Women of Distinction 2018 Spotlight: Simone Askew
Get to Know the 2018 NCCWSL Women of Distinction
Name: Simone Askew
Occupation: First Captain, West Point
Education: Bachelor of Science, West Point, Class of 2018
In August 2017, Cadet Simone Askew made history when she was appointed as the first captain of West Point’s Corps of Cadets. For almost 200 years, student leadership at West Point looked about the same: white and male. Askew is the fifth woman and fifth African American to ever hold the position, but she’s the first black woman ever to do so.
Although founded in 1802, West Point did not admit women until 1976 and this year, less than 4 percent of cadets at West Point are black women. Rather than tout her exceptionality, Askew told CBS News, “My focus now is really to be the best first captain I can be regardless of gender or race. … [I want to be] remembered as a good leader, not necessarily as a good African American female leader.” Still, the significance of this moment is real. Askew’s achievements inspire young women everywhere. When you see yourself in someone else, you expand your horizons on what is possible.
Long before she enrolled at West Point, Askew’s natural gift for leadership and passion for service was evident. In high school, she served as student body president, was captain of the volleyball team, founded a Black Student Union, and spent summers volunteering at an orphanage in the Dominican Republic. She only missed being crowned homecoming queen her senior year because, instead, she was at a West Point recruiting event. But, always one to support others, she was there to crown her successor the following year.
Askew’s selection as first captain is the most recent of a long list of accolades. She is a member of Phi Alpha Theta National History Society, a graduate of Air Assault School, an EXCEL Scholar, and a recipient of the Army Achievement Medal for leadership of the Joint Service Academies Mass Atrocity Prevention Symposium. Additionally, she won both the Pinnacle Award from the Black Women’s Agenda and the Black Engineer of the Year Award for Military Leadership.
Today, while studying international history, Askew commands more than 4,400 cadets at the United States Military Academy. Responsible for the overall success and achievements of the entirety of the Corps of Cadets, she sets the class agenda, manages the training schedule, and acts as a liaison between the administration and the cadets. “Some cadets that are really high performing, they just go about their own business,” Colonel Diane Ryan, USA, retired, former department head, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership, at West Point told the New York Times. “She is just a leader in every sense of the word, figuring out how she can connect people together and serve others.”
After graduating in the spring of 2018, Askew will embark on her next journey as a Rhodes Scholar. As one of 32 Americans awarded the competitive and prestigious scholarship, Askew will attend Oxford University, where she will continue her studies in refugee and forced migration before entering the Army Corps of Engineers.