Sometimes just one college class can change a life’s direction.
That’s what happened for Morgan Davis Mansa, who began at Calvin College as a pre-med student but was inspired by a sociology class on race, diversity, and inequality led by professor Michelle Loyd-Paige.
“I was exploring the class offerings in sociology at the time, and in Professor Loyd-Paige’s class I learned so much about the urban area in which I was born—Chicago—and I knew, after that class, that I wanted to work in an urban setting and contribute to bringing equality to such a community,” she said.
Today Mansa works for the city of Nashville, Tenn., as the housing program manager, administering a $15 million grant for affordable housing development and reporting directly to Nashville Mayor Megan Berry.
In her work, Mansa strives to expand Nashville’s supply of affordable housing, collaborating with for-profit and nonprofit developers.
“Just about everyone needs affordable housing, and the face of those in need is different than the perception,” said Mansa.
“There are a lot of creative people living and working in Nashville, and they need innovative spaces and thoughtful payment options that reflect their situations.”
She is energized by developing an array of housing options for diverse vocations and situations, such as for teachers, veterans, and ex-offenders.
And though the tasks involved can make the 2007 Calvin grad’s job stressful at times, Mansa is mindful of the purpose of her efforts, and that sustains her daily work.
“Faith motivates me,” she said. “We’re all God’s children, and no one is above anyone else. We are all brothers and sisters and stewards of what we’ve been given.
Everyone deserves access to a safe place to live. God says so.”
Mansa said that her Calvin education was a great launching pad for her career. After seeing a vision for urban renewal in her classes, she enrolled in the Chicago Semester program and did urban planning for the city of Evanston.
That internship led to a longer stay in the position and then to graduate school at Northwestern University for a master’s degree in public policy.
She was then hired by the village of Oak Park (her hometown) for work in its housing center—which in turn led to a position with the Chicago Area Fair Housing Association.
When her husband took a job in Nashville, Mansa initially landed a position with the Tennessee Housing Development Agency and was later hired by Mayor Berry.