Agent of Change


Stephanie Cooper-Lewter is executive director of Leading on Opportunity, an initiative to improve economic mobility in Charlotte, North Carolina. She is responsible for developing goals and strategies to implement systemic change. Stephanie previously served as vice president of initiatives and public policy for the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina and as president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia, South Carolina. She has received numerous awards, including the University of Minnesota Distinguished Alumni Award. Stephanie earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from Bethel College, a master’s degree in social work from the University of Minnesota, and Ph.D. in social work from the University of South Carolina.

This episode is perfect for anyone interested in economic mobility, leading systemic change, overcoming poverty and personal challenges, and living into purpose.  


  • Stephanie explains the Leading on Opportunity Council and the relevance of the measurement upon which Charlotte is ranked among cities in economic mobility.

  • She describes the timeline of events that led to the formation of a Leading on Opportunity Task Force and Leading on Opportunity Council.

  • She notes what the Leading on Opportunity Task Force Report examined and recommended.

  • She discusses cross-determinant factors of segregation and social capital in economic mobility.

  • Stephanie talks about what theories of change are helping prioritize her work.

  • She defines what she means by access and opportunity.

  • She considers how the community has embraced the language of economic mobility and whether it is dampening other initiatives in Charlotte.

  • She addresses the difference between equitable opportunity and equal chance in economic mobility work.

  • Stephanie shares the circumstances of her birth in Indian and adoption in America.

  • She remembers her adoptive mother and sisters and growing up in Minnesota.

  • She recalls her time at Bethel College in St. Paul, how her life changed, and how her experience as a young single mom struggling with poverty informs her work today.

  • She highlights how her career evolved and the wisdom figure who supported her most.

  • Stephanie shares the challenges she has faced, how she is doing, and what is it about her work that resonates most with who she is.

plus Mark’s Personal Word Essay: Adopting Charlotte

To Learn More About Stephanie


  • What struck you about Stephanie’s comments?

  • What is a theory of change that guides you?

  • Who is a wisdom figure in your life?

  • What do you do that resonates most with who you are?

We invite your posts on our Facebook page.

This episode is sponsored by Blumenthal Performing Arts, celebrating its 25th year presenting the best in performing arts. 

Further support is provided by Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, one of America’s leading urban public libraries, delivering exceptional services and programs, with a mission to improve lives and build a stronger community. 

And by the Arts & Science Council, Charlotte-Mecklenburg's resource hub and lead advocate for the regional cultural community, providing Culture for All.

Additional support is provided by the UNC College of Arts + Architecture, celebrating a decade of creative education in the arts and design.