Cultural Connection: Celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is recognized throughout the month of May in the U.S., also known as AANHPI Heritage Month. As of the 2020 U.S. Census, about 20.6 million people in the U.S. identify as AANHPI, which is about seven percent of the total U.S. population. The Pew Research Center projects the AANHPI population will surpass 46 million by 2060.

According to an article at, the AANHPI umbrella term includes cultures from the entire Asian continent including East, Southeast and South Asia, and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia.  And much like we learned about the complexity and uniqueness of identity in our National Hispanic Heritage Month interview with Carolyn Vasquez, Ascend Learning director of talent development and inclusion — the same applies to AANHPI, which encompasses a wide range of ethnic groups with diverse languages, histories, cultures and traditions. CNN recently explored this topic.

To continue our commitment to our values and to encourage learning and understanding — which helps us continue to build our culture of inclusion at Ascend — we provided our team members with some resources to learn more about AANHPI Heritage Month and explore events in the communities where we live and work.

Another great way to learn is through friends, colleagues or neighbors who are part of these communities. We encourage you to engage them in conversation and ask them about their own narratives or their familial culture. Whether you love to watch, listen, read or get out and support events and communities in person, follow the thread of what interests you most, explore the unfamiliar and be compassionately curious.




  • Rotten Tomatoes has compiled a list of all streaming services with curated collections of films, documentaries and other content celebrating AAPI Heritage Month featuring Asian filmmakers, directors and actors. Look for a special icon or hub when you log in to your preferred steaming service. PBS also has a robust offering of documentaries and resources to explore.


Below are links to additional information about celebrations, events and more in the communities where many of us work.



Kansas City/Leawood


It’s Time to Get Real About AI: Ascend Leaders Gather [Artificial] Intelligence at 2023 ASU+GSV Summit in San Diego

Just a few weeks removed from the 2023 @ASU+GSV Summit, we’re still energized from learning, connecting and mixing it up under the sun in San Diego (or virtually) on April 17-19 at the world’s leading education innovation summit from PreK-Gray connecting startups, investors, educators and more.

Attended by thought leaders and EdTech professionals from all over the world, the summit provided a group of cross-functional leaders from Ascend with opportunities to build brand awareness, explore innovations, and participate in future-focused conversations across EdTech in addition to networking, learning about industry trends, and looking for new vendor partners and future talent to join our organization.

We asked our team members to describe this year’s summit in one word and support it with additional perspectives on what they learned and how it can benefit our meaningful work at Ascend.


Jeff Langenbach, vice president of corporate development and strategy, said the summit was a productive way to meet a large number of people from the industry.

“With more than 6,500 attendees, this was the largest event in conference history,” said Jeff. “The [overarching] theme of this year’s event was the coming impact that AI will have on education outcomes and providers.”

Ash Siebecker, chief technology officer, echoed that sentiment regarding the hyper-focus on AI at this year’s summit, its risks and its opportunities.

“We’re clearly at the peak of a hype cycle on AI, so that was a big focus,” Ash said. “From what we saw, our guiding principles still apply: learning is a human-centered activity that can be enhanced with products that leverage AI, and we need to be careful to ensure that AI is applied to augment human centered learning. We should not enable AI products in a way where the technology is making decisions that impact people’s lives, but rather, it should provide deeper insights and information to enable humans to make decisions. The opportunities are broad in terms of how we can use new technology capabilities to improve learning outcomes.”


Justina DeLuca, senior talent acquisition advisor, described the summit as “enlightening” as she and director of talent acquisition Mark Williamson spoke with attendees about career opportunities at Ascend.

“We met so many talented and forward-thinking professionals in various stages of their career and I learned about so many different areas of technology and education that I didn’t even know existed,” Justina said. “Education paths are changing very quickly, and I think as a company we have an opportunity to enhance our emphasis on the whole person when considering candidates — focusing on cross functional skills, experience, capabilities and potential.”


David Aycan, vice president of innovation, returned from the summit feeling “optimistic” about the potential applications of AI.

