embrace the delicate balance both humans and technology play in delivering an educational program with defined and measurable outcomes,” Patty said. “Partnership involves listening, problem solving, agility and trust. Education, technology and workforce entities in true partnership are the force to reach our goals.”

Innovation and Empowerment

Ascend Learning CTO Ash Siebecker participated on a panel of technology leaders to discuss the state of AI in EdTech — technology that has allowed for a total reimagining of how education is delivered to students throughout the world. He said he was impressed to see how different applications of technology are being leveraged to enhance and improve learning delivery.

“ASU-GSV was a great opportunity to learn and observe how the pace of innovation in education has increased to help address the challenge of making learning accessible to everyone,” Ash said. “It was good to be able to hear the perspective of other CTOs and founders in our industry on how AI is improving learning — and it was empowering to be part of that discussion and recognize that we all share a very practical view on how AI can improve learning success.”

Ascend has sponsored the ASU-GSV Summit for four years, and our team members have been attending the event since 2015, gaining knowledge, expanding our network and bringing back fresh perspectives to Ascend. We are proud to sponsor events where we can make a collective impact in the EdTech world and further our mission to change lives through education. A special thanks to all our panelists and attendees who showcased our thought leadership on behalf of Ascend at this key industry event!

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Video Highlights

Video highlights from the 2022 ASU-GSV Summit are available on the GSV YouTube Channel. Direct links to the panels featuring Ascend Learning thought leaders are below.

National Academy of Sports Medicine® Named One of Phoenix Business Journal’s Healthiest Places to Work

GILBERT, Ariz. — The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)®, a global leader in fitness and wellness certifications, has once again been named a finalist for the Phoenix Business Journal’s 2022 Healthiest Employers Awards presented by Cigna. This awards program salutes the healthiest employers in Phoenix, Ariz., recognizing that healthy employees are happier and more productive.

“As a fitness and wellness company on a mission to help people achieve healthier lifestyles, it’s important we set that example within our own company,” said ​​Laurie McCartney, President of NASM. “We are honored to once again be recognized by the Phoenix Business Journal for our efforts, and we look forward to continue making NASM one of the healthiest and happiest places to work.”

NASM’s fitness and wellness-focused offerings include a subscription to the Headspace meditation app, use of an onsite state-of-the-art gym and recovery station, company-wide online fitness classes as well as an annual wellness challenge.

The finalists were selected by the Phoenix Business Journal with assistance from Healthiest Employers LLC, which uses questionnaires filled out by company employees to rank each entrant. The assessment evaluates multiple aspects of each organization’s approach to its wellness programs, including culture and leadership commitment, communication, and programming.

As part of this honor, NASM is featured in the Healthiest Employers Special Section published in the April issue of the Phoenix Business Journal.

For more information on NASM, visit nasm.org.

About NASM: The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) is a global leader in fitness education and certifications. Building on over 35 years of expertise, NASM programs create a roadmap for fitness professionals to help their clients achieve better physical and mental performance in athletics and everyday life. NASM provides an industry-first training system, with the Optimum Performance Training (OPT™) model, creating robust courses and content based solely on science-backed research. NASM has educated over 1.4 million fitness professionals in over 100 countries, creating a global space for optimal wellbeing and fitness. Learn more at nasm.org.

National Academy of Sports Medicine® Expands Global Access to Its Online Personal Trainer Program: Now Available in Arabic and Chinese

GILBERT, Ariz. National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM®), the global leader in fitness certifications, is excited to announce that its revolutionary online Personal Trainer learning program is now available in two new languages, simplified Chinese and modern Arabic. With these newly available translation options, personal trainer learners worldwide can experience NASM’s resources, expert insights, and science-backed coursework to help elevate their careers in fitness.

“This is a significant step forward in bringing NASM’s world-class programs to a growing global fitness population,” said Laurie McCartney, president of Ascend Learning’s fitness & wellness segment, which includes NASM. “Demand for the knowledge and tools NASM offers has never been higher. We are excited to support more fitness professionals globally as they begin successful careers helping transform lives.”

