MSU Texas couple accomplish education goals together

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Alexandra & Cooper McClung among first in MSU Texas’ doctorate in education program

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Barely 15 minutes after arriving on the Midwestern State University campus from Canada in August 2008, Alexandra McClung saw Cooper McClung sitting in the cafeteria and said to herself, “Wow.” And that was it.

Since that initial spark 13 years ago, Alexandra and Cooper fell in love, married, and now have an 18-month-old child. They earned both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees at MSU Texas. And together, they’ll complete another educational milestone as members of MSU Texas’ first group of students to earn a doctorate in education.

Even though their learning styles are different, both Alexandra and Cooper say going through the educational process together has been a good thing. In the early days, their date nights were study sessions at Moffett Library. They would remind each other about assignments, and still do so today. Even though their degrees were in different disciplines, they would talk through their homework with questions such as “What did you learn? What were your takeaways?”

“It helped me see a different perspective on what we were doing. Not just my own,” Alexandra said.

The teamwork helped smooth out differences in their personalities too. Alexandra helped Cooper stay on track with the details – making plans and schedules – while Cooper, with a more laid back approach, would remind Alexandra that she didn’t have to get all her work done in one sitting. “She’s very nose-to-the-grindstone so she can get bogged down by everything going on around her, and I’m not a detail-oriented person. But I am a positive, supportive person. She helps me go to class on time and I psych her up before class and we have a good time. We balance each other out,” Cooper said.

Cooper earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in English in May 2011. The two were married July 1, 2011, which is Canada Day, a “happy accident,” as all of Alexandra’s family is still in Canada. Alexandra earned her bachelor’s in mass communication in December 2012, the same time Cooper’s mother, Judy Graham, earned her master’s degree from MSU Texas.

They started their master’s work together in the summer of 2017. Alexandra received her master’s in sports administration in 2019 and Cooper received his master’s in clinical mental health counseling in 2020.

Alexandra is now head tennis coach and math teacher at Wichita Falls High School. Cooper is a counselor at WFHS. They had already decided to further their education – another goal to accomplish together. Alexandra had been accepted at Texas Woman’s University in a different area of expertise and Cooper was looking at the University of North Texas. But when they heard that the doctorate in education was a possibility at MSU Texas, they took that as a sign. “We love Midwestern so much and were on the fence about going for a doctorate. But everything just worked so perfectly. When it was announced, this is God saying, ‘OK, your favorite university, the place where you met, is offering the thing you want and need at exactly the right moment.’ We went for it,” Cooper said.

Even before the program was official, they were asking about the requirements.

“We knew instantly it’s where we wanted to go,” Alexandra said. “Even though I was already accepted at TWU, my heart was swayed to go to MSU. When this program happened, we really solidified and were excited and passionate about going for this level of education,” Alexandra said.

When they are through the program, Cooper hopes to use his counseling skills to help children from low socio-economic families who have difficulty in school, and to assist teachers with classroom management skills. “A kid messes up and we punish them but we never teach. I want to flip how we do discipline in general,” he said.

Alexandra hopes to empower students and student-athletes and propel them to their highest potential. “As leaders we can put things in place to empower kids, give them the tools to be successful. Let them know they’re appreciated and valued. That’s my cheesy vision. That’s my motivation,” she said. Alexandra’s dream of encouragement doesn’t stop with students. She hopes to work with other coaches to inspire them to be the best in their careers.

Alexandra and Cooper both come from families of educators, but they will be the first to achieve this level. And when the time comes, they want to walk the stage together, not one after the other, to receive their diplomas. The thought of that moment keeps them going when they stay up late studying or when they’re tired and question whether they’ve taken on too much.

“I think of the look on our son’s face when we get to do that,” Alexandra said. “To be the first and to do that for our son is incredible. That extends my vision of how I hope to inspire not just my family but the people I work with and my colleagues and students. To say you can absolutely do whatever you put your mind to. That’s my goal.”

As satisfying as achieving that level of education will be, they are even more thrilled that it is another goal they are working toward together. “The thought that we get to do something together again … The fact that we get to see this come to life and that goal to happen to where come graduation day, we can walk the stage together …” Cooper finishes Alexandra’s thought. “Because we’ve done everything together,” he said.

And the icing is that they can complete it at home, at MSU Texas. “It’s where our love story began,” Alexandra said.

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