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Catching Up With Tracy Epp, NMSI’s New EVP and COO

We recently sat down with Tracy Epp, NMSI’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, to ask her about her new role with NMSI. Ready to learn what keeps her up at night? Read on!

What about this role excites you?
The opportunity to increase NMSI’s impact for more students across the country, and more specifically increasing the quality of our impact. I would really like to dig into how to meaningfully incorporate all three of our core programs into our partner schools to ensure that our students have the highest quality teachers. I think we have the opportunity to create more intentional pathways to connect the College Readiness Program, Laying the Foundation and UTeach to our schools, and I’m excited to explore that further.

What traits do you value in a teammate?
I think they have to be fun. One of my favorite quotes is “We take our work seriously and ourselves less so.” Working to change the face of education is a marathon. The talented people who are doing this work need to maintain their passion and talent over the course of a career, which can be exhausting. I really appreciate someone who can show up every day and give it their best, but also can understand the importance of taking care of themselves. I think another valuable trait is someone who can step back and attack the problem in the present state and dream big at the same time.
What challenge keeps you up at night?
The stakes and potential of our work are really high. We have been entrusted with public and philanthropic dollars, and people are really looking to us to make a meaningful and lasting difference in schools across the country. There is no shortage of support we can provide schools, so I want to make sure that we are not only doing our best with our resources to support our students and teachers, but are also ensuring anyone who attends a NMSI event, whether it be a training or a study session, leaves with the feeling of a world-class effort.
What is on your desk that you can’t live without?
My ‘Weekly Action Plan’ is the number one thing that I can’t live without. It allows me to prioritize my tasks and determine the two or three things that HAVE to happen this week. A few other essentials on my desk are my Yeti tumbler to keep me hydrated, my music, the books that I’m currently reading and my legal pad! Oh, and a picture of the first class of seniors I had as a high school principal! Many of those kids are now teachers at the very high school they helped create, and it makes me incredibly proud.
What was your favorite subject in high school?
My high school experience is largely why I am in education reform today. I had a few inspiring teachers, but no one who really got me excited about a particular subject. If I had to pick one though, I took an advanced biology class in which I became a certified EMT. When I think about my high school experience, I certainly can name those who shaped me, even if not academically—I had the benefit of exceptional athletic coaches, who instilled a strong work ethic, a moral code and a sense of commitment to something beyond oneself. It was during these experiences that the seeds for leadership were planted. Ms. Fitz, Mr. Wright and Mr. Kennedy played a vital role in who I am today.
What books are currently on your desk?
“The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses” by Eric Ries, “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business” by Patrick Lencioni, and “Managing to Change the World” by Jerry Hauser and Allison Green.