Nearly 1.2 billion people throughout the world speak Chinese and another 330 million make Arabic their first language. With this expansion, NASM is increasing access to its innovative learning platform. Participants can also look forward to all-new biodigital 3D models, a revamped study guide, and insightful Optimum Performance Training (OPT™) videos.

For more information on these programs, visit nasm.org.

About NASM: The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) is a global leader in fitness education and certifications. Building on over 35 years of expertise, NASM programs create a roadmap for fitness professionals to help their clients achieve better physical and mental performance in athletics and everyday life. NASM provides an industry-first training system, with the Optimum Performance Training (OPT™) model, creating robust courses and content based solely on science-backed research. NASM has educated over 1.4 million fitness professionals in over 100 countries, creating a global space for optimal wellbeing and fitness. Learn more at nasm.org.

Jones & Bartlett Learning Awarded Nine Prestigious American Journal of Nursing Awards: Places for COVID-19 Interactive Case Studies in the Digital Products Category

Burlington, MA, January 24, 2022 – Jones & Bartlett Learning, a division of Ascend Learning, today announced that nine products from its nursing and public health portfolios have been awarded the prestigious American Journal of Nursing (AJN) Awards. Each year the AJN conducts a peer-reviewed process of newly published textbooks and digital resources across nursing and healthcare selecting three best-in-class products per category. Since 1969, this annual awards competition has been highly regarded by professionals, faculty and librarians in both healthcare and academia.

“It is an honor to be recognized as a leading learning partner of nurses and healthcare professionals, especially at a time when these heroes are most in need of support,” said Matt Kane, Director of Product Management, Jones & Bartlett Learning. “I am proud of our authors and publishing team’s commitment to scholarship and quality and thrilled they are being recognized in this way. Congratulations to our authors and all award recipients!”

As leaders in the nursing education market, Jones & Bartlett Learning is honored to accept so many awards across the categories, particularly for the timely COVID-19 Global Lessons Learned: Interactive Case Studies by Richard Riegelman. This digital collection of seven interactive case studies is designed for online or classroom discussion or as graded assignments and includes links to websites and videos, discussion and interactive questions, plus a full package of instructor resources. Jones & Bartlett Learning is also grateful to accept awards for two first edition books: Lactation: A Foundational Strategy for Health Promotion by Suzanne Hetzel Campbell in the History and Public Policy category andAppreciative Leadership: Building Sustainable Partnerships for Health by Kathy Malloch and Tim Porter-O’Grady in the Nursing Management and Leadership category.


“We are extremely excited that our COVID-19 digital case studies product was recognized in the digital products category,” commented Estelle Mense, Vice President of Marketing, Ascend Learning. “It demonstrates our ability to pivot and respond to our customer’s needs by developing and delivering exceptional online learning resources to both faculty and students at the time they are needed.”

Awarded second and third place, respectively, in the 2021 AJN Book of the Year Awards in the Adult Primary Care category: Gynecologic Health Care: With an Introduction to Prenatal and Postpartum Care, Fourth Edition by Kerri Durnell Schuiling and Frances E. Likis and Clinical Practice Guidelines for Midwifery and Women’s Health, Sixth Edition by Nell L. Tharpe, Cindy L. Farley, and Robin G. Jordan

Awarded second place in the 2021 AJN Book of the Year Awards in the Community/Public Health category: Global Health Care: Issues and Policies, Fourth Edition by Carol Holtz.

Awarded third place in the 2021 AJN Book of the Year Awards in the Digital category: COVID-19 Global Lessons Learned: Interactive Case Studies by Richard Riegelman

Awarded first place in the 2021 AJN Book of the Year Awards in the Environmental Health category: Maxwell’s Understanding Environmental Health: How We Live in the World, Third Edition by Deborah Alma Falta.

Awarded second place in the 2021 AJN Book of the Year Awards in the History and Public Policy category: Lactation: A Foundational Strategy for Health Promotion by Suzanne Hetzel Campbell

Awarded second place in the 2021 AJN Book of the Year Awards in the Informatics category: Nursing Informatics and the Foundation of Knowledge, Fifth Edition by Dee McGonigle and Kathleen Garver Mastrian.

