Aspire2Higher’s Connection to Hip Hop

As part of the Aspire2Higher Movement, where people are empowered to define and develop their own success; we offer programming and events that reveal, explore, amplify and interrogate both hip hop and higher education and the intersections between the two. Additionally, we have launched a line of merchandise as an extension of these efforts.

We created our merchandise to affirm the intersectional and “Scholarly Swag” of queer people, black people, Hispanic and Latin X people, and hip hop heads.

As you know, my career has been in higher education and that is where I refined my skills in creating highly engaging educational events that have a basis in hip hop music and culture. The idea for a t-shirt and merchandise line also grew out of my experience in higher education.  My work in higher education focused on uplifting and empowering students who often feel marginalized and even ignored in educational and traditional academic spaces.  I have been utilizing hip hop as a cultural marker in my work to connect with a diverse student population. Our T-shirts are meant to amplify the voices and experiences of those students.

Our designs are also meant to motivate BIPOC, Queer & Trans educators and scholars. The feelings of marginalization and isolation felt in “the academy” were also experienced by people teaching and working there. I also sought to spotlight hip hop as an industry that is a legitimate line of work where leadership and black excellence exist; just as it does in other industries. With this merchandise, we also seek to affirm for hip hop heads, hip hop scholars, emcees, producers, and the like; that your scholarship is hip hop.

All of these ideas and experiences led to me being in the right space at the right time. In my first year working in higher ed in Raleigh, NC, I found myself in close proximity to the very first hip hop festival in the region (The Dreamville Festival). So, I shot my shot. I recruited a strong team, I proposed that my institution find ways to connect this festival to our mission and curriculum and we had a very successful hip hop & higher education symposium (pictured above).

Bringing this into the current year where COVID still has many of us holding events virtually, A2H has most recently partnered with the Ladies Luv Hip Hop platform. tomorrow we are releasing a brand new podcast titled, “Hip Hop IS Higher Ed”. On this podcast (just as in my previous work) we will explore how hip hop is a form of education, how it feeds intellectual curiosity, and how hip hop offers its audience unique forms of critical analysis. Please tune in to the podcast on Apple or SoundCloud, every first Tuesday of the month!

So, if any of this resonates with you and/or describes you or your experiences, order your merchandise and FOLLOW OUR PODCAST today… and proudly AMPLIFY YOUR SCHOLARLY SWAG!

Introducing A2H, The Elements of Success

Aspire2Higher Personal & Professional Development , INC is a three part business.

  1. The A2H Movement & Lifestyle Brand
  2. A2H Programming & Events
  3. Training & Consulting Services

The foundation of the company is based on a framework for personal & professional development created by yours truly, Founder & Executive Director, Stephanie Reed. Each part of the organization is grounded in what we call The Elements of Success-or The Elements A2H.

The framework was developed over the course of my 20 years of work experience as a career counselor, a sales professional, and higher education diversity administrator. Over time, I’ve researched many aspects of career development, personal success, employment trends, career readiness, employer needs, labor statistics, etc. Out of this work grew a simple idea that I coined, Aspire2Higher. The idea was this: imagine if every person had a personal VISION, and work connected to their PASSIONS that they could use as an internal compass to navigate not only the world of work but their pursuit of personally defined success. With this internal compass and personal definition of success, people would not need to look outside of themselves to navigate their careers or journey based on someone else’s definition of success. I used this way of thinking as my own personal mantra (and career compass) for many years, and I never settled for what others prescribed for me in regards to work or my personal choices. Back in 2010, I began to write about my ideas and created this framework for personal and professional development called Aspire2Higher.

In short, Aspire2Higher is about possessing some key elements of success, some of which include having Unapologetic Ambition and Taking Charge of your Career! Below is the list of skills and abilities that comprises the Element of Success:


Self Awareness


Unapologetic Ambition


Innovation & Problem Solving

Digital Literacy

Financial Literacy & Wellness

Physical & Mental Wellness


Tolerance for Ambiguity

Aspire2HIgher: The ELEMENTS A2H

We are not all born with the ability and resources to be young moguls right away. However, I believe we are all born capable and can become great leaders through the PERSISTENCE of GOOD HABITS and VISION-WORK! Aspire2Higher Personal & Professional Development has programs and services that cultivate this mindset in its participants and train people (young and “seasoned”) on the skills necessary to live an Aspire2Higher life.

Stay tuned to this blog, follow our social media, and participate in A2H programs and events to learn more!