Back to Episode # 1

Tue, 7/13 1:23PM • 15:38
podcast, education, people, minnesota, students, pandemic, minnesotans, higher education, hear, college, credential, life, outreach coordinator, high school, stories, gaps, terms, communities, state agencies, land
Liz Bolsoni, Kat Klima, Intro

Intro  00:00
Life After Now.

Liz Bolsoni  00:07
Hello and welcome to the Life After Now podcast. I'm your host Liz Bolsoni. I'm a communication studies major at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. This podcast is a place for young people like you to gather information about education, and think about what it means for your life after now. You'll be able to connect with inspirational guests who have firsthand experience and expertise surrounding education in Minnesota. Before we jump into the first episode of the season, I didn't want to take a moment to acknowledge that we are meeting in the traditional lands of the Ojibwe and Dakota peoples. We recognize their continued connection to the land, water and community and pay respects to elder's past and emerging. To find out more about the history and importance of this land. Please see the resources linked in the show notes. With that, I'd like to introduce our very first guest of this podcast. Today I'll be talking with Kat Klima. She is a Communication and Outreach Coordinator at the Minnesota Office of Higher Ed. In addition, she is the project manager for the Life After Now podcast. So Kat, thank you so much for joining me today.

Kat Klima  01:15
Sure, yeah, Liz, thank you for having me, and thank you for agreeing to be our hosts to this amazing podcast. And so yes, I am Kat. I work for the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, like you said. I've been working here for about six years. And prior to that I was a sixth and seventh grade science teacher who gave instruction in both Spanish and English, down in Miami, Florida with Teach for America.

Liz Bolsoni  01:40
So awesome. Alright, so let's take you back to high school, and if you were to give yourself a piece of advice, or just a word of affirmation, what would you say to yourself in high school?

Kat Klima  01:54
I would say quality over quantity in terms of involvement. I have, this is still something I'm recovering from, like I'm a recovering perfectionist and being like way over involved with everything. And so I remember I was taking like, all AP classes. I was in soccer. I was in marching band. So it was like I would get done with school, I would go to soccer practice, I would go into the locker room, quick change, and like eat in the locker room, eat something quick, and then go into the parking lot with my clarinet and go to marching band directly. And I was in National Honor Society and on and on and on and on and on. Right. And so I had this mindset of like, if I am involved in all of the things, then I will be able to do whatever I want in college. And that just wasn't the case, because I spread myself too thin. I would say pick a few things that you really like that you that you really love, you know that that bring you joy, and do that.

Liz Bolsoni  02:53
So can you tell us a little bit more about this podcast and why the Minnesota Office of Higher Education decided to produce it? Why now, and what are some main goals of this podcast?

Kat Klima  03:05
Yeah, absolutely. And so as you maybe remember, in March of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. And so the Office of Higher Education really wanted to respond to that to make sure that families and students were able to access information about life after high school in terms of their education. And so one of the things that I really hope people take away from this is that we do have so many resources and things to provide and just a wealth of information. And so with that, as my charge of the outreach person, like the Outreach Coordinator, I really wanted to react and sort of leverage this suddenly, what felt like a global, in terms of statewide reach, like global reach, because everyone or at least the majority of people who had access to broadband, were suddenly all online. They were all doing distance learning. They were all forced to be not in their school systems, and so, or school buildings. And so what we did is we followed suit from other state agencies who are doing these things called public engagement calls. And what we learned is that, you know, although they were pretty well attended for a small state agency's, Wednesday at 10am, WebEx call -- like we had upwards of 300, at one point -- we really weren't reaching the people that we wanted to which, which were students and families. And so we had it right, in the sense of we were doing topics like race and equity in higher education and the American Indian experience in higher education, but again, the students weren't there. And so we pivoted to a podcast. And we were really hoping to have an amazing host, like someone like you Liz, and so we wanted this opportunity really, for students to be able to tell their stories and say "This is what distance learning has been like for me during, during the COVID pandemic." To have it be maybe like a time capsule in that way, but to dive deep and give students a platform to amplify and elevate their voices. And this can be used, hopefully, I hope that you know, policymakers and administrators will listen to the, to your voices to hear what real Minnesota students are going through. Because stories can be so powerful, and I'm really hoping that these stories that we capture here on this podcast, will be heard at the state capitol, to enforce change for good in ways that communities are asking for change. And the other thing is that this, this podcast really does align with our mission to provide students with financial aid programs and information, most importantly, that helped them gain access to postsecondary, right, so after high school education.