Awarded third place in the 2021 AJN Book of the Year Awards in the Medical-Surgical Nursing category: Pathophysiology: A Practical Approach, Fourth Edition by Lachel Story

Awarded third place in the 2021 AJN Book of the Year Awards in the Nursing Management and Leadership category: Appreciative Leadership: Building Sustainable Partnerships for Health by Kathy Malloch and Tim Porter-O’Grady.

About Jones & Bartlett Learning

Jones & Bartlett Learning is a world-leading provider of instructional, assessment, and learning-performance management solutions for the secondary education, post-secondary education, and professional markets. Jones & Bartlett Learning develops educational programs and services that improve learning outcomes and enhance student achievement by combining authoritative content written by respected authors with innovative, proven, and engaging technology applications that meet the diverse needs of today’s instructors, students, and professionals. www.jblearning.com

About Ascend Learning

Ascend Learning is a leading provider of online educational content, simulation, software and analytics serving students, educational institutions and employers. With products that span the learning continuum, Ascend Learning focuses on high-growth careers in a range of industries, with a special focus on healthcare and other high-growth, licensure-driven professions. Ascend Learning products, from testing to certification, are used by frontline healthcare workers, physicians, emergency medical professionals, nurses, certified personal trainers, group fitness instructors, financial advisors, skilled trades professionals and insurance brokers. Learn more at www.ascendlearning.com.

National Academy of Sports Medicine Announces New Certified Wellness Program to Support Overall Mental and Physical Growth

New program fuses innovation with evidence-based strategies, empowering coaches to create a holistic health and wellness experience.

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), a global leader in fitness certifications, has announced its newest program, Certified Wellness Coach (NASM-CWC). The 100 percent online program will integrate state-of-the-art tools with expert guidance backed by a deep understanding of nutrition, fitness, recovery, mindfulness and meditation – equipping fitness professionals and health & wellness enthusiasts with the knowledge and resources to help others live healthier and happier lives.

“As a forward-thinking company, we are constantly striving to address the current and future goals of our community,” said Laurie McCartney, President of NASM. “It was important to our team to develop a one-of-a-kind program that presents many real-world scenarios. NASM-CWC empowers coaches with key insights and evidence-based tools to better position clients for optimal wellbeing in order to live a balanced and fulfilling life.”

NASM developed the CWC program to equip individuals with the necessary tools and knowledge to create and maintain physical and emotional well-being. The new program takes a two-tiered approach; educating individuals on the key components of wellness while providing innovative coaching strategies at every level.

“The NASM-CWC program provides a holistic approach to common life challenges,” said Jaime Tartar, Psychology Professor and Research Director at Nova Southeastern University who was part of the team of experts that developed the program with NASM. “Many individuals struggle with maintaining a proper exercise and nutrition regime, which then leads to increased stress levels and an overall poor physical and mental state. Certified Wellness Coaches are able to identify these barriers and set customized goals based on all the pillars that support optimal health and wellbeing.”

In addition to providing in-depth knowledge across five focus areas; movement, nutrition, mental & emotional wellbeing, regeneration & recovery, and coaching, the CWC program works to equip the Certified Wellness Coach with a broad range of strategies and perspectives. The evidence-based program focuses on providing a deeper understanding of fitness and nutrition, something other health coach programs do not provide. The wellness coach functions as the hub that connects all aspects of health, fitness, and wellness.

For more information about Certified Wellness Coach, click here.

About NASM: The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) is a global leader in fitness education and certifications. Building on over 34 years of expertise, NASM programs create a roadmap for fitness professionals to help their clients achieve better physical and mental performance in athletics and everyday life. NASM provides an industry-first training system, with the Optimum Performance Training (OPT™) model, creating robust courses and content based solely on scientific, evidence-based research. NASM has educated over 1.3 million fitness professionals in over 80 countries, creating a global space for optimal wellbeing and fitness.

Ascend Learning Named One of Phoenix Business Journal’s 2021 Best Places to Work

Ascend Learning continues to be an innovator in the fitness industry, creating a positive work culture for its employees and stakeholders.

