Skip to main content

Headshot of Te'Aja McCoy at the Old Well

Since she was a child, Te’Aja McCoy knew she wanted to pursue law school to become an advocate for social justice and civil rights.  

Studying political science at Carolina, she said, has been a catalyst in her journey to that goal. 

In her major, McCoy, a senior from Laurinburg, North Carolina, has been most inspired by the course “U.S. Minority Representation.”  

McCoy said Christopher Clark, associate professor, both created a welcoming space to learn — she remembers class on Sept. 21 beginning with the Earth, Wind & Fire song — and helped her to “broaden [her] definition of what political science means.” 

“POLI 422 not only helped me find my way in the political science department, it also emphasized my position as a Black woman in American politics by highlighting minority representation in America,” she said, adding that the course was personal and professional impact was “monumental.”  

In addition to her major in political science, McCoy also has a minor in social and economic justice.  

Her passion for the field, she said, first stemmed from economic and safety injustices she witnessed in her own community growing up. She hopes to apply what she’s learned to end the “detrimental and generational effects” those injustices can cause and to “improve the wellbeing of Black and Brown communities” in the U.S. 

McCoy, a Carolina Covenant scholar, thanks her mentor Dana Griffin, associate professor in the School of Education, for shaping her Carolina experience since her first year on campus. 

“I was blessed to meet Dr. Griffin,” said McCoy. “From our inside jokes to figuring out graduate school, Dr. Griffin has been extremely pivotal in my life, and she’s a gem to UNC.” 

When McCoy walks across the Commencement stage at the Dean Dome in December, she’ll do so with law school as the next step in her career.  

Until then, she thanks the Tar Heels who helped her get to where she is today: her community at Student Life and Leadership at the Carolina Union, her fellow counselors at SPARK — a UNC leadership development group for underrepresented women — her mentors and friends. 

By Jess Abel ’19

Tar Heels of the Week are nominated by professors in their department. Follow us on Instagram to explore more College Up Close.