Morgan Taggart-Hampton

What was your class year and major/minor?

Class of 2011, Double major in Sociology and Africana Studies

What is your current job, and city of residence?

I currently live and work in New York City. For the last three years I have been a special education and mathematics teacher at Bronx Leadership Academy High School, and will be attending New York University School of Law this fall.

Did your academic or extracurricular experience at Bowdoin influence how you are involved in communities now? If yes, how so?

The summer after my freshman year at Bowdoin, I became a teaching assistant for a program called Upward Bound. This program is amazing, and involves students from low-income and first-generation families from around Maine who come to Bowdoin for the summer and take classes and prepare for college. The program was deeply important and I was able to work with students from a wide variety of communities, from northern fishing towns of Maine to communities of Somali immigrants in Lewiston. Not only did this program introduce me to many of the communities in Maine that I did not know previously, but I also met another Bowdoin student who introduced me to the Sociology department, recommending classes and professors that helped me to realize my true academic and public interest passions. From the moment I took a course called Maine Social Research with Professor Craig McEwen on that student’s recommendation, I never looked back. During that class we interviewed residents of a public housing project called Perryman Village and I instantly fell in love with working with and talking to men and women in varied communities.

In what ways have you been engaged with the community since graduating from Bowdoin (both professionally and personally)?

After I graduated from Bowdoin I started working as a special education teacher in the South Bronx. As a teacher, you are constantly involved in the lives of the families of the communities you are working with – talking with parents, grandparents, and siblings about how their students are doing in their classes and trying to access and understand the environmental situations that your students are dealing with. Teaching has been my main focus over the last few years, but this fall I’ll be attending law school, where my goal is to continue working in the communities that I have learned so much about and from, from a legal standpoint.

What's been your favorite or most meaningful experience in public service since you graduated?

Since graduating, my most meaningful experience was working with a particular self-contained special education classroom. In my class, I had students with a variety of disabilities, from learning disabilities to emotional disturbances. Through my work as a teacher and using my experiences from Bowdoin in talking to people in different communities to better understand ideas and situations, I was able to become a better teacher for these students. They were by far my most difficult class over the three years, but by taking all of the skills I developed through my work in the McKeen Center and through my coursework at Bowdoin I was able to reach them on a deep level. Watching those students in September, with issues adding and subtracting to June, being able to break down word problems and solve equations, was an amazing feeling. It really takes a community of teachers, guardians, administrators, and students to be able to do that.

Have any unexpected challenges or difficulties related to this work popped up along the way? If so, what did you learn from these challenges?

One of the biggest challenges that I have faced working in public interest is that you often hear and feel very difficult things when people are opening up with you and telling you their lives. Whether it is hearing that you don’t feel safe having your children on the playground because there are needles, or that your child still cannot add at the age of seventeen, or that you cannot go to work because you were injured and fired because of missing work…these stories are the reason that I have worked in public interest, but also the reason that it is often very difficult. What I learned from this challenge is the need to find a person to talk with about what your work consists of. This person may be a partner, a professor, a parent, or a friend, but when hearing the stories of others, you must find a way to process that for yourself.

What advice do you have for students who want to work for the common good after Bowdoin?

My advice for students who want to work for the common good after Bowdoin would be to get involved with the McKeen Center as much as possible, whether it is through involvement in community-based courses (which are the best!), or clubs and leadership through the center. On top of that, I think the most important thing to do is to find a professor or two professors who really inspire you. Those professors could be in your major, an advisor for a club, or just someone who is doing research that you’re interested in, and talk to them. Go to their office hours, talk to them after class, ask them about their research and their lives…professors at Bowdoin are the foundation of your education. My experience is that finding the one or two professors who truly inspire you helps immensely because they will go out of their way to provide you with opportunities that you might not have gotten without their experience. Also, they’re just fantastic to talk to and truly love their students!