GILBERT Ariz., December 21, 2021 — Ascend Learning, the leading provider of integrated learning solutions which includes three Phoenix-based fitness and wellness brands, was recently named one of Phoenix Business Journal’s best places to work among midsize companies. Over 100 honorees were awarded during a celebratory program sponsored by the Phoenix Business Journal and CornerStone Staffing.

Ascend Learning’s fitness and wellness brands are the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), the Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) and ClubConnect, LLC. Headquartered in Gilbert, AZ, these industry-leading brands provide training and certifications to millions of fitness and wellness professionals around the world while providing ongoing learning opportunities to their program graduates.

“For a second year in a row, we are honored to accept this award and recognize our teams as they maintain a positive work culture while navigating a global pandemic,” said Laurie McCartney, President of Fitness & Wellness for Ascend Learning. “We are dedicated to finding creative and innovative solutions that enable fitness and wellness professionals to continue the important work of making the world a healthier and happier place.”

The employees at NASM, AFAA and ClubConnect produce and support some of the world’s most respected certifications and continuing education courses, including a new Certified Wellness Coach program that provides evidence-based knowledge and tools to help improve physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.

Ascend Learning and other awarded companies will be recognized in the December edition of the Phoenix Business Journal.

About Ascend Learning:

Ascend Learning is a leading provider of online educational content, simulation, software and analytics serving students, educational institutions and employers. With products that span the learning continuum, Ascend Learning focuses on high-growth careers in a range of industries, with a special focus on healthcare and other high-growth, licensure-driven professions. Ascend Learning products, from testing to certification, are used by frontline healthcare workers, physicians, emergency medical professionals, nurses, certified personal trainers, group fitness instructors, financial advisors, skilled trades professionals and insurance brokers. For information on career opportunities at Ascend Learning, visit www.ascendlearning.com/careers.

About NASM:

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) is a global leader in fitness education and certifications. Building on over 34 years of expertise, NASM programs create a roadmap for fitness professionals to help their clients achieve better physical and mental performance in athletics and everyday life. NASM provides an industry-first training system, with the Optimum Performance Training (OPT™) model, creating robust courses and content based solely on scientific, evidence-based research. NASM has educated over 1.3 million fitness professionals in over 80 countries, creating a global space for optimal wellbeing and fitness. Learn more at www.nasm.org.

About AFAA:

The Athletics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA) has led the way in certifying group fitness and personal trainers for over 35 years. AFAA pioneered the first nationally standardized guidelines for fitness professionals and has educated over 350,000 instructors and trainers in 73 countries. AFAA’s Group Fitness Instructor Program is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Learn more at www.afaa.com.

About ClubConnect:

With products and services supporting over 8,000 health clubs and gyms across the U.S., Canada, Australia, and the Middle East. ClubConnect is the market leader in health club software, supporting gym employee onboarding, educational development, and credential verification. Learn more at www.clubconnect.com.

Advanced Practice Education Associates (APEA) joins ATI, poised to serve nursing programs with entry-level to advanced-practice tracks.

Nurse Practitioner (NP) employment expected to grow 5.2% annually during the next ten years; ATI poised to accelerate NP development and certification 

Advanced Practice Education Associates (APEA) has joined ATI Nursing Education, who will continue providing industry-leading learning tools for nurse practitioners (NP) and nurse practitioner students, similar to ATI’s focus on undergraduate nursing students.  

“APEA positions us to support even more nursing students and helps us meet increasing demand for nurse practitioners (NPs) who can help fill the growing primary care provider gap,” said Sean Burke, Sean Burke, President of Healthcare at Ascend Learning, who leads ATI Nursing Education. “APEA is committed to successfully preparing graduate students for their certification exams with outstanding content, assessments, and instruction. Together with ATI Nursing Education, we can serve nursing students across PN, RN, and APRN scopes-of-practice. We’re very excited for this expansion of our mission to drive nursing success.”  

Demand for NPs is booming, with the profession expected to grow 5.2% annually between 2019 and 2029. The United States has 325,000 licensed NPs, and another 36,000 NP students graduate every year. The shortage of primary care physicians has elevated the importance of NPs and the role they play in delivering healthcare nationwide.  

