Kathryn (Katie) Van Zanen has worked with the Center this semester within the Crafting Democratic Futures project, a part of CSS’ Slavery and Its Aftermath initiative. Her responsibilities include working on assessment projects to learn from university and community partners “how their reparations work is progressing, how their thinking has evolved, and how the Center can support them. All that knowledge and information will contribute to emerging frameworks for creating locally-engaged reparations plans that others can take up in their own contexts.” In her time at the Center, Katie has engaged work at “the intersection of learning and problem-solving.” Among the things that inspire her about the work, Katie notes that the Center’s mission engages “the big questions of our political, cultural, social, economic and ecological moment, and– while those conversations often revolve around things that are really wrong in our society– it's inspiring to spend time with smart people who care about justice and equity, who value knowledge in action, and who are doing work that so directly responds to the challenges we face.”

Outside of her work at CSS, Katie is a PhD candidate in the Joint Program in English and Education. “It's an interdisciplinary program, and my academic work has been really interdisciplinary so far: projects on critical language awareness pedagogy in writing classrooms, work on alumni writing about their undergraduate education, and my dissertation work on social media writers navigating religion and politics. Those things might seem unrelated– but they're all about rhetoric. What are the implications of the language we use to describe our experiences and convictions? What stories are we telling about ourselves and why?” In the future, Katie would like to continue “work at that intersection of learning, problem-solving, and equity. I've found that there are no wasted experiences in life; every job I've had since high school has somehow returned to inform my thinking. So we'll see what it all adds up to, and how it builds on what I do as a CSS intern.”

Outside of work and classroom? “I like cooking and eating, reading, jigsaw puzzles, and being outside. I ran my first marathon in December, and I'm looking forward to spring running weather.” 

We appreciate all Katie’s work this semester, and wish her the best of luck in her work at U-M and beyond!