“Chat GPT has thrown people into a frenzy. People are keen to show that they are harnessing AI, but many are clearly early in their journey and still figuring it out,” David said. “Many experts believe that turning AI loose directly to learners may still be a way off, but the ability to augment and assist educators, content creators, and other professionals to get content ‘80% there’ is a large and immediate opportunity. More generally, technologies like virtual reality and mixed reality (VR/MR) and AI are becoming real considerations — not yet mainstream, but people know they have to figure them out, both from a provider and customer/consumer perspective.”

David also said that VR/MR, often augmented with AI, is slowly moving from a side curiosity to a serious consideration in workforce development — especially in healthcare where the risks associated with employee competencies are high.

“Many healthcare providers believe that these solutions will play a major role in their professional development programs in five years,” David said. “For many career types, new models of education focused on career preparedness are emerging. Competency and skill focused education, low-cost models, new learning modalities, and DEI are some of the major factors underpinning the change. New players are emerging, and traditional players from high-schools, higher education, and employers understand the need for transformation and are getting involved to innovate in this space.”

Invigorating, Hopeful…and Mind-Boggling

For Patty Knecht, chief nursing officer, a key takeaway on the AI front is that there’s no better time than now to embrace the technology and demonstrate leadership in its positive applications.

“AI is here and there’s no option for educators to turn away,” Patty said. “It’s time to lean in like we’ve never done before, particularly in healthcare and nursing, and define well the role of the faculty and workforce while leveraging the benefits of AI, VR and what is to come. We are in a unique position to lead the way here — and that’s invigorating.”

One presentation Patty found particularly “mind-boggling” was reminiscent of an episode of the classic animated sci-fi sitcom The Jetsons — and explored the concept of an AI-powered “knowledge assistant” which could help mitigate workforce shortages.

“Given the workforce shortages in education and healthcare, the ‘knowledge assistant’ could mitigate the effects of faculty and staff shortages by virtually providing everyone with an assistant,” Patty said. “Required workforce ratios could be transformed as administrative assistant work and knowledge sourcing (evidence) that impacts these roles is accomplished through the ‘knowledge assistant.'”

Patty also served on a panel, Life or Death: Solving the Healthcare Talent Crisis, which explored solutions to address the healthcare talent shortage and create more equitable pathways to career mobility.

“Competency assessment is a core element and I’m hopeful that in nursing we can align competencies not only across all program types but ensure they align to first year workforce competencies,” Patty said. “I’m hopeful that early evidence (data) leads the way on what works best, in what segments of the workforce, setting a clear intention and pathway to change.”


As a first-time ASU+GSV participant, senior director of finance Tim Semanchick described the summit as “thought-provoking.”

“Gaining insights into the market trends and challenges as well as how companies are approaching these topics was beneficial as we think about our own journey,” Tim said. “Workforce planning was another interesting topic that seemed to be getting a lot of attention as companies upskill their workforce.”

For Tim, like the others, the topic of AI also was omnipresent.

“I believe AI was mentioned in every session I attended,” Tim said. “From a finance perspective, it was interesting to hear discussions around the ethical use of AI as well as different views on how fast AI will impact and disrupt the market. This will certainly have an impact on how and what we deliver on our customer journey.”


Greg Sebasky, CEO, served on a panel, SaaS Ecosystem, which explored learning and education as a recurring, ongoing and lifelong process among professionals in the age of AI and automation.

“If I had to summarize the overall theme in one word, it would be viral because of the rapid transformation these new technologies are having and the potential for learning to evolve with them,” Greg said. “Evolving technologies like ChatGPT will continue to disrupt and evolve education as well as create opportunities to lower costs for internal processes.”

Greg also said the theme of the “Holy Grail” of “personalized” learning continued in this year’s summit as one that will remain at the front and center in the industry.

“I look forward to seeing how our collective learnings at the summit are shared within teams across Ascend to help us think broadly about our own processes, opportunities to innovate and to drive change that helps learners, educators and employers accelerate opportunity.” 


Full-length panel recordings and video highlights from the 2023 ASU-GSV Summit are available on the GSV YouTube channel. Direct links to the panels featuring Ascend Learning thought leaders are below.

Did you attend any of the sessions virtually? Have a question for one of our leaders who attended? Share a comment or question below!