“The similarities in mission and values between our two firms, combined with ATI’s success in undergraduate nursing and APEA’s complementary success in advanced practice nursing, convinced us that they are the right partner to continue growing APEA,” said Amelie Hollier, APEA co-founder, president and CEO. 

Hollier formed APEA in 1997 with Co-Founder Jeanie Doucet to provide high-quality certification tools for graduate NP students and later, continuing education and clinical resources for certified NPs already in practice. APEA has helped more than 157,000 new NPs pass national certification exams and certified NPs reach professional development goals. 

Both ATI and APEA offer standardized predictive assessments, live review, question banks, curriculum supplements and other tools designed to teach all the different ways people learn. ATI serves undergraduate nursing students, and APEA targets graduate NP students – all of whom achieve higher pass rates and greater success when they leverage our resources. 

“We’re honored to join forces with ATI,” said Doucet, vice president and chief operating officer at APEA. “They have nurses in nearly every department and level of the organization, which underscores their passion for and commitment to the profession. Plus, we’re aligned on our understanding of the market and what nursing programs need to succeed.” 

About ATI Nursing Education 

ATI is the leading provider of online learning programs for improving faculty effectiveness, as well as student and program outcomes in nursing schools across the country. ATI maintains a 97 percent client-retention rate based on providing consistently reliable delivery of high-quality assessment, remediation and educational products. As of 2021, ATI Nursing Education works with 20,000+ nurse educators, about 2,700 colleges and universities and more than 500,000 students, plus more than 1.3 million graduates. The business began in 1998 with the help of a nurse. Today, nurses remain a valued part of its staff, with a team of 230 nurse educators, as well as nearly a dozen psychometric professionals who specialize in educational products, test development and statistical methods. 

To learn more about ATI, visit www.atitesting.com

About APEA 

Advanced Practice Education Associates (APEA) was established in 1997 to meet the need for high-quality certification preparation tools for new nurse practitioners. From this foundational step, APEA grew to encompass continuing education and clinical resources for experienced NPs. Co-founders Amelie Hollier and Jeanie Doucet have focused their business on providing relatable, relevant education using the most effective learning techniques, and on creating and producing innovative clinical tools and resources. APEA has equipped thousands of new nurse practitioners to pass the national certification exams and is committed to the success and professional development of nurse practitioners throughout the United States. 

To learn more about APEA, visit www.apea.com.   

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Active IQ wins Exporter of the Year Award

Ascend Learning brand Active IQ has been recognized as Exporter of the Year Award at the sixth annual FAB 2021 Awards, organized by the Federation of Awarding Bodies, the trade association representing the collective interests of the UK’s qualifications and assessments industry.  The ‘Exporter of the Year’ award recognizes the success of an organization’s exports and international business.

The FAB 2021 Awards recognize the contributions made by awarding organizations and their employees to education and skills in the UK over the past year. The winners were announced on Thursday November 11th at the FAB 2021 Awards dinner, sponsored by Creatio, at the end of the first day of the FAB Conference at the Marriott Hotel in Leicester.

“We are absolutely delighted to win the Exporter of the Year Award and to have our international work recognised by this prestigious judging panel,” says Jenny Patrickson, Active IQ Managing Director. “I would like to thank and congratulate our international team for their exemplary work overseas, including their groundbreaking success in Saudi Arabia by training and recruiting Saudi women instructors in partnership with Spectrum® Wellness for Women. Alongside this, they completed the translation of our course materials and supporting resources into Arabic and Egyptian which is helping to cement our presence in the Middle East.”

Laurie McCartney, president of Ascend’s fitness & wellness segment, added “This distinguished award is a testament to Active IQ’s commitment to delivering the industry’s best qualifications and the highest level of customer service around the world. We are very proud of the team.”

For more information on Active IQ and the FAB Awards, click here.

About Active IQ
Active IQ is one of the UK’s leading awarding brands for the active leisure, learning and wellbeing sector, Active IQ designs qualifications that support clearly defined career pathways for the active leisure sector. Active IQ prides itself on excellent customer service and strives to provide high quality teaching and learning resources for its qualifications to enable providers to give a positive learning experience which includes a broad suite of products and services, including eLearning, apprenticeship packages, end-point assessment, professional recognition and professional career development opportunities.

