From the time she was in kindergarten, Lauryn Capsey knew she wanted to be a teacher. So, it was no surprise when the McAlester, Oklahoma, native graduated from Baylor University in 2015 with a teaching degree, moved to Tulsa and became a fifth-grade teacher.
In 2018, barely into her career, Capsey found herself in the middle of a statewide teacher walkout.
“That experience was a very real moment for me. Carpooling out to the capital every day, standing on the steps and protesting, it just hit me,” she said. “How did we get here?”
“This program has made me aware of things I wasn’t aware of before. It brought my awareness of state change and global change to a new level of awareness, and it sparked in me a desire to be part of that growth. It broadened my perspective of what I can do with my life and how I can help others, and my professors truly made me feel like I could make a better world.”
Following the walkout, Capsey, who will graduate in May from the OU Extended Campus Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership program, noticed a disturbance in the public school system. Determined to make a difference, she put her passion into motion and created what eventually would become her own consulting business.
Finding her purpose
“I have such a heart for our educators, and that brought me to a point of wanting to help. I asked myself what I could offer. I knew I had a purpose to encourage others, and that led me to look at OU,” she said. “When I looked at the website and saw those first two sentences — ‘Seeing a better tomorrow is an important part of what leaders do. Personal and organizational transformation begins with a vision — a dream about possibilities’ — it really hooked me.”
Capsey enrolled in the Organizational Leadership program in May 2018, and her vision took shape the following year while taking Ruby Daniels’ class on Creating and Managing Change. Capsey was required to put together a comprehensive change initiative for an organization, and she chose to focus on the broken public education system she desperately wanted to fix.
“I created a format for our state, and I wanted to make it real and really purposeful, so I told myself I was actually going to present it to state officials,” Capsey said.
After completing the class, Capsey used the presentation she developed to pitch her ideas to senior education leaders in Oklahoma, including members of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s cabinet. She went on to serve on a statewide task force to improve K-12 public education throughout Oklahoma, and in early 2020 she launched her consulting business, OK Hope Leadership Consulting, which aims to empower leaders.
“I believe my life purpose is to encourage others with hope. For me, hope means ‘helping Oklahoma’s passionate educators,’” she said. “The leaders who have my heart are the leaders of our Oklahoma schools. My vision is to strengthen and support the Oklahoma education system in such a way that it becomes known as the fairway to the future. If we develop and sharpen the skills and gifts of our educators and value them as professionals, then we will be a strong force that will guide our next generation to succeed. By success, I don’t mean we teach students to strive only for the rewards of success like grades or test scores, but we forge inside of our educators and students the importance of embracing the process of success.”
Putting it into action
Capsey has been able to continue consulting educators virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s met with the state’s superintendents, helping them to improve the effectiveness of their schools, whether it be clarifying the school’s core values, purpose and vision, improving their teams, or assessing their culture for adjustments.
“Part of what I have found through my work thus far is that with everything going on, superintendents just need someone who can strengthen and support their leadership with effective leadership strategies so they can better fulfill their organization’s purpose,” she said. “I’m here to partner with them and make positive changes. Now, their efforts have switched to accommodate the influx of technology needs with distance learning. Luckily, I can still meet with superintendents via Zoom, which has been extremely helpful. I’m excited to reach out to more superintendents during the summer and fall.”
In addition to her consulting business, Capsey recently launched a nonprofit, Hope Rally. She, along with Hope Rally co-founder Ciera Etter, is working to inspire educators and equip them with what they need throughout the year. They plan to hold a statewide conference next year to rally educators and celebrate their purpose. Right now, Hope Rally is challenging community members, parents and students to create a one-minute video that encourages teachers with hope. Videos can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, and each morning through May 22, Hope Rally will post a video on its Instagram page, @hoperallyok.
“We have plans to use other social media platforms to help our teachers where they are right now in distance learning,” Capsey said. “Hopefully, during the summer months, we will be able to launch our special projects.”
A new level of awareness
Capsey credits her instructors in the MAOL program for instilling in her what it means to be a lifelong learner and challenging her to grow and share what she learned with others.
“Overall, I know that a lot of people don’t learn well online. When they see it’s an online class, they are worried,” she said. “I believe this master’s program was exactly what I needed with its flexibility, and the teachers as well. I’ve been able to ask my instructors many questions, and they have given me confidence by showing that they really care.
“This program has made me aware of things I wasn’t aware of before,” she added. “It brought my awareness of state change and global change to a new level of awareness, and it sparked in me a desire to be part of that growth. It broadened my perspective of what I can do with my life and how I can help others, and my professors truly made me feel like I could make a better world.”
Interested in developing your own leadership skills? Find out more about the Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership, and discover other online degrees offered by OU Extended Campus on the website.