Greg Sebasky — SaaS Ecosystem

In the age of AI and automation, students no longer fill up their knowledge tanks by age 25 and then drive off to the future; education is a recurring and ongoing process, and everyone’s now a life-long learner. Hear from some of the global learning leaders who are building recurring, SaaS-like services in K12, Higher Ed, and the Workforce.

Patty Knecht — Life or Death: Solving the Healthcare Talent Crisis

The healthcare industry is facing a major talent crisis. Healthcare providers are struggling to fill in-demand roles, and academic institutions have too few seats to meet demand from aspiring healthcare professionals. How can we innovate at the nexus of education and workforce to address the healthcare talent shortage and create more equitable pathways to career mobility?

Make Your Move: Aaron Roose

At Ascend Learning, we strive to provide opportunities for employees to stretch their skills and advance their careers by moving among business segments, brands and teams — driving personal and team growth while creating a culture where people love what they do, take ownership and are empowered to pursue new career opportunities within the company so we “hire our own talent.”

After starting in a sales role with Ascend brand ClickSafety in 2020, Aaron Roose made his move from safety & security to a sales operations team supporting the healthcare segment two years later. His story is about embracing change while moving across segments on sales teams where roles — and goals — are constantly evolving.

Ascend Communications (AC): Tell us about your former role and how it helped prepare you to make your move.

Aaron Roose (AR): I started in April 2020 as one of two pilot sales development reps in the Safety and Security vertical supporting ClickSafety. That role quickly morphed from general sales support into a more robust role helping with sales enablement and operations, a new HubSpot integration project and [being] an unofficial “CRM champion.”

I feel like we made a lot of progress, demonstrated by my eventual backfill of an official sales ops analyst role supporting ClickSafety which previously did not exist. I found it to be very beneficial to initially have my manager be a high-level director. That reporting structure offered opportunities to gradually be more and more in the “room where it happens.”

AC: Are there any projects you’re most proud of during your time at ClickSafety?

AR: As my role and my title evolved at ClickSafety, the most rewarding projects were the ones that required us to create a working cadence that allowed for more effective cross-departmental collaboration such as the HubSpot integration. I honestly think one of the things I’m most proud of was implementing the known idea of “teach a person to fish.” ClickSafety has some amazing folks on their team who want to learn and develop their skills, so we partnered, dove in, and not only upskilled ourselves, but those collaborators then also became SMEs that could help the rest of the sales organization.

AC: What can you share about your new role?

AR: In June 2022 I moved over to the healthcare segment as a sales operations analyst primarily supporting National Healthcareer Association, where I facilitate communication and collaboration between multiple functions in healthcare and Tech & Ops. I don’t always solve the question or concern — but I bring the needs of the business to the team that does.

AC: What was the process like making your move?

AR: My amazing wife has been with NHA for over six years and loves the ethos here. NHA puts significant time, thought, and effort into truly embodying Ascend’s values. She first mentioned the job opening in healthcare and we saw there was overlap with the work I was doing at ClickSafety. My manager was completely supportive and encouraged me to apply.

During the initial interviews, there was an immediate ease in the conversations, and I realized I had gained confidence and competence in many of the things being asked in this new role. After I was offered the position, my former manager went further and said I could call anytime if I needed additional support, which speaks to his leadership skills.

AC: How would you describe the culture at Ascend?

AR: Our work has real impact, whether it’s ClickSafety training that keeps workers safe on the jobsite, or NHA training and upskilling medical professionals to better serve the healthcare community — neither is trivial. As someone who has spent time both on jobsites as well as in hospitals, we very much want and need those professionals to be as good as they can at what they do. You only need to hear one testimonial from a pharmacy technician, nurse educator, or a CTE instructor whose life has been changed for the better because of their relationship with NHA to witness real world effects of our values.

AC: How have our values shaped or influenced this process for you?

AR: I think that embracing change has been top of mind throughout my time at Ascend. If we learned one thing from the pandemic, it’s that agility is critical to success. Ascend pivoted in myriad ways to support our customers. I’ve also had the privilege of working with a number of teammates whose passion for what they do makes me WANT to come to work.