Cultural Connection: Recognizing Veterans Day with Mark Williamson

Veterans Day originated as “Armistice Day” on Nov. 11, 1919, the first anniversary of the end of World War I. Congress passed a resolution in 1926 for an annual observance, and Nov. 11 became a national holiday beginning in 1938. Unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day pays tribute to all American veterans — living or dead — but especially gives thanks to living veterans who served their country honorably during war or peacetime.

To continue our commitment to our values and promote a culture of inclusion — and to commemorate Veterans Day, the Ascend communications team spoke with Mark Williamson, director of talent acquisition and compliance, who shared a wonderfully detailed experience of his time serving in the U.S. Navy and its lasting influence in his personal and professional life.

Whether you are part of our team at Ascend Learning, a family member, loved one, colleague or peer — we want to express our heartfelt gratitude to all veterans for your sacrifice and service.

Ascend Comms (AC): Tell us about your role at Ascend Learning.
Mark Williamson (MW): My title is director of talent acquisition and compliance. I oversee our recruiting and talent acquisition efforts; plus, I help ensure that how we pursue and engage talent adheres to OFCCP laws [Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs]. It’s important to make sure both of those pieces [talent acquisition and compliance] are talking to each other.

AC: How did you get into this field?
MW: I actually served in the U.S. Navy for 10 years as a surface warfare officer (SWO), and during my last tour in the Navy, I recruited doctors, dentists, nurses and other health care professionals for the Navy. I went through recruiting training and a professional selling skills course to learn how to prospect, overcome objections and close a sale, so to speak, when recruiting talent for the Navy. I’d served in other roles and knew that a recruiting role might expose me to some things that I could translate into a career in corporate America.  

AC: What was your path into the Navy?
MW: My father was an enlisted [airman] in the Air Force in the 1950s for four years and transitioned into a career working for the VA hospital. That wasn’t necessarily the [main] influence, but I grew up with a certain order and discipline I think came naturally from his experience.

More specifically, there was a Navy ROTC unit [Reserve Officers’ Training Corps] at my high school in Aiken, S.C., led by Griggs Wheeler, a 1954 Naval Academy graduate and retired Navy captain. He sought me out the first week of high school and said, “I heard you were coming to the high school, and if what I’ve heard about you is true — you’ve been a straight A student, you come from a great family, and you’re involved in church and in the community — I think you could really be a great candidate for the Naval Academy.”

He made me a promise that if I joined his ROTC unit, he would be my personal mentor and help me make all the right moves to get into the academy. I talked it over with my parents and we saw that it was a good path to be set up for success and a unique opportunity to be guided by someone who’s been through the process. Long story short — Capt. Wheeler made his promise and helped me get into the academy, and I graduated and became a Naval officer.

AC: How did he help you in your journey toward the Naval Academy?
MW: To get into the one of the [military] academies, you’re required to get a congressional nomination. With his encouragement and guidance, I applied and was accepted into the page program in Washington, D.C. I worked in Senator Strom Thurman’s office for a summer and got my congressional nomination. Capt. Wheeler also taught me about taking initiative and helped me become a well-rounded individual — because the academies want smart, caring people who are active in the community and in extracurriculars. They look at the whole person.

AC: Have you kept in touch with Capt. Wheeler?
MW: We do [keep in touch]. He’s 90 years old and lives in Florida, and I check in with him about every six months. He’s one of the greatest people and influences I’ve ever encountered.

AC: Where else did your career in the Navy take you?
MW: Prior to attending the academy in Annapolis, Md., I went to the [Naval Academy] Prep School in Newport, R.I., a 10-month program designed to strengthen your academics. Once I was in the academy, I spent summers on ships going to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Curaçao; on a submarine in Kings Bay, Ga.; flying T-34 mentor planes out of Pensacola, Fla.; and training with the Marines at The Basic School in Quantico, Va.

