Josh Pauly2017 Rising Alumni

Josh Pauly

Josh Pauly is using his master’s in education to promote literacy and close the opportunity gap. Josh is the executive director of Books on Wings, a nonprofit that provides culturally relevant books to underserved students in grades K-3 in an effort to advance educational equity. He also founded PeopleSourced Policy, a nonpartisan organization working to increase access and engagement in the local political process. He also has countless volunteer involvements and recently was recognized for his service with the Islamic Resource Group. Previously, Josh taught in the Minneapolis Public Schools, where he started an after school book club for male students called “Real Men Read.” Josh’s work draws on his own background growing up in a single parent home and being a first-generation college student working to afford tuition.


Executive Director, Books on Wings

CEHD Degree

BA History, 2011;
MEd Social Studies Education, 2014

Please list any professional accomplishments you wish to mention.

As the Executive Director of Books on Wings, our mission is to close the opportunity gap for young learners. Books on Wings is a non-profit organization serving Minnesota youth who attend schools with free or reduced lunch rates of 80% or higher. Our mission is to get engaging, culturally relevant books to students in grades K-3. Once the books are used in the classroom, they go home with the students to add to, or start, their own personal library. More recently, we created a partnership with the Hennepin County Library system so that any student that does not already own a library card will receive one from us.

I am also the founder of PeopleSourced Policy. We are a non-profit, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to increase access and community engagement in the local political process. We do this in two different ways. The first is via crowdsourcing public policy solutions. We have developed an online community engagement platform that uses Google’s Civic Engagement API to geoplot participants with their locally-elected officials. We are also developing state-wide and regional platforms to better engage these communities on issues and topics of great impact. Our second method is by gamifying policy to make it more approachable. With Glasshouse Policy- our sister organization in Austin, TX- we have developed policy games around transit development, city planning, and local budgeting. Our next project is a redistricting game using data from the state demographer’s office. Previously, I was a social studies and AVID teacher in Minneapolis Public Schools. I taught 8th grade Global Studies, 6th grade MN Studies, and 6th grade AVID at Sanford Middle School in south Minneapolis.

Please list any past or current volunteer activities.

I am currently on the Citizens League's Policy Committee. We meet monthly to guide current and emerging policy activities of the League. Citizens League’s solutions to public problems are the result of processes that bring together citizens and stakeholders to study the facts, debate the possibilities, and develop innovative and effective ways of framing and addressing policy problems. My wife and I volunteer for Project Home every December at our church, Gloria Dei. Project Home engages area faith communities to provide emergency shelter space and volunteer support for Ramsey County families facing homelessness. Each month, two different area faith communities host 20 emergency shelter beds. I am a member of Civic Caucus. The mission of the Civic Caucus is to provide a new model for reaching informed, non-partisan solutions to a broad scope of civic issues, working to educate the public, subscribers and itself about new ways of thinking about solutions to many of Minnesota's most pressing problems. Experts in different fields are interviewed and summaries emailed to approximately 5,400 individuals. Approximately 500 background memos and policy statements are archived on the Civic Caucus website. When I was a teacher, I spent two years on the Teacher Advisory Board for the Islamic Resource Group. I linked IRG with other educators, aided in developing an MEA workshop- 2016’s Teaching Islam in the Classroom, and helped expand the number of schools IRG reached. During college I coached a number of youth basketball and soccer teams, in addition to tutoring students at Edison HS and KIPP Stand Academy.

Please list any awards or honors from your collegiate, professional, or volunteer experiences.

Fellow, Center for Policy Design, 2017- Present. Islamic Resource Group Volunteer Service Award Recipient, 2017. Fellow, MN Education Policy Fellowship Program, 2016-2017. Betty Roith Seifert Endowed Scholarship Recipient, 2013-2014. CLA Continuing Education Scholarship Recipient, 2008-2009 & 2009-2010.

What professor(s) or course(s) were most influential during your time in CEHD?

I learned SO much from my college professors! J.B. Mayo made me think critically and deeply about the space I take up and voice I have in the classroom. Pat Avery helped fill my educator toolbox so I was set up for success in the classroom- socratic seminars, gallery walks, fish-bowls, think-pair-shares, 4 corners, philosophical chairs, jig-saw presentations, and many more! Todd Beach gave practical advice about classroom management and the daily challenges we faced in the classroom.

What is your favorite memory from the University of Minnesota?

Anything involving 1059- the house I lived at for two years in college. I made lifelong friends and had some of the best days of my life at that place. Even nowadays if any of my old roommates are in town one of them will inevitably drive by our old home and send us all a snapchat.

Who has inspired you the most during your career?

The two most powerful women in my life- my Mom, Jackie and my wife, Megan. My Mom has always believed in me and been my biggest cheerleader. My wife is continuously supporting me as I figure out my path in life- but also challenging me to be the best person I can possibly be.

What skills are important to succeed as an emerging professional today?

Hard work and overcoming the fear of failure. Hard work will take you far in life. People will respect you for it, and it can mask deficiencies in any number of areas. I've never been the smartest person in the room- but I am usually one of the hardest workers. Overcoming the fear of failure because most of the things that are truly "worth it" mean you might fail at them. You can’t undo those things you never attempted in the first place. I was always scared to fail because I thought I would look dumb. It has taken me up until recently to realize that if you never take the chance on something, you’ll always wonder about what could have been. Don't be afraid to fail- be afraid of a lifetime of regrets for not trying something that could have been amazing.

What are your hobbies?

I play in a men's basketball league and my wife and I love to play board games and go for walks around our neighborhood in the summer

How do others describe you?

Passionate and hard-working

How do you describe yourself?

A work in progress

What's a good book you'd recommend to others?

The Inner Game of Tennis by Tim Gallwey for practical advice and strategies on the mental side of peak performance. We Were Eight Years in Power (or Between the World and Me) by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates is easily the most powerful writer I've ever been exposed to.

What gets you excited about work?

Every day I get to fight the good fight. I grew up in a single parent home. I am a first-generation college graduate. I would not be where I am today without the help of some amazing people. It is a fantastic feeling to know I can make a difference in someone else's life every day. What more could I ask for?

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A ninja. I used to attempt to pry open manhole covers in my neighborhood so I could go looking for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Outside of your job, how do you grow professionally?

I read a lot. I also make time to meet with people who know more than I do- which is most people!

What is a "fun fact" about you?

I still have two baby teeth. There are no adult teeth behind them- so hopefully I can keep them my entire life!