That could be anything from putting in extra time and effort to help cover a coworker that’s out to something as simple as NHA having a Teams channel where folks regularly give shout-outs and accolades, thereby encouraging the entire org. There is camaraderie here I’ve not encountered elsewhere.

AC: Do you have any words of encouragement to others at Ascend who are considering “making their move?”

AR: Don’t be afraid to ask questions — particularly if the goal is to improve. I have been told by several folks in leadership roles during my tenure in both safety & security as well as healthcare that there are no dumb questions.

Some of those questions for me have led to the next opportunity to collaborate with additional teams or see the problem we’re trying to solve from a wholly different vantage point. You never know when YOUR question or YOUR unique input could not only benefit the entire project but might also open doors on which you never would have thought to knock.

To quote Ted Lasso, “Be curious, not judgmental.”


When team members move to new roles across Ascend, they grow their skills and stretch their capabilities within a company they already know, maintain their benefits and connections with colleagues, and teams gain an employee already invested in the work, mission and culture — one that can ramp up quickly and bring legacy knowledge to their new role. To learn more about career opportunities at Ascend, visit our Careers page.

Ascend Learning Announces Cheryl Kennedy as New Chief Human Resources Officer

Ascend Learning is pleased to welcome Cheryl Kennedy as its new chief human resources officer (CHRO) and newest member of its senior leadership team (SLT). Cheryl joins the Ascend team with more than 20 years of leadership experience aligning people and culture with organizational purpose and strategy to achieve results.

“A business first HR leader known for developing talent and inspiring creativity, transformational thinking and high performance, Cheryl is a highly collaborative leader committed to developing talent around her,” said Greg Sebasky, Ascend Learning CEO. “Cheryl’s unique talent for solving complex problems with future-focused solutions will enhance our human resources and talent strategy and help us continue to build a strong people-first culture centered around our purpose and values. I look forward to the impact our teams and organization will continue to make under Cheryl’s leadership.”

Cheryl joins Ascend from Welch’s, where she served as the chief human resources & sustainability officer and led the design and execution of a cultural renovation that accelerated business outcomes and helped triple profits in three years. As CHRO she implemented a leadership model and accountability structure, built internal strategic planning and problem-solving capabilities, and restructured performance management and talent development practices. She also led a cross-functional team to design, develop and execute Welch’s first ever sustainability and corporate social responsibility program.

Prior to Welch’s, Cheryl served in multiple leadership roles with Hasbro, leaving as their senior vice president of human resources. In her role, she was a key advisor to executive leadership and led HR transformation, implementing Hasbro’s DEI strategy, leading the redesign of the employee experience including performance and talent management, and upgrading HR systems and infrastructure including a global job model and reward structure.

Cheryl earned her bachelor’s degree in general studies and MBA in finance from the University of Rhode Island and has served as a speaker, panelist and thought leader on various workplace topics. She resides in Massachusetts with her family and enjoys all kinds of fitness including yoga, indoor cycling and hiking.

Make Your Move: Jenny Davis

At Ascend, we strive to provide opportunities for employees to stretch their skills and advance their careers by moving among business segments, brands and teams — driving personal and team growth while creating a culture where people love what they do, take ownership and are empowered to pursue new career opportunities within the company so we “hire our own talent.”

Jenny Davis had served as director of client support for Ascend Learning brand MedHub for four-and-a-half years when she began reflecting on the possibility of pursuing new opportunities at Ascend. Eager to leverage her knowledge and experience into a new role, Jenny said Ascend’s values were her guiding principles when she decided to make her move and joined MedHub’s product team as a senior product manager.

Ascend Communications (AC): Tell us about your former role and how it helped prepare you to make your move.

Jenny Davis (JD): My former role was director of client support. My primary duties in that role were oversight of the support teams, strategic plans for supporting our clients and delivering on metrics such as net promoter score (NPS), customer satisfaction (CSAT), and how quickly an inquiry is resolved (resolution time). Working with the clients through support gave me firsthand knowledge of how they use the system, how they want to use the system and where the system could be improved.

AC: Tell us about your new role.

