Striving for Equity

Ashley Philippsen shares her passion-driven path

Article by Kacie Brown

Photography by Cindy Alvarez

Originally published in Tulsa Lifestyle

With just a glance at her resume, you’d be able to tell that Ashley Philippsen was passionate. Currently the Senior Director of Engagement & Advocacy at Impact Tulsa, she’s worked with the Met Cares Foundation, Mayor Bynum’s administration and served on so many local boards and committees that you’d wonder how she ever sleeps. She describes all of the roles she’s filled with a strong spirit of community-invested purpose, particularly regarding education. 

“You see this through-line of educational equity,” the Texarkana native says. 

Philippsen, a Texarkana native, set out on her career path with civil rights law in mind as a destination. While at the University of Oklahoma, though, she found out about Teach for America, where she found her calling helping students reach their personal and academic goals. When she started teaching middle school English she thought she’d be a “lifer,” but a visit to Tulsa to see her would-be husband altered that plan, and she moved to Tulsa in 2012 to lead Teach for America’s teacher leadership development team. 

“Supporting over 200 teachers across Tulsa Public Schools and some of our charter and rural networks really gave me a glimpse at what wraparound coaching can do to support teachers as they undertake one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs there is,” Philippsen says. 

After working with Leadership Tulsa, LEAD North and Met Cares on initiatives centered around North Tulsa’s vitality, Mayor Bynum approached Philippsen about taking her work in North Tulsa to a larger scale. She agreed, and as part of his administration, she focused on community development and policy in North Tulsa. She also served on the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission as the mayor’s proxy, and designed a community-driven grant program through WPX Energy funding commemorations of the massacre. 

Then, an opportunity through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Strive Together Network caught Philippsen’s attention. It charged ImpactTulsa with finding strategies to support students as the pandemic worsened what were already glaring issues of inequity in education. 

“The big call that attracted me to the role was this idea of co-developing solutions with students and families to ensure that folks most proximate to challenges stemming from COVID have a hand in targeting inequities,” Philippsen says. 

She’s especially driven by her collaborative work with school districts and other institutions to ensure that students see a future for themselves in Tulsa as they graduate with the skills they need to thrive in college and careers. Her position at ImpactTulsa also enables her to do the work she relishes: strategic engagement and systems-level strategy. And it’s not a newly-acquired skill. She traces her knack for organizational leadership back to her childhood. 

“I love looking at organizations and teams and studying how people interact with one another. I used to like to imitate Sherlock Holmes when I was in elementary school and I loved the emphasis on observation and analysis,” Philippsen says. 

Aside from her work, Philippsen enjoys spending time with her husband, assistant principal at Carver Middle School, and two children, taking advantage of her public library and spending time at local establishments in Tulsa. 

Philippsen’s career path is a dynamic one, but you don’t have to look far to see how she’s still pursuing the passion for civil rights she fostered at OU.

“I’m interested in getting at the roots of inequity. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning,” Philippsen says.

Ashley Philippsen

Senior Director of Engagement & Advocacy at Impact Tulsa

Words of Advice:

If you’re looking to do something, are you doing it with, to or for the community?



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