Driven to Fight for Educational Equality

Aneesh Sohoni

University of Minnesota alumnus Aneesh Sohoni was recently named one of Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30 in Education” for 2016. At the U, Sohoni was a political science major, but wound up naturally gravitating toward education.

After earning his degree, Sohoni became a Teach for America (TFA) corps member, and then worked at the Tennessee Department of Education and the New Teachers Project—an education reform group. He is now executive director of TFA in Chicago and northwest Indiana.

Sohoni talks about what drives him in his career and his thoughts on education reform.

Where did you grow up and what brought you to the U?

I was lucky enough to grow up in Plymouth, attend the Wayzata school district, and have a really good public K-12 education. The idea of attending [the U of M] was very appealing to me. I had an opportunity to join the debate team and then also take on some other extra-curricular activities that I was interested in. … It gave me a broad breadth of opportunities.

What steered you toward political science?

I always had an interest in policy and politics. I thought either running for office or going to law school was going to be in my future and I thought a political science degree would really prepare me well for either path that I wanted to take.

What changed your focus to education and education policy?

Throughout my time at the U I started to realize that there were inequities in our K-12 public system. While I felt like I was very prepared—and even then, struggled to some extent in some of my college courses—I had friends and colleagues [from other] school systems that were immensely struggling. And that was the first time I realized that not everyone was prepared in the way I was lucky enough to be prepared.

How have your early work experiences shaped you?

It was my time in the classroom that showed me that there are number of phenomenal teachers and a number of phenomenal school leaders that exist inside of schools, but often there are policies that either inhibit or prohibit them from doing great work, or we don’t really pass policies that let them do great work where they are. Combined with my political science and policy background, I decided that’s something I’d love to explore. ...

I am definitely somebody now who is committed to the fight for educational equity, no matter where I go.