JD: My new role is senior product manager. I lead the development and lifecycle management of the product, which involves understanding client needs and market trends, defining the product vision and strategy, setting goals and prioritizing features, and working with cross-functional teams including engineering, design, marketing, and sales, to bring the product to market. My goal is to ensure that the product meets the needs of customers and achieves the desired business outcomes.

AC: How would you describe your former team?

JD: My former team is exceptional. Their loyalty and dedication to solving our clients’ inquiries is unapparelled. The success I am most proud of is increasing the net promoter score (NPS) from a 28 in 2019 to 48 in 2022.

AC: What was the process like making your move?

JD: I learned about the opening from the director of product management. I was attracted to this role because of the opportunity to learn a new role and use the knowledge I had gained from being the director of [client] support to help deliver an exceptional product. Everyone I spoke to, including my manager, peers and team members, were very supportive. They felt this would be a great fit for me with my experience. The application process was easy, and the interview process was simple.

AC: How would you describe the dynamic of your new team?

JD: My new team is also exceptional. They welcomed me with open arms and were very supportive and helpful. It took me a little while to learn new tools and processes, but I’m settled in and cruising right along. It has been a great experience learning this new role and seeing a different side of the business. You can never really appreciate what a person in another role does until you’ve been in their shoes.

AC: How would you describe the culture at Ascend?

JD: The culture at Ascend is best described through our values. Everyone at Ascend embodies our values and you can see this through their work and interactions.

AC: Do you have any words of encouragement to others who are considering making their move?

JD: Be courageous and embrace change — knowledge is power.


When team members move to new roles across Ascend, they grow their skills and stretch their capabilities within a company they already know, maintain their benefits and connections with colleagues, and teams gain an employee already invested in the work, mission and culture — one that can ramp up quickly and bring legacy knowledge to their new role. To learn more about career opportunities at Ascend, visit our Careers page.

Make Your Move: Rachel Arnold

At Ascend, we strive to provide opportunities for employees to stretch their skills and advance their careers by moving among business segments, brands and teams — driving personal and team growth while creating a culture where people love what they do, take ownership and are empowered to pursue new career opportunities within the company so we “hire our own talent.”

Rachel Arnold started as a certification specialist with National Healthcare Association in 2020 and has advanced her career from an individual contributor to a managerial role. When NHA launched a strategically reorganized salesforce in 2023, her role evolved, and she made her move to become a regional partnerships manager.

Ascend Communications (AC): Tell us about your former role and how it helped prepare you to make your move.

Rachel Arnold (RA): I was a client executive for NHA, partnering with clients in New York and Florida to certify their candidates in the eight health science professions we are nationally recognized for by the NCCA [National Commission for Certifying Agencies]. The candidates would be enrolled in either a post- secondary learning program or working for an employer who requires certification or offers upskilling for their employees. In that role, I focused on revenue building for current portfolios as well as bringing in new logos [an NHA term for new business or new customers] and account management.

AC: How would you describe your former team? Any successes you’re proud of?

RA: As a client executive, my largest professional accomplishments were receiving the 100% Club and Rookie of the Year Award for 2021. This was a huge honor, and I was very proud to earn these accolades. The most rewarding part of this role was the professional partnership I developed with [NHA director of sales] @Melody Thuss, my team lead and the other members of my team at the time. I had so much respect for each of them and I was blown away by their professionalism and drive for success.

AC: Tell us about your new role.

RA: My current role at NHA is Regional Partnerships Manager [known as a sales Team Lead internally]. Prior to 2023, I had four client executives on my team that served key accounts and different states across the country. We worked together to meet their revenue goals, sharpen their consultative selling skills, create strong relationships with their customers and discover their gifts and passions so they could find additional ways to contribute to NHA.

Starting this year, my role has evolved, and I now lead the newly formed employer/healthcare focused team. We are a team of five and hope to add one more account manager. The best part is that my team and I can focus on aligning NHA’s mission in a more specialized space. We are very excited!

AC: What was the experience like making your move? Did you have any encouragement or support from your colleagues?

