By Gretchen Minekime January 10, 2022
Our office is excited to continue our work with you this semester, and we want to introduce our two newest staff members: Katie Kleinhesselink and Gretchen Minekime.
Kleinhesselink is a program manager helping to build community-engaged scholarship between CU Boulder and external communities. She comes to CU Boulder from the University of Denver where she most recently served as the Associate Director for the Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship & Learning. Minekime was the Vice President of Communications and Marketing for Community Foundation Boulder County and is our outreach communications program manager.
They recently interviewed one another to learn what brought them to CU and why they’re excited about it.
Minekime: Ok, Katie. Ready?
Kleinhesselink: Sure am!
Minekime: You were at the University of Denver before joining the team. How is your work at CU Boulder connected to your prior work?
Kleinhesselink: Well, I’ve been doing some form of higher education community engagement work for almost 20 years. After graduating college, I served as an AmeriCorps member through the University of Montana (my alma mater) doing digital divide work at a rural middle school. I had never considered higher ed’s purpose beyond educating college students, but that experience reminded me of how much I–as a working-class kid in rural Montana– benefited from extension programs, science outreach, etc. I didn’t get it back then, but higher ed made a huge impact in my life long before I ever thought I could go to college. That realization moved and inspired me to pursue a career in higher education community engagement. And I’ve done a little bit of everything over the years. I’ve served at both public and private institutions; worked at a regional higher education nonprofit; and administered student, faculty, and staff programs. What I love more than anything, though, is being a connector—across units, across disciplines, across communities—with an eye toward creating partnerships rooted in mutual benefit. That’s what I get to do here—foster collaboration for the collective good. What could be better?
Minekime: I relate. My focus is communications, and it’s really a privilege to help lift up stories about smart, dedicated people working together to make the world a good place. I think their stories inspire other people to get involved. I want to be part of that positive cycle. Our office is all about nurturing that positive cycle. I’m having a blast learning about how CU Boulder’s researchers, teachers, and creatives are advancing their work through partnerships external to the university.
Kleinhesselink: I know you worked at a community foundation before making the move to higher ed. Tell me more about that.
Minekime: So, prior to coming to CU, I was with Community Foundation Boulder County and a few other Boulder County nonprofit organizations. There are parallels between the role a community foundation plays facilitating positive community impact and how our Office for Outreach and Engagement facilitates the same. Both are relationship-oriented — operating on principles that value what all players bring to the table and that recognize that the quality of collaboration has direct bearing on the results. Both provide funding, as well as avenues for education for grantees and partners. Both also make it their business to learn about what factors are in play for communities and use that understanding to help make connections between resources, needs, and opportunities. And, it’s not always about facilitating or supporting change because something is wrong. Sometimes it’s about seizing the day or sustaining something worthwhile.
Kleinhesselink: Yes! Our office’s work is all about relationships. Our work taps into my sense of purpose. It gives me hope. The work that we support fosters equitable access to resources and information, repairs and weaves a new critical social fabric…in an increasingly polarized world, we desperately need more boundary spanners. That’s us.
Minekime: What’s something I don’t know yet about you?
Kleinhesselink: Hmmm. Well, when I was a child, I had strabismic amblyopia, which is a fancy way of saying I had a lazy eye. I had no depth perception to speak of and was nearly blind without my glasses. PE, sports, anything that required coordination was an absolute nightmare, and so I was a pretty reclusive and shy little kid. I spent a lot of time in my room alone, reading. I took the Clifton Strengths assessment recently, and my themes are intellection, learner, context, input, and individualization. I reckon that has everything to do with the thousands of hours I spent devouring books in my formative years. It was a lonely existence then, but today I do feel grateful—my love of reading and learning propelled me academically and professionally, and I wouldn’t be where or who I am today without it. What’s something defining about you?
Minekime: Maybe that I love dogs and cats in equal measure. Ha, ha…yes, it’s possible! I wonder if that gives insight into my personality.
Kleinhesselink: Okay, you just blew my mind. I’m totally dogs forever over here. Pretty cool there, Gretchen.
If you haven’t caught up with the Office for Outreach and Engagement in a while, please visit our staff page to learn more about our entire team.