Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi. I’m Katie. I’m 33. I’m a Helena girl by way of Wyoming (born and raised) and Michigan (college). I am married to Josh, a wickedly intelligent, creative musician and poet who “daylights” as a pharmacist. I have two children-Eliza-age 6 and Abe age 4. Parenting is the most terrifying and fun thing I’ve ever done in my life. I have a Master’s Degree in Public Health and a Master’s Degree in Social Work and I own and operate a consulting business here in Helena where I specialize in group facilitation, strategic planning, grant writing and organizational assessment. When I try to explain what I do for a living to other people (including my parents), their eyes roll back in their heads and they nod off pretty quickly. Which is to say, I think the best career choice involves finding a problem to solve that really excites and energizes you but that makes everyone else bored to tears. I love theology, reading modern fiction, skate skiing, cheese, podcasting, not paying more than $15 for a haircut, and Downton Abbey. I loathe crafting and I have given up baking entirely out of concern for the nutritional health and safety of my family and friends.
Describe your perfect day.
I have recently come to embrace the truth about myself- that I am a full on extrovert. So my perfect day would involve lots of people I love. Time with my kids and husband, maybe a big, loud party with a group of friends (can we dream big and have this theoretical party be at some exotic foreign location, say Prague, around a table with exquisite food and wine?) Of course I’d need an hour or two carved out to read a compelling book and go cross country skiing in solitude. And, weirdly, maybe an hour or two of fulfilling work like completing a data analysis or facilitating a meeting.
What is a cause or issue you are passionate about? Do you have a favorite charity?
I’m on the leadership team of a group called Mercy Market that sells handmade items made by artisans around the world. And I would say this kind of work is my heartbeat, one of my passions. We partner with organizations and ministries around the world who are working with women and families in desperate poverty-some coming out of prostitution or human trafficking, some in rural villages with few economic opportunities. Our partners on the ground work side by side with these women and families to craft handmade items. Some of our groups work with women who already have a handcraft tradition in their culture and some teach women how to make jewelry or sew, when all they have ever known is the sex industry or hard labor- empowering them to have a dignified way to support themselves and their family. I love economic development projects like Mercy Market (and there are many) that uphold the inherent dignity and ability of individuals to support themselves and their families-especially those that uphold women. Our team is headed to India in March to meet three of our partner organizations that are working with women in the red light districts of Kolkata. Getting to meet the artisans behind our projects is exciting.
If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor?
I would love to find someone in my line of work-strategic planning and organizational consulting-that would mentor me. Whenever I am approaching a new project I wish I had someone with more experience and expertise to bounce ideas off of. But I’m not sure who this would be in Montana. I’m open to suggestions, anyone?
What is one of your favorite quotes?
My daughter, who is an introvert like my husband once told me, “Mom, it’s just easier to love people when I’m by myself.” I think about that a lot. It’s so much easier to love people and do the right thing in the abstract. It’s so much harder to do it in real life.
When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time?
Ugh. I wish I was more disciplined at this, but I probably just search the web looking for something for my distracted Millennial self to consume. I recently heard an interview with Aziz Ansari where he said, “I spend too much time on the internet. I feel like I’m a million pages into the worst book ever, and I’m never going to stop reading.” Truth.
What was the last movie, TV show or book that really impacted you and why?
I just finished the book “Epic Measures: One Doctor. Seven Billion Patients” by Jeremy N. Smith about Dr. Andrew Murray and his work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to revolutionize the quality and availability of global health data around the world. It resonated with me, because, in my work, there is often so little good data available to drive decision making for important public sector programs in Montana. And even when the data exists, it often hasn’t been analyzed or framed in a way that decision makers understand. Seeing what Dr. Murray and his team did on the global level makes me feel hopeful that we can bring better data to bear on decision making for health and major societal problems in Montana (even without $100 million dollars from the biggest philanthropist in the world).
Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?
All the places. Really. But if I could only go one place, it would be rural China.
What is one (or two or three) of your favorite books?
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. Followed by all the other books by Marilynne Robinson. And I want to change my “mentor” response. I want Marilynne Robinson as my mentor. For no other reason than her absolute brilliance and ability to translate that to the page.
Who from your past has most influenced who you are today and how?
I’ve had a lot of really amazing, positive influences in my life. So this is probably not the most true answer. But my freshman year at Michigan State I worked in a lab with a professor who was just brutal. She was critical, harsh and had nothing good to say about my work for her. Though it was hard for my, “everyone thinks I’m great and should tell me so” mentality as an 18 year old, the experience ended up really steering me away from a career in the hard sciences and lab work, which I’ve really come to see is not a good fit for my skill set at all (details and me do not mix). So I’m grateful for that experience putting me on a better path.
How would your friends describe you?
I feel like I have absolutely no perspective on what other people think about me. But if I were to guess, they would probably say I am busy. That I have a lot of friends (too many?) and like to make connections between people. They would also tell you that I am the world’s worst house wife. And sort of proud of it.
What do you value most in a friendship?
I really value friendship for the sake of friendship. Not because we are trying to sell each other something (please, no!) or because we both don’t like the same person or because we think exactly the same about politics or religion. I also really value “interested” people. People who want to talk about ideas, delve into hard issues, maybe even argue a bit. Those people who help define and elevate my thinking about the world. Also, people who bring me cheese, donuts or coffee (you know who you are!)
Coffee or Tea?
Coffee. This should not even be a question open to debate.
Chocolate or Vanilla?
Rural or urban?
Rural (but not too rural) with LOTS of side trips to urban centers.
Dress up or dress down?
I have become a dress up kind of gal. In Montana. Weird.
Cats or dogs?
Whether I can live my truth and say “neither” and still be considered a good person is an absolutely open question.
Sunrise or sunset?
Detailed or abstract?
Classic or modern?
Call or text?
Please, please text.
Fiction or non-fiction?
Fiction. Modern fiction. See above.
Salty or Sweet?
Salty. Preferably salty cheese.
What do you love most about Montana?
One thing I love about Montana is that its a small enough place that you can make connections among and between people. Here, I don’t feel lost in the masses of humanity. The longer I live here, and the more and deeper connections I make both personally and professionally, I feel like I know my place and can do my part to help others find their place and their people too.
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
I am really grateful for this whole, big, messy, confusing upside down life that I have found myself in, and most of all, for the people who are in it with me. I believe that its all a gift, a gift from God.