Post-academy, I went to the Surface Warfare Officers School and Diesel Engineering School back in Newport, followed by Chemical, Biological and Radiological Warfare School in Anniston, Ala., all in preparation for my first assignment as a DCA [damage control assistant], which is essentially is the person who oversees the effort to save a ship if it were ever damaged [in action]. My first ship was out of Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, where I was on an LST (landing ship, tank), an amphibian ship that carried about 200 crew and 300 Marines.

I was on that ship for two years, during which time I did a Southeast Pacific cruise and visited about 18 countries, including Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Kingdom of Tonga. After that, I was on a newly commissioned aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. John C. Stennis, which did an around-the-world homeport shift from Norfolk, Va., to San Diego.

I flew from Honolulu to Bahrain, where I waited for the Stennis to get close enough for me to fly onto the flight deck in a mail plane. We stayed in the Persian Gulf for about 30 days, then to Hawaii and finally to San Diego — and that was my time at sea. Following that tour, I went back to my home state, where I was a recruiter until I transitioned out of the Navy.

AC: What was it like transitioning from military to civilian and professional life?
MW: I’d gotten engaged [and eventually married] and determined that I really didn’t want to live a life at sea with the family back home. I met my wife when I was a midshipman in Annapolis. She’s from San Antonio and had enlisted in the Navy with her older sister — who waited a year after high school graduation so they could go to boot camp together — and became a hospital corpsman. She and I decided I would transition out because the recruiting role might expose me to some things that I could translate into a career in corporate America, and I was fortunate enough that there were some opportunities that seemed to be synergistic with the path I’d chosen.

The first opportunity was with a company called Perot Systems, an IT services company started by H. Ross Perot, a former presidential candidate who also was a former Naval officer and Naval Academy graduate. Perot Systems’ chief human resources officer [at the time] was a West Point graduate who was looking for someone with the right experience to revamp their military recruiting program — that is, former military members who had recently transitioned out or active duty [members] soon to become civilians — so my military network really came into play. I led both military and college recruiting for about four years.

AC: How has your military experience had an impact on your family life?
MW: The thing I try to show our kids most is the military teaches you to be calm under pressure and make good decisions, and I try to live my life that way. I didn’t want to push something on my kids just because I liked it. I wanted to make sure it was something they wanted to do.

About a year ago, our 18-year-old daughter applied and was accepted into the Naval Academy Summer Seminar program, and subsequently applied and was accepted into both the Naval Academy Prep School and the Air Force Academy. She chose the Navy prep school and is now in Newport, going through the same 10-month program that I went through 30 years ago.

Our 15-year-old son recently went through an exercise through a school program called AVID [Advancement via Individual Determination] and brought a form to guide a discussion about college. During that conversation, he revealed that his first choice is the Naval Academy, followed by the Air Force Academy, or anything with an ROTC program — so it sounds like we might have another one who walks that similar path three years from now.

AC: Do you stay connected to any of your fellow servicemen or servicewomen?
MW: My best friends in the world are all friends I made at the [Naval Academy] prep school and at the Naval Academy. These are the men and women that are instrumental in my life to this day. We talk every week on the phone and go on vacations together. They’ve also influenced my kids in a big way because they [my kids] see that they started from the same place and endured the same experiences — and the natural fiber that makes up every one of them.

AC: What are ways people can show appreciation for veterans’ service?
MW: We are very appreciative of people who say, “thank you for your service,” but it’s also not necessary. This is a voluntary service — we all decided to go that path. I’m doing ok in life, but there are a lot of people who aren’t. I still worry about those shipmates out there who might not be doing so well. Give people words of encouragement. Do what you can to build them up. You never know what someone has gone through or is going through. The mantra in the Navy is “ship, shipmates, self,” meaning the Navy comes first, then your peers, and then yourself.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us. Is there anything else you wish to share for the benefit of the community?
We have a number of veterans at Ascend who have all walked different paths and have done some cool and amazing things. As we mature as an organization, we’re looking at potentially formalizing a veteran recruiting program [in the future] so that we have a smooth path for veterans — including those with disabilities — to come into Ascend.

We don’t just want to look at one set of [characteristics]. We really are trying to be a diverse organization. Not all talent needs to look the same or be the same. If you’ve got someone who genuinely has great skills and could contribute, we would love to hear from you.