2017 Forty Under 40: Tiffany Kyser

Associate Director of Engagement & Partnerships
Midwest and Plains Equity Assistance Center at The Great Lakes Equity Center

Kyser works with scholars, researchers and educators in 13 states to ensure that schools and state departments of education abide by civil rights laws. kyser.jpgIn her downtime, she’s helping to change the face of the east side.

Age: 35

Birthplace/hometown: Indianapolis

Family: girlfriend, Laura (“a wonderful spouse”)

Education: bachelor’s in English education, master’s in English, doctorate in urban education studies, all from Indiana University

Years with center: 2

Getting here: Kyser began her professional career as a power forward for the Springfield Spirit in the former National Women’s Basketball League, and she’s found the lessons learned there applicable to life in the business world. “The fluid exchange between collaborators on a team—being strategic and thoughtful, communicating with and choreographing your team, leading in the face of adversity, having a level of healthy competition while being able to win and lose with grace. You can pop in a tape of ‘Hoosiers,’ and what’s learned in Hickory is what’s important in the boardroom.” Since then, she’s been a middle school language arts teacher, a performance analyst for the city of Indianapolis’ Office of Education Innovation, and served as chief of staff for Tindley Accelerated Schools.

On underestimating educators: She sees—and works to balance—inequalities in access to resources, technology, facilities and quality teachers. But she added: “Educators want to do right by students. I’ve never met anyone—classroom teachers and those who work in the building—who didn’t want the best for their students.”

Inspirational moments: Introducing renowned slam poet Patricia Smith at a benefit, playing against WNBA Hall of Famer Cynthia Cooper, teaching her first class, and joining the Great Lakes Equity Center team.

Mentor: Former Indiana State Poet Laureate Karen Kovacik, whom she calls “an accomplished professor, a tremendous person, a gracious woman and a wonderful cook.” Kyser said she has “led and modeled the type of woman I hope to someday become.”

Givebacks: In addition to serving as a block leader since 2009 for Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Kyser just completed six years as an active board member for Near East Side Area Renewal. “I really have a deep passion for the near- and far-east side,” she said. A former student teacher there, she purchased a home on a block where a majority of the houses were vacant. She said the neighborhood group is committed to “building authentic communities where neighbors truly know each other.” The challenge: “How do we thoughtfully increase housing and welcome new neighbors but not displace current residents?”

Favorite place in central Indiana: Her porch, while talking to neighbors.•

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