RA: Melody was elevated to a new position, and I realized that her role would become available. At first, I felt I was too green to be an effective leader for an NHA sales team. [Often] I felt I was just starting to understand our industry and had a great deal more to learn. However, I knew that I had the sales experience, maturity and the temperament that others would value in a leader.

Melody approached me about the position. She shared that she had always seen this being part of my succession plan at NHA. Her confidence in me and my own personal desire for growth led me to apply online. I then went through an interview with a leadership panel and then met with our vice president of sales. I was away on a work trip when HR called and offered me the position. It was an easy “yes” for me. I’m very grateful for Melody and everyone who has taught me along the way.

AC: How would you describe the dynamic of your new team?

RA: I have a team of diverse personalities and SMEs who have really energized my focus and excitement for my role in leadership. I’m grateful for my team — they’re positive, hardworking, and challenge me to be better.

AC: How would you describe the culture at Ascend?

RA: The culture at Ascend has always been one of my favorite things about my job. From day one, I felt heard, valued, and respected. I’m surrounded by people who put in their best efforts and don’t dial it in. That has pushed me to keep up. I’ve seen examples time after time of how this company has pivoted based on feedback from myself and my peers.

AC: How have our values shaped your experience at Ascend?

RA: Passion comes to mind first and is what I see on a daily basis. My team shows their passion for their clients in their strategic meetings when they help them reach their certification goals, pass rate goals, and look for ways to go above and beyond for them.

AC: Do you have any words of encouragement to others who are considering making their move?

RA: My advice would be to create a portfolio and start to build out a five-year plan for yourself. I would talk to your leadership team and ask what they look for in the role that you would like to have someday. Let your leadership team know that you have interest in having a mentor and learning more about what that person does. It is never too early to throw your hat in the ring!


When team members move to new roles across Ascend, they grow their skills and stretch their capabilities within a company they already know, maintain their benefits and connections with colleagues, and teams gain an employee already invested in the work, mission and culture — one that can ramp up quickly and bring legacy knowledge to their new role. To learn more about career opportunities at Ascend, visit our Careers page.

Employee Spotlight: Dana Ball

Meet Dana Ball, senior CAM manager for Ascend Learning brand ATI Nursing Education, the leading provider of online instruction, remediation, analytics, and consulting solutions for nursing programs. Dana said her favorite parts about working at Ascend are the opportunities for professional growth and to create innovative educational solutions that help change the lives of the customers and communities we serve. Hear more from Dana about what it’s like working at Ascend in our Q&A below.

What makes Ascend a great place to work?

Ascend is a great place to work because of our values. We’re committed to providing a culture for people to grow and thrive. Ascend is a good place to be!

How would you describe our culture?

Results-driven and selfless, with a constant focus on our customers.

What does it mean to you that our work changes lives? 

Our work changes lives not only personally as we grow professionally as employees, but we are providing client resources that help students be successful in their nursing program — and ultimately in a professional setting with patients.

What excites you most about your work?

Our work is exciting because of the innovation and forward thinking [solutions] we offer our clients. It’s good to be part of the future.

How have our values shaped your experience?

Our values are equally as important as our goals and how we measure performance. They help me focus on what’s significant and have a profound effect on success.

We’re always looking for talented, passionate professionals to join us in our mission to help change lives. If this sounds like a place where you’d thrive, explore our career opportunities at

Employee Spotlight: Kelley Persson

Meet Kelley Persson, a member services representative with Ascend brands National Academy of Sports Medicine and Athletics and Fitness Association of America. Kelley has been with Ascend for more than 20 years and said she has experienced tremendous fulfillment playing a role in customers’ health journeys.

“At NASM and AFAA, our mission is to provide world-class fitness professionals with the knowledge and tools to transform lives,” says Kelley. “I truly feel that what we do here is very important, as helping individuals through their health and fitness journey is a life-changing experience for most. Knowing that I have helped with that, even in just a small way, brings me joy.”

Hear more from Kelley about what it’s like working at Ascend in our Q&A below.

What’s your favorite Ascend value and why?

Embrace Change. I have been through so much change over my time here, which is not always an easy thing for me, as I tend to be a creature of habit. However, some great things have come from it, and I now look forward to our ever-evolving workplace and the places it may lead us.

