The fall 2021 semester is busy for Harper Morgan. Between working in the Indianapolis arts community, pursuing both a Civic Leadership degree and a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management, and volunteering wherever possible, Morgan’s plate is full to be sure.
But it’s not as full as it was in spring 2021.
“I was taking 13 credit hours and had a lot of responsibility,” Morgan admits. “Ultimately, I got into the weeds for a few weeks.”
Morgan said yes.
“It brought together a diverse group of people with varying needs which helped me restructure my language around what basic needs are and how to help.”
A friend’s autistic adult brother needed a live-in caretaker during the pandemic—someone the family knew and could trust.
Morgan said yes.
“It was an eye-opening experience that taught me a lot about communication and framing language around people with developmental disabilities.”
Another friend’s 13-year-old sister needed a legal guardian until she could be placed with a foster family.
Morgan said yes.
“It was hard—I really had to learn how to check in with myself, to take rest days.”
Many people would’ve taken a step back with so much on their shoulders. They might have scaled back their classes or their volunteer hours.
But Morgan said no.
“I couldn’t give up either of those outlets,” Morgan explains. “When I was volunteering, I was with people who valued the work I was doing. And my coursework was so engaging and stimulating. The deeper I got into it, the more I realized I could use what I was learning to better understand systems that were troubling or failing me and those around me.”
But the challenges and stress remained. To stay afloat, Morgan leaned on the O’Neill and IUPUI communities.
“There are so many organizations that ask a lot of questions before they’ll help you or provide resources,” Morgan says. “With IUPUI, it was no questions asked. That made me feel grateful and accepted with my needs—it made me feel human.”
O’Neill faculty and peers also provided much-needed support, allowing Morgan to stay connected and committed to creating a better future for everyone by combining an O’Neill degree with life experiences.
“Given my own background as a genderqueer person, I want to use my energy and perspectives to provide a more contemporary focus in law or politics so I can help others,” Morgan says.
Helping others has always been and will always be part of who Morgan is.
“That’s why I’m a Civic Leadership major—it focuses on helping the community, as a whole, and combines that with my community-work interests.”
When interests meet education and opportunity, careers can begin to take off. Morgan started building a network one person and organization at a time—lessons learned in O’Neill’s Career Development course—and has moved from a nonprofit volunteer to the Spaces Manager at Big Car Collaborative.
Big Car is a big name in the Indianapolis arts community.
Morgan organizes concerts to galleries to interactive art events and more in public art spaces around Indianapolis. The position provides balance, professional understanding, and the kind of critical insight you can only gain by going through challenges.
“I’ve learned when to say no to opportunities I do not absolutely love,” Morgan says. “Before it was the hierarchy of needs: working two jobs, being in school full time. This new job provides more flexibility and I make a livable wage, so things look a lot different for me now than they did in the spring.”
Yet there are no regrets about the many experiences from that time. Morgan answered a call to contribute despite the chaos. And each of those opportunities added to a portfolio of growth and experience.
“I’ve been building my career’s foundation from doing ‘little’ things that have now born fruit for my labor,” Morgan says. “I learned in my O’Neill courses that you should get involved as much as possible and stay committed to what you care about. That’s my takeaway for other students: always have a hand in the bucket because those little things can add up to big opportunities.”