Kathryn Ling, a 2020 graduate of the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas, currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of Moonshot EdVentures, a nonprofit in Denver, Colo., that supports a diverse pipeline of leaders to design and launch the learning environments of tomorrow.
Ling first joined Moonshot in 2019 as its Chief of Staff before serving as the organization’s Chief Programming Officer. She began as Interim CEO in December 2020 before being officially announced as CEO in November 2021.
Before joining Moonshot, Ling worked with Teach for America in a number of roles. Her different positions and titles included Managing Director of Alumni & Lifelong Leadership Development, Manager of Teacher Development, and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusiveness. Ling, who grew up in Connecticut, began her career in education as a 4th grade teacher in rural Mississippi through TFA.
Ling served as Chair of TFA’s National Asian American Pacific Islander Resource Group, which supported more than 200 AAPI staff members in the organization. Additionally, Ling co-founded the Arkansas chapter for GLSEN, a national organization dedicated to creating safe schools for all students, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Ling currently serves on the Denver Mayor’s LGBTQ Commission and two charter school boards in Aurora, Colo.,Empower Community High School and Vanguard Classical School.
In addition to her Master of Public Service, Ling earned her degree in English from Cornell University.
For those unfamiliar with Moonshot EdVentures, what is the organization’s mission and how does it go about executing that mission?
Moonshot’s mission is to surface and support a diverse pipeline of leaders ready to launch innovative learning environments in K-12 education. We currently have an alumni network of 84 leaders, 81% who identify as People of Color and are leading in education in Metro Denver. Our core program is our Fellowship which serves 15-20 leaders in a year-long, intensive development opportunity that focuses on leadership skills, design of an innovative learning model, and pathways to launching an edventure.
As CEO of Moonshot, what work are you most proud of?
I am proud of the way our team and Fellows engage with and navigate the inherent tensions in equity work. Our community is navigating complex politics and education systems, designed to be systems of oppression, in order to launch new, innovative, equity-centered learning environments where not only students can thrive, but adults. We are constantly reflecting and interrogating the ways that white supremacy culture shows up in education and equity work both externally and internally, and imagining and building liberatory spaces that we haven’t seen exist yet. I think this is one of the most challenging parts of doing educational equity work: learning to navigate these tensions, avoid thinking in binaries, and doing all of that in relationship with others.
Looking back at your career – from working at Moonshot as Chief of Staff and CPO before becoming CEO, to teaching 4th grade through Teach for America – how did those experiences impact your leadership today?
My first professional experience teaching in rural Mississippi taught me that education and equity work is all about community. Without relationships, there are no solutions to the inequities we’re facing today. I’m grateful for every professional experience I’ve had, even the ones where I might not have felt grateful in the moment because of how challenging it was. Each experience gave me a new set of skills, a new perspective, a new reflection on how I could grow and improve. The culmination of those experiences prepared me for moving into leadership in a startup, where I had to learn and act quickly, confidently, and with care.
What does “public service” mean to you?
Public service means working towards the betterment of broader society. It means decentering yourself and your experiences, leading with low ego, and focusing on listening and learning before all else. For me, public service is a lifelong commitment that is more than my professional work. It is about how I see myself as a piece of a much bigger whole and my actions, at home, at work, with my family and friends, all have the potential to contribute to greater equity in our society.
Going back to your time at the Clinton School, what classroom lessons have been valuable for you professionally, and in what ways have you been able to apply them to your work at Moonshot?
A lot! Our beginning coursework where we dove in to the definition and purpose of public service was a very meaningful, grounding exercise for me. It helped me articulate my goals in a way I felt for a long time, but hadn’t ever put on paper. I still use the resources from my courses on grantwriting and quantitative and qualitative research when I’m working on fundraising and program evaluation in my role now.
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