The Cyndi Project
Raised in a single-parent household with dreams of going to college, Cyndi Munson defied the odds and became the first Asian-American woman to be elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Munson was raised with her sister Sandra by a military father. She said she had difficulties at home when her father divorced her physically, emotionally, and verbally abusive mother when she was 13.
“I had a little bit of a bumpy ride in junior high because I was distracted about what was going on at home,” Munson said. “I just kind of lost focus, which was really not me.”
She spent the majority of her high school years taking advanced placement classes and participating in the student government at Eisenhower High School. She said getting involved in school was a getaway for her to escape any of the issues she was having. She said her father wanted both her and her sister to attend college, regardless of all the factors that might prevent them from going.
“It was kind of a crazy time, but we were focused on going to school and going to college,” Munson said.
After visiting the University of Central Oklahoma she decided that it could be a place for her to excel and get involved on campus. She said UCO was the best fit financially for her.
While on campus she was involved in the UCO Student Association, serving as the speaker of the house and the vice president, President’s Leadership Council, Student Programming Board, Homecoming, WinterGlow, and Sigma Kappa. Munson was homecoming queen her senior year and was awarded the Presidential Gold Medal for Leadership and Public Service.
She spent a semester before she graduated studying non-profit and voluntary services at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. She interned at a homeless shelter while she was there.
“I came back to campus and there was an opportunity to help the Girl Scouts Council here,” Munson said.
She graduated from UCO in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a minor in business and leadership, becoming the first in her family to graduate from college.
After working for the Girl Scouts in Oklahoma, she knew she wanted to continue working with girls and young women. She decided to go to graduate school at the University of Nebraska, where she earned a Master of Science in leadership education degree and worked for the Girl Scouts in Nebraska.
She worked briefly for a small nonprofit helping students fill out FAFSAs when applying for college. Munson said that job opened her eyes to the need for more mentorship and guidance on applying for college. She decided to move back to Oklahoma in 2010 after she knew she was at a point to bring what she learned back to her home state.
“I wanted to be somewhere where I was really making change and really giving back to people who had invested in me,” Munson said.
She said she learned a lot about what issues were facing younger women and formulated ideas to help them by working for the Girl Scouts. She said she never thought to run for office until several people had told her to do so.
She took a year to run for office with minimal funding, but made up for it by visiting the people in the district daily. After the year was over, she lost the election. Because of the special election in 2015, following Rep. David Dank’s death, she ran in a special election and won with more than 54-percent of the vote.
She is a democratic representative who speaks for the 85th district. Minority Leader Scott Inman released a statement in 2015 that said Munson was elected to represent a district that the Republican party held consecutively for at least 50 years.
While in office she has authored several pieces of legislation, some of which helps provide protections for Alzheimer’s patients, improving the rights of victims of sexual assault and election reform.
She said some of the difficulties she has faced is answering to her constituents about what is happening at the Capitol following a difficult session earlier this year. Munson said if college students are wanting to be heard at the Capitol, they need to come and share their experience and personal stories with the state legislators.