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Student Spotlight: Asma Anwar

The beauty of the journey toward achieving one’s educational goals is simple; each is different, unique, and distinct to them. There is no mold, framework, or even roadmap for how life is supposed to be. And that’s definitely true for students like Dr. Asma Anwar. From moving across oceans to forming a family to pursuing her doctorate at a Christian university as a member of the Muslim faith, Asma embodies what it means to follow one’s dreams and serve God in and through all things, including in spaces where she might be seen as a minority. Bringing new perspectives to her colleagues and friends, Asma’s love for people and research extends beyond her background and has reached new heights since her time in the Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership program at ACU Online. 

Pushing Forward and Finding Meaning Amidst Life Changes

Growing up in Pakistan, Asma knew she wanted to do something related to education. She just wasn’t sure what or where she would end up. Obtaining her education at the University of the Punjab, Asma worked diligently throughout college to find her real passion resulting in her bachelor’s and master’s degree in English literature. Fast forward a few years later, in the mid-1990s, Asma found herself a recent graduate on a plane to the United States with her new husband. Needless to say, life started moving pretty quickly for her. Raising her family in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Asma felt a tug in her heart to continue her education and started looking for a job while she had the time. Only this time, it would be in a new country with new faces and traditions. 

Looking to see what she would want to pursue in the foreign land of Lewisville, Texas, Asma decided to take a job as a special education teacher, which she believed was a job she was meant to have. 

“I have a cousin with special needs, and we are very close in age. We grew up together,” Asma says. “And I remembered the struggles she went through during her childhood and in college, and so this new job really made me think about her and, more importantly, think about how I would want to fix those issues in the education system for students with special needs.” 

Remembering her cousin and finding her new love for teaching students with special needs, Asma quickly decided to complete her second master’s degree in special education at Texas A&M University. Within a matter of years, Asma not only moved countries but also had obtained two master’s degrees, started a new role at Lewisville Independent School District, and was raising her family as a Muslim woman in a predominantly Christian community. And the best part was, she wasn’t done yet. 

From Specialist Turned Doctoral Student

Working full-time, raising children, and managing a household, Asma was a bit uneasy about starting a doctoral degree. What would it look like? Would she be able to manage a program amidst her current obligations? Unsure about how a doctoral degree would help in her career, Asma remembers talking with her peers about ACU and whether it would be a good match for her considering her faith and international background. Asma wanted to make sure she could fulfill her professional goals of becoming an administrator. After conducting her own research and seeing how flexible the doctoral program was for working adults, Asma wasted no time in applying to ACU Online. 

“When I saw how flexible everything was, I just felt this sort of peace,” Asma remembers. “And so it was easy for me to jump in and already know what my research topic was going to be. I knew I could pursue the type of research I wanted to during my time there, and so I really took full advantage of [the] courses and faculty members that we had.” 

And while ACU was not necessarily her first choice, Asma was glad she picked ACU. For her, learning multiple subjects related to organizational leadership and administration allowed her to obtain her goal of becoming a diagnostician alongside her principal certification. Finishing her dissertation on the lived experiences of teachers who were implementing these new practices to understand the challenges faced when building connections with their students with disabilities, Asma is proud of the work she conducted. To her, it was a way to showcase her profound love for special education and honor her cousin and the lasting impact of their relationship. 

Walking the stage in May 2021, Asma acknowledges she wouldn’t have been able to become the woman she is today without the support of her family and faculty mentors, including Dr. Tracy Spencer and Dr. Jennifer Butcher. Women that, to her, embody what it means to be on a mission to reform education and its practices. 

Paving The Way For More Professional Women

Today, you can find Dr. Asma Anwar celebrating her 18th year as a part of the Lewisville Independent School District, working as one of the leading educational diagnosticians. Now with her children grown and in college, Asma looks back to her time of pursuing her education with fond memories. 

“In seven years, I got my master’s degrees, principal certification, diagnostician certification, and now my doctorate,” Asma says. “And you know, my kids were in school at the same time, and so that’s just, you know, how it went.” 

A role model for many and a supermom to many more, Asma presents a new take on what it means to immigrate to the United States and work toward a life filled with opportunities, open doors, and breaking glass ceilings.  

Looking ahead, Asma’s enjoying her current role and is constantly learning about how legislation and new trends are impacting education as a whole. Entering her fourth year as a diagnostician, Asma believes that she has more to learn before thinking about the next professional goal she would like to achieve. In the meantime, Asma’s love for research has only grown since her time in the doctoral program. Working on various projects and brainstorming new proposals for educational research, Asma seems optimistic about what the future holds. Whether she remains at the school district or finds herself in another foreign land, one thing is certain: Asma will continue moving forward and proving the new heights one can claim if one works hard and seeks their higher calling. 

Do you want to achieve your educational goals like Dr. Asma Anwar? Visit our website or call 855-219-7300 to learn how you can step into a fulfilling, innovative future at ACU Online.

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