Tucker Chorpening believes education is one of the most critical components of human liberation and universal discovery.
Chorpening, from Independence, Iowa, will graduate this May with a Bachelor of Arts in Education Studies and Human Relations from the Iowa College of Education, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and minor in Political Science from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
As he ends his time at Iowa, Chorpening has also been selected as the student commencement speaker at the May 2022 College of Education Undergraduate Commencement and Teacher Education Program Recognition Ceremony.
Chorpening was inspired to attend the University of Iowa after seeing his older sister attend and graduate from the College of Education.
“Luckily enough, I was able to visit her each year, exposing me to the University of Iowa at such a young age and through the lens of a younger brother admiring his older sister,” Chorpening says. “I got to witness the sense of belonging she was able to forge on campus and among her colleagues, leading me to find my own sense of belonging in Iowa City as well.”
Chorpening initially entered the Teacher Education Program, with plans to become a high school English teacher. He says he had always been extremely passionate about education, but as he began the TEP, he was struck with the sense that he was not where he needed to be in order to make the impact he wants to on the advancement of equitable and accessible educational opportunities.
“The role of a teacher is priceless, and the work of teachers is a key ingredient to producing a generation of transparency, intellectualism, and creativity, but I knew my skill set would be better utilized elsewhere,” Chorpening says.
Upon the creation of the Education Studies and Human Relations (ESHR) major, Chorpening says he was exposed to precisely what he felt was lacking in the classroom: an outlet to create change in the world of education while not being directly involved with teaching in a K-12 classroom.
“From there, I found my passion for higher education,” Chorpening says.
ESHR, created in 2020 in the College of Education, is a multidisciplinary program that enhances broad liberal arts and sciences education for students by providing strong academic preparation, including skills in critical thinking and interpersonal communication. Students who plan to earn the major pursue their academic interests with a variety of courses from across the College of Education's four academic departments to further career goals or prepare for future graduate study.
Through his years as a student, Chorpening has become focused on addressing the systemic oppression that occurs at higher education institutions when choices are made that do not create an equitable and accessible learning environment on campuses.
Hoping to gain a grasp of how he could work toward the goal of equity in education, Chorpening served as the development intern for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences through the University of Iowa Center for Advancement. Chorpening says this position helped him gain an understanding of how politics, policy, and people play a role in shaping the education system.
Through his courses and work experience, Chorpening says he has grown to better understand his position, privilege, and potential as an individual living in a society which seeks to prioritize the progress of the historically privileged.
“I have found my position to be one of fluidity,” Chorpening says. “Although at times uncomfortable, coming out as a gay man in all areas of my life has allowed me to have a strongly adaptable sense of empathy. As for my potential, my drive to make an impact in the areas I am most passionate about has not only proven my past accomplishments credible but has also given me comfort knowing I will have the ability to make an impact as long as I have passion.”
A key part of Chorpening’s college experience has been this self-discovery.
“Learning of and acknowledging both the burdens and the privileges of being a gay white man has led me to understand my existence more fully,” Chorpening says. “The cultivation of this self-identification is responsible for guiding me into the purpose of pursuing graduate education in higher education and of remaining a lifelong learner.”
Chorpening says he is extremely grateful for the professionals within the college and university who have enabled him to be in the position he is in today, as he says it has been those ideas, connections, and people who have challenged him over the years.
Specifically, Chorpening wants to thank former associate dean for teacher education and student services, Nancy Langguth, for making visible the path he has taken to get him where he is in his educational and professional journey. He says he is also grateful to receive scholarship support, including the All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship and the Helen Fairall Scholarship which helped make his academic experience a reality.
While attending Iowa, Chorpening has also found joy outside of the classroom.
“Some of my fondest memories were spent in student organizations like the Hawkeye Marching Band as a member of the drumline and the University of Iowa Dance Marathon as a co-chair in the Development Committee,” Chorpening says. “Finding people with similar aspirations as me while also being given the opportunity to expand my impact beyond the University of Iowa campus has been and will remain one of my proudest accomplishments of college.”
After graduation, Chorpening plans to attend New York University to earn a Master of Arts degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs. He hopes to one day land a role working for the development of higher education at an institution which focuses its strategic planning on advancing the accessibility of universal education in order to play a positive role in a system that attempts to diminish the accomplishments of the historically disrespected.
“If I am able to make the day of a student by providing them guidance as they navigate their college experience, I will be happy,” Chorpening says, “but, if I am able to ensure a student who otherwise would have been unable to attend college a place in their desired area of study at their chosen university, then I will be fulfilled.”
As he prepares to address his fellow graduates, Chorpening wants to encourage them to take care of themselves.
“Whatever you do, make sure you are doing it first and foremost for you,” Chorpening says. “Although it is important to create change during our lives, it is equally important to reserve your right to comfortability and discovery. Continue to challenge yourself in the areas you have passion, but as we enter the next chapter of our lives, try and try again to make sure all that you do is with your self-preservation and your self-discovery in mind.”