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Summersby Okey: CPOPR Operations Manager and Winthrop Alum

When I was 10 years old, I met an incredibly strong, intelligent woman named Summersby Okey.

Now, nine years later, she is both my sister-in-law and my boss. I’ve always loved Summersby, but it wasn’t until I came to Winthrop that I realized my love for her is universally shared among all the students, faculty, and staff who meet her and have the pleasure to work with her.  

Over the past year, I was fortunate enough to be hired for the Center for Public Opinion & Policy Research (CPOPR), which conducts the Winthrop Poll as well as numerous other social and political surveys throughout the year. There, Summersby Okey works as the Operations Manager. Summersby is one of the hardest working people that I know, and she is by far the kindest and most passionate boss that I have ever had. She deserves to be recognized and appreciated!

Full Name: Mary Summersby Okey

Job Title: Operations Manager for the Center for Public Opinion & Policy Research

Degrees: B.A. in Philosophy & Religious Studies and Political Science. Masters in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Political and Civic Engagement


What are your responsibilities, as the Operations Manager?

I interview, hire, and train all callers. I also manage the budgets, program the surveys, and supervise all data collection.

What are your passions and hobbies?

I like yoga, cooking, reading. I am also extremely passionate about advocating for social change and local politics.

What’s your favorite TV show?

Parks and Rec!

What’s a fun fact about you?

I have nine pets: one dog, two cats, and six chickens!

How did you get here? Did you think that this is what you would be doing when you first came to Winthrop?

I first came to Winthrop in 2009 as an undergrad student, and I never imagined that I would still be here 10 years later. I first worked in the [CPOPR] lab as a caller, then as a supervisor. I actually worked my first shift as a requirement for one of my classes, and I really enjoyed it! I also did original research for my undergrad capstone and graduate thesis, both at Winthrop. Then I worked as an administrative assistant at Winthrop before transitioning into this job. While I didn’t love being an assistant, it taught me valuable skills that I still use in my job, today.

What drew you to Winthrop, as an undergrad student?

I originally came to Winthrop because of its graphic design program. I didn’t stay in that major, but I have stayed at Winthrop because of the people, the relationships that I’ve been able to build, and because the Winthrop community has helped me achieve my goals.

The month that I graduated with my Masters, there was an opening in the Philosophy & Religion department. Someone approached my about applying. One of my mentors once told me, “always say yes to opportunities that come your way,” so I said yes! It was never my plan (I didn’t even have a plan), but it was an opportunity for a full-time job at a place that I loved, straight out of school.

“I literally had one weekend off between being a grad student and having a full-time job.” –Summersby Okey​

Why are you doing the CPOPR?

This is the only academic public opinion polling in the state of South Carolina. We are the only ones who hire and train student callers. So, the CPOPR really helps intersect a lot of my interests such as, public policy, social change, teaching, and working with college students.

The CPOPR is a perfect mix of all things. There are very few positions where you get to have your hand in all of those things.” -Summersby Okey​

Why is the CPOPR so important?

It helps gauge what the people of South Carolina think and feel (typically about society and politics). Oftentimes, things appear to be black and white, so it’s hard to know where friends and neighbors stand. The CPOPR helps us to look at how diverse and broad people’s opinions really are. It helps us to find common ground. It helps us to enact laws, legislation, and leaders that people support.

“The CPOPR is democracy in action. It gives people a voice.” -Summersby Okey​

Do you enjoy being able to work so closely with students?

Yes! Working with students is my favorite part of the job! I am able to build meaningful relationships with students. And I hope to be able to inspire and encourage students as much as my professors were able to inspire and encourage me.

“[The students] keep me hip… And they tell me not to say hip!” -Summersby Okey​​

Summersby created her own version of an escape room to help teach the new supervisors how to work together!

The Center for Public Opinion & Policy Research, located in Dinkins basement, is in the process of expanding! This means that there will be 54 stations, which is double the amount that they have now. This also means that they need to hire a lot more people!

If you’re interested in a part-time, on-campus job that pays $8.50/hour (with the best boss in the world), fill out the application here!

Aubrey Hamrick

Winthrop '20

Aubrey is an English major at Winthrop University. She loves coffee, true-crime documentaries, and bookstores. She's a vegetarian and a feminist.  "Intersectional feminism is the only feminism" IG @aubreydh Twitter @aubreydh12
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