Presenter Q&A with Caroline Altman Smith: leadership should reflect who it serves
// By Jacqueline Brennan
Caroline Altman Smith, deputy director of the Kresge Foundation’s education program, is co-presenting a Thursday workshop at Upswell Chicago alongside AchieveMission’s Mikaela Seligman and ProInspire’s Monisha Kapila—two providers from Kresge’s 2018 FUEL (Fostering Urban Equitable Leadership) program cohort. We caught up with Caroline to learn more about what motivates her.
Q: If you were independently wealthy and didn’t have to work, what would you do with your time?
CAS: I would travel the world and spend all my time road tripping, learning about different cultures, having adventures, and eating really good food!
Q: What one change can we make right now in the U.S. that would make the biggest impact on helping people thrive?
CAS: I would say increasing opportunities for postsecondary education, and helping everyone who needs it get the support they need to attend college and finish what they start. When people are able to get a college degree, it opens up new worlds of opportunity for them.
Q: What is one thing that would help you do your job better?
CAS: A private jet would help me do my job better! I have to travel a lot for work, which I enjoy. It would be much more efficient if I could zip around on a private jet. But I would settle for more hours in the day.
Q: What one incident or occurrence in your life has had the most influence on the work you’re doing today?
CAS: When I learned that fewer than half of all people who start college actually graduate, and that that rate is lower for students of color and students with low income – that was a real wakeup call for me right when I was starting my career. So many young people work so hard and go through all the steps to actually get in the door to college, and then face so many barriers. Not supporting students with all the various resources they need to graduate from college means we have this terrible hemorrhaging of human capital and opportunity. It’s tragic and wasteful. So, my whole career has been focused on college access and completion issues for students who haven’t historically been well-served by higher education.
Q: If you could change one thing about the sector right now, what would it be?
CAS: To make the leadership of nonprofits and foundations—including board members, executive directors, and the senior teams—more representative of the people they are serving. I would increase the gender and racial and ethnic diversity of organizational leadership and make sure the sector is maximizing leadership potential across the board.
Creating a Capacity Building Ecosystem is happening Thursday, November 14 from 9:30-11:30am.