What’s the greatest piece of advice a mentor has given you?

“If you are on the right path, it will always be uphill.” This truly resonated with me as life can be very challenging, and if things are easy, I must not be doing it right. The hard road is the one I want to be on, as I know in the end it will have been the right path.

If you could have a completely different career for a week, what would it be and why?

I had always wanted to be a nurse, and it is still something I consider. I would love to work as a nurse. I know this job can be crazy and exhausting, but to me, these medical workers are truly heroes, and I would love to get a glimpse into their world.

How has your perspective changed over your 20 years with Ascend?

To put it in perspective, I started working with NASM just four months post 9/11, which now feels like it was so long ago, but also seems like it was just yesterday. Over my time here I have seen so much change and have met so many great people, while a lot of them have come and gone, some of those familiar faces are still here. When I began here, the NASM office was in Calabasas, CA, and home to just under 20 employees. As of today, NASM/AFAA is home to 240 employees, and I only see growth in its future! I look forward to what is to come and my future here with Ascend.

We’re always looking for talented, passionate professionals to join us in our mission to help change lives. If this sounds like a place where you’d thrive, explore our career opportunities at

Ascend Learning’s Ada Woo Receives 2023 ATP Award for Professional Contributions and Service to Testing

The Association of Test Professionals Award Recognizes Individuals Making a Positive Impact on the Testing Industry

Burlington, MA – March 16, 2023 – Ascend Learning announces that Ada Woo, vice president of innovative learning sciences, received the 2023 Association of Test Publishers Award for Professional Contributions to Service and Testing. Woo was presented with the award at the association’s annual Innovations in Testing conference March 13 in Dallas.

The award honors individuals who have made a positive impact on the testing industry through professional contributions and service including sustained leadership, advocacy and contributions that have improved the applications of testing, influenced professional standards and practices, and increased public understanding of testing.

“As a first-generation college student who knew little about higher education, standardized assessments have played an important role and opened doors in my educational journey,” said Ada. “Having experienced the opportunities testing can provide, I’m proud to be working in the workforce education and testing industry today. I’m honored to receive this award and help promote the value of testing for the next generation of learners.”

Ada Woo (center), Ascend Learning vice president of innovative learning sciences, receives the 2023 Association of Test Publishers Award for Professional Contributions to Service and Testing at the association’s annual Innovations in Testing Conference, March 13. Pictured with Ada are 2023 ATP Chair Ashok Sarathy (left) and 2023 ATP Conference Chair Isabelle Gonthier.

Woo was elected to the ATP board of directors in 2022 and was one of the leaders behind the association’s launch of its EdTech Computational & Psychometrics Summit and also has served as the chair of its Workforce Skills Credentialing Division. In her role at Ascend, Woo leads the research and development organization for Ascend’s healthcare segment, ensuring all components of learning and assessment product developments are fully and efficiently realized.

“As a proponent, leader and supporter of the Association of Test Publishers, Ada continues to impress all who have the privilege of working with her,” said association CEO William G. Harris, Ph.D. “She has been instrumental in leading ATP’s flagship Innovations Conference and also initiating new summits and events that continue to enhance ATP’s influence and relevance to the global testing and assessment community.”

“We’re thrilled Ada’s ATP colleagues are recognizing Ada for the same values we see in her every day,” said Sean Burke, president of Ascend Learning’s healthcare segment. “Giving back and contributing to the industry is important to us, and we’re proud industry leaders like Ada chose Ascend Learning as the place they can have a positive, purpose-driven impact on learners and educators.”


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

About The Association of Test Publishers
The Association of Test Publishers was founded to promote and develop testing and assessment best practices and to facilitate an environment that would benefit test-takers, businesses, educational organizations, and society in general. The association charges itself with defining professionalism for assessment and ethics and promoting adherence to these principles. To achieve this purpose, ATP focuses on two primary initiatives: advocacy for the industry and education for its members.

Insights on Ethical and Responsible Uses of AI featuring Sweta Sinha & Sumit Arora

At Ascend, we encourage our employees to pursue growth opportunities and expand their industry connections by contributing their time and expertise to professional organizations and sharing knowledge and experience speaking at industry events.

