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Indy’s Leading Changemakers: A Q&A With Morgan Cooksey, Academic Performance Analyst At The Mayor’s Office Of Education Innovation

Louisville native Morgan Cooksey speaks to why she decided to stay in Indy, how equally challenging and rewarding her corps experience had been, and what she loves about working with TFA alums in the Mayor’s Office of Education Innovation.

Morgan Cooksey with her students.

March 8, 2018

“When I was in the corps, someone said something interesting to me,” Morgan shared over the phone before we met for her interview. “They said, ‘I don‘t think Indy is done with you yet.’ As I thought about my next steps, I realized that I wasn’t done with Indy. I still have so much to learn, and Indy has been an asset in that because of its diverse, collaborative community. It’s a really special place, and I want this system to work better for our kids. I hope I’m able to contribute through this work.”

You currently work at the Office of Education Innovation in the Mayor’s Office with three other TFA alums, Brian Dickey (interim director), Kevin Pattison (assistant director of academics), and Monica Hingst (fellow academic performance analyst). How did you get this role, and what is it like working with other alums?

Around this time last year, I realized I wanted to step outside of the classroom after the corps but wasn’t sure what that looked like. Building relationships with Emily Gehr, manager of alumni affairs at TFA-lndy, and with Alexis Thomas, Indiana director of regional impact at LEE, was invaluable in terms of developing a plan, strengthening my resume, and applying for the TFA summer internship program. I landed at the Mayor’s Office, which I was so excited and ecstatic about. It‘s funny because I had previously met with Brian (Dickey) before the internship for professional advice—it’s incredible how TFA networking really comes in handy.

While I was at my internship, a role opened up: the academic analyst position. I felt so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the team over the summer, then apply for that role. I started in September. I love working with TFA alumni on our staff because it’s so encouraging to be surrounded by people who have a shared mission centered on kids and have grounded perspectives in what this work is about, having been in the classroom. Working with those people everyday helps me refocus.

From your perspective, what are the biggest values or mindsets that you took away from your corps experience?

There are two: patience and empathy. There was a student l had that had a really difficult home life, and one of her family members had been incarcerated. She didn’t know how to regulate those experiences emotionally; one day, she would be verbally upset with me, and on another day, she’d come seeking solace. It was really, really hard to have grace with someone who’s cursing you out the day before, but I had to remind myself that my students were facing insurmountable challenges. To put myself in their shoes meant taking a step back and having compassion. I had no idea what it was like to be a 16-year-old girl and not know what your next day is going to look like, where your family members are. As hard as it was to process her coming in everyday with a different emotion, I realized my room was one of the few places she felt safe. Every day l had to practice patience and empathy, and I’m still trying to perfect it. I still think about her every day.

“You can have so many ideas about what you want your life to look like. You can have goals and focus. But ultimately, the best part is figuring it’s really empowering to start a journey feeling like you’re building your life’s work. ”

Morgan Cooksey
Academic Analyst
Indianapolis Corps Member 2015

In a recent conversation with Kevin Pattison, he brought up that you can learn something from everyone. In every setting, whether it’s tough conversations, a big decision, or everyday interactions, professional or personal, everyone has something to offer and everyone has a unique perspective. I truly believe I can learn from everyone I interact with.

Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing in Indianapolis?

I am pretty involved with Trader’s Point; they just opened a new church downtown. That was something that really encouraged me during the corps, and | relied a lot on that community. Also, I love food. Majority of the time you'll find me trying new restaurants. Devour and Savor Indy have been awesome. Last year I went to the Mac & Cheese Fest and some donut festivals. Indy also has quite a few beerfests, which is great because I love craft beer.

What reflections and thoughts do you have about becoming an adult?

Adulting is just a big game of figuring it out as you go. You can have so many ideas about what you want your life to look like. You can have goals and focus. But ultimately, the best part is figuring it out. I love the challenges, and the growth that comes with challenge. It’s really empowering to start a journey feeling like you’re building your life’s work.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve learned it’s not about the title, but about hoping that whatever I do is making the community a better place. Part of that is doing really hard things like TFA, meeting new people, and traveling. As a Type A person, I like to know what’s going on. But life doesn’t work that way. You have to be ok with not having everything figured out—for example, I can't fix a flat tire and wouldn't know what to do if that happened! You just have to roll with the punches and be excited about that.

In celebration of Women's History Month, who is your female role model?

Madeleine Albright, who was an adviser to President Clinton. She fought for women’s rights and minority rights. She was a woman who overcame anything you can imagine to become a really successful political adviser she demonstrated perseverance and never gave up despite odds being stacked against her. I think about a woman pursuing a political career and prestigious education in the ‘60s and can only imagine the amount of oppression she faced.

Every time I wake up and think I don't want to go to work...l think, | get to go to work today because women like Madeleine stepped up and made this possible. I get to go to work and do what l love.