Katherine Hill2018 Rising Alumni

Katherine Hill

Katherine Hill completed a master of public policy and a master and PHD in social work at the U of M. Her nominator said Katharine “lives her values in all aspects of her work,” and she was granted tenure a year early because of her ability to maintain an active research program while also teaching a high load of classes. Her research focuses on children with disabilities who experience abuse and neglect, and she has done important work to establish community initiatives to assist this group. In addition, Katharine is dedicated to engaging social workers in the political process, promoting the importance of voting and influencing systems to other professionals.


Associate Professor and BSW Program Director, University of St. Thomas

CEHD Degree

MSW and MPP (Humphrey Institute), 2001
PhD Social Work, 2010

Please list any professional accomplishments you wish to mention.

I am currently an Associate Professor and the BSW Program Director at St. Catherine University and the University of St. Thomas School of Social Work. I serve on a number of boards and steering committees, including Influencing Social Policy, the Nancy A. Humphreys Institute for Political Social Work at the University of Connecticut, and the National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign.

Please list any past or current volunteer activities.

I have trained hundreds of people- social workers, activists, neighbors, community members on political power, activism, engagement. This is my favorite thing to do - I hugely enjoy the opportunity to work with others to find their political voice and power. I am active in my local political party and campaigns. I'm currently very involved in the campaign for Governor in Minnesota.

Please list any awards or honors from your collegiate, professional, or volunteer experiences.

  • President's Civic Engagement Stewardship Award, University of St. Thomas, Minnesota Campus Compact
  • Faculty Leadership Fellow, University of St. Thomas
  • Voter Empowerment Research Award, Influencing Social Policy
  • Graduate, Campaign School for Social Workers, Nancy A. Humphreys Institute, University of Connecticut

What professor(s) or course(s) were most influential during your time in CEHD?

Liz Lightfoot has been a mentor and friend to me since I started my MSW in the School of Social Work. We have been working together for longer than I am going to write here, and I'm profoundly appreciative of her generosity and guidance. David Hollister and Megan Morrissey in the School of Social Work taught some of my favorite classes in my MSW and PhD programs, and also have been fabulous role models for what it means to be a publicly engaged scholar. David Johnson (Institute on Community Integration) has also been a mentor, friend, and advisor to me. I learned so much from him about what it means to actually work with government agencies from an academic perspective, as well as the importance of having good research to guide public policies. Harry Boyte (who is not at CEHD, but was at the Humphrey Institute), taught me how to be an organizer, advocate, and community partner for social change.

What was the impact and benefit of your educational experience in CEHD?

My time in CEHD (and at the U of MN in general) gave me the knowledge, skills, and confidence to be a change agent in my community. The way I approach my work now is directly inspired by the people who I was lucky enough to learn from and with while I was a student and employee at the U of MN.

What is your favorite memory from the University of Minnesota?

Paul Wellstone- one of my political heroes and inspirations - was the commencement speaker at my graduation from the Humphrey Institute. It was the last time I heard him speak before he passed. Participating in the Public Achievement program through the Center for Democracy and Citizenship at the Humphrey Institute was life changing. My work with the Center definitely has shaped my approach to participatory and engaged citizenship for positive political change.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A ballerina, an author, President of the United States.

Who has inspired you the most during your career?

I am fortunate to have many strong women to look up to and draw inspiration from. My mom and grandmothers taught me to never give up and to always give back. Frances Perkins and Jeanette Rankin- among others- are women and social workers who leaned into uncertainty and seized the opportunity to make positive change. I am inspired every single day by my students who, I have no doubt, are already making the world a better place. I try to get out of their way and bear witness to their work. When I grow up, I want to be Elizabeth Warren.

What skills are important to succeed as an emerging professional today?

Flexibility, courage, the ability to build and sustain supportive relationships, critical thinking, a strong moral compass, and a sense of humor!

What are your hobbies?

Free time is a rarity in my life! I have a husband and nine year old daughter, both of whom I adore, so hanging out with them is a priority. If they're busy, then I read for pleasure, play with my dog, or try to get some exercise.

How do others describe you?

Kindly, I hope. You'd have to ask them!

How do you describe yourself?

Hard working, hopeful, a mentor, passionate about social change. I think I'm really funny- not sure how many people agree.

What's a good book you'd recommend to others?

I just read Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, and loved it. While it is about being a woman in science, it is also about the importance of human relationships and adaptability to change. I always recommend A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving to people who just want a great read. Its hilarious, touching and profound.

If you could have coffee with anyone from history, who would it be?

Julia Child- not only would the conversation be fascinating, but I bet the coffee and snacks would be amazing! (Read the book My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme if you doubt this.) If Julia was busy, then Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

What gets you excited about work?

I get energy from supporting other people to step into their own power. I love to watch the moment when the folks I'm working with (students, colleagues, community members), seize the opportunity to use their voice and become the change they have been waiting for. I'm so fortunate to get to witness this in the classroom and in the community on a regular basis.

Outside of your job, how do you grow professionally?

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by amazing people who share so much of their wisdom with me! I'm a big believer in reaching out to people who are doing interesting work, asking them to coffee, and then soaking up as much of their knowledge as they are willing to share. I read voraciously, and attend conferences and workshops on my field as often as I can.

What is a "fun fact" about you?

I was a radio DJ in high school, have my FCC license (which as far as I am aware is still valid), and am a huge music fan. One of my favorite things about the Twin Cities is the vibrant live music scene here.