One team member at Ascend who recently shared her expertise with industry colleagues is Sweta Sinha, director of data science in Tech & Ops, who was invited to speak on “AI Governance for Building Responsible and Ethical AI Systems” and serve as a panelist speaking on “AI State of the Art, Organizational Topologies, and Defining Success” at the Data Science Salon in Austin, Texas on Feb. 21-22.

Traditionally a traveling conference that bounces between the coasts with multiple events throughout the year, the Data Science Salon in Austin brought together hundreds of industry leaders and specialists including executives, senior data science practitioners, data science managers, analysts, and engineering professionals to share knowledge and learnings. Topics included AI and machine learning applications in the enterprise, innovative new solutions in artificial intelligence, machine learning, predictive analytics and acceptance around best practices.

The Ascend Communications team caught up with Sweta recently to learn more about her experience speaking at the conference, the potential applications (and risks) of AI, and how it relates to our work at Ascend. We also invited her manager, Sumit Arora, vice president of data analytics in Tech & Ops, to contribute to the conversation.

Ascend Communications (AC): What was it like sharing your experience and knowledge with your industry peers?

Sweta Sinha (SS): I enjoyed participating and sharing my thoughts on the panel that I shared with other technical leaders. The conversation was focused on centralized vs. decentralized AI operating models and the advantages and disadvantages of each, the current state of AI in enterprise, how organizations can leverage Generative AI/ChatGPT technology while mitigating the risks, and what the future of education would look like in the AI era. 

AC: What were some perspectives you contributed to the panel and in your talk?

SS: AI is a key driver for innovation and enhancing customer experience. However, AI solutions come with their own challenges and risks, particularly in regulated industries. There have been numerous instances when AI introduced bias, ethical and legal risks. I talked about what steps organizations can take to govern the AI technology that will ensure this technology benefits, augments us, and makes life better for all it intends to.

I also emphasized the need for transparency, diversity, and establishing guidelines around development and usage — and the need for communicating clearly around power and limitations of the AI system usage. It’s important to establish an AI ethics committee who can oversee the fairness and ethical aspects of AI products being built. As more laws, regulations and guidelines are getting introduced on the fair and indiscriminatory usage of AI based systems, organizations are becoming more aware of the need for AI governance and looking to understand how to implement it.

I hope my talk was useful to those who are taking steps towards the implementation.

AC: There has been increased discussion, headlines and news about AI in recent months; for those who aren’t as familiar with the topic, what can you share about its importance?

SS: AI is becoming more and more prevalent in every aspect of our daily lives, including areas such as food production, education, healthcare, fashion, law enforcement, employment, and advanced scientific research. It has provided us with the opportunity to automate processes and proactive decision-making and has the potential to drive positive changes towards the future. However, there is also a significant risk of AI being unfair and biased towards certain demographics, as it can perpetuate systemic biases and unfair beliefs from our past.

It’s important to recognize the potential risks associated with AI and take steps to ensure that it is governed responsibly. By implementing governance processes for AI, we can leverage its benefits and minimize the risk of it being used unfairly or causing harm.

AC: What opportunities exist to leverage the power of AI at an enterprise level? 

SS: Emerging Generative AI technology has immense potential to help enterprises in many ways, including new content creation, automating processes and systems, creating virtual assistants, and enhancing customer experience. ChatGPT, an AI-based conversation AI, has gained significant attention lately due to its ability to engage in a human-like conversation and to serve as an unrestricted FAQ resource. By leveraging this technology, along with traditional AI/machine learning solutions, enterprises can increase efficiency, reduce cost and delight their customers.

SA: AI is a powerful technology that will undoubtedly impact our lives and will forever change the way businesses are run. However, there is a lot of hype around AI in the industry currently, and we need to carefully distinguish fact from fiction. At Ascend, it’s important that we pick the right use-cases for experimentation while keeping in mind our values, business goals and ethics.


Interested in learning more about AI?

For professionals interested in learning more about AI, Generative AI and ChatGPT, Sweta recommends exploring articles published by Azure, McKinsey and Gartner.