McKoy has spent his entire career focusing on post-secondary education access for underserved youth—first as a mentor, and now as Associate Director of the UChicago To & Through Project.
Dominique McKoy
Dominique McKoy

Dominique McKoy, Evening Master’s Program Class of 2020, still stays in touch with the students he mentored as a teaching fellow nearly 10 years ago at Urban Prep Academies, a network of charter schools which prepares young black men from the South and West sides of Chicago for college.

“It’s amazing how our lives have evolved since then. Most of them are 22 now, and there’s a whole range of outcomes, which underscores for me the lack of a safety net, particularly for young black men in the city of Chicago. I am grateful for my time at Urban Prep because it gave me the opportunity to learn about the city though the eyes of the young men I worked with, and that experience deeply informs my studies at Harris. I saw firsthand the ways policies affected their lives, creating barriers which, at best, make their goals harder to achieve, and at worst, have devastating outcomes. Policymakers need to dig into the success stories, but also understand the cultural and financial barriers that prevent some students from graduating.”

McKoy’s time at Urban Prep also solidified his decision to stay in education. He secured a job with One Goal, a college access and persistence program that works in high schools throughout the city. “I visited 40 different high schools throughout Chicago, and I saw the disparities between schools and how they impacted students from different neighborhoods. I also got to hear the hopes and dreams of students from across the city. Those experiences have been a driving force behind my studies at Harris.”

Looking to make an even broader impact through education research, McKoy subsequently took a position with the University of Chicago’s To & Through project, interpreting data that impacts education practice and policy. To & Through works to translate data around high school attainment, college access, and ways of converting research into practice. “I feel that I have ‘zoomed out’ from working directly with students to seeing the big picture. Data can be an incredibly powerful tool to organize around equity, revealing trends that allow us to make changes. As I look at the data, I see not only gaps, but opportunities.”

McKoy heard about the Harris Evening Master’s Program through his role at UChicago, where he appreciated the dedication to academic rigor. “Harris has a reputation for teaching people data-driven analytical skills, and I wanted to challenge myself to better understand the statistics and analysis that drive our work. The Master’s program was especially appealing because I could stay in Chicago and continue to work (it was not even an option to not work for me). I also know from my fellowship at the SURGE Institute that I lead through the lens of coalition building—bringing people along. This fits well into the EMP cohort model.”

McKoy hopes his cohort will find opportunities to align across policy areas, leveraging each other’s expertise to work towards common goals. “The challenges we face as a district and as a city are not contained within schools: transportation policy, housing policy, and employment policy all directly impact students I’ve worked with. I hope to learn how policy areas interact and determine the changes needed to achieve results for young people in our city. I’ve already met people from many sectors at Harris, and I’m incredibly excited to learn from them and contribute to the conversation.”