Liz Bolsoni  06:05
So if you want to expand a little bit more, tell us about what we can he expect to hear and gain and what are some topics that we're going to dive into in later episodes?

Kat Klima  06:17
So what people and students, families, what everyone can expect to gain from this podcast is really to understand why they may consider or should consider education after high school. You will learn how to pay for it. And you'll also hear stories of persistence, because what we know is that college students come from all backgrounds, all age groups, all different types of walks of life, right. And so we'll hear these stories of people overcoming barriers to pursue their education and get the life that they want. And our guests come really from all over the state. So they are high school students, college students, administrators. We also have high school counselors, and many more.

Liz Bolsoni  07:04
Exciting! Okay, so this podcast was created to get people interested in pursuing higher education opportunities for themselves. But I'm curious, what exactly is your definition of higher ed? And I know that it just means so many different things for different people. Do you want to talk about that for a little bit?

Kat Klima  07:22
So you're absolutely right, that higher education means a million different things to a million different people. And what I found in my research, academically -- I am a masters student, so like academic research -- but what I found also in my research at work, is that college has become a contentious word. People, when people hear college, they automatically think it's restrictive or like elite, that it's only only contained within the definition of a four-year university. And that's just not the case. What I mean and what the Minnesota Office of Higher Education means when we say college, or postsecondary education, is any type of education or training that someone does after high school. And so that could be something really simple like a short term CNA, certified nursing assistant program. I think that that's about six weeks, maybe a little bit longer. It could be an HVAC certificate or a welding degree, a welding associate degree. It could also be something a little bit more like the traditional four-year degree, whether in any type of degree policy or business, or pre med, whatever the student wants, but education can mean a million different things. And it also isn't just restricted to those like educational institutions. There are so many things, so many skills, so many amazing things that people can learn if they go into the armed forces. And so in addition to getting educational benefits once they are done with their service. So college can mean a lot of different things. But again, it is any type of education after high school.

Liz Bolsoni  09:09
So what can you say to people who worry that higher education just isn't an option for themselves?

Kat Klima  09:16
I would say that I completely understand why they might say that, because historically that's been true. Historically, institutions of higher education or colleges were built for white affluent, or rich, men. And so when students tell me, "No, I don't think college is for me," I understand it. And what we know about postsecondary education, what we know about college is that people have, who have that type of training, typically live healthier lives. So they're not as impacted by things like diabetes or high blood pressure, things like that. They're healthier. They, typically, the data shows us that they are happier with their lives. And they have that economic flexibility, where they can take risks, or they may be able to be promoted more easily because they have that credential, that baseline credential that not only gets them through the door, but also allows them to climb the ranks into management, right, and have that flexibility that that way to move up and to move through and to move across different industries. Education is for everyone.

Liz Bolsoni  10:29
I really like that answer. And I think that education in Minnesota after the pandemic, and after distance learning, after racial injustices, and instances of police brutality in our state is just so confusing. And there's a lot that people are looking forward to and a lot that people are also fearing. So what do you hope for the future, for education in Minnesota?

Kat Klima  10:56
There's a lot of things that I hope for. And one thing I do hope for is that, and I'm striving for, is that we cannot return to normal. I hear that so often, right? I hear it in the news, I hear it on the street in conversations now that I'm back out and about. Actually interacting with people and hearing them and seeing them again, is that, you know, I just I hear this phrase, "Oh, well, now it's back to normal," right? And then we cannot and should not strive for that, because returning to normal means returning to injustice. And specifically, within the context of education in Minnesota, injustice is really grave. So we have in Minnesota -- this is not something to be proud of, but it is something to address and acknowledge -- is that we have one of the largest educational attainment gaps in the country. What I mean when I say educational attainment is someone who has received some type of postsecondary education. So again, that could be that short term credential, like a certificate program, all the way up through a college degree. And so here, here's some things that we know about these gaps. So for example, only 18% of American Indian Minnesotans have some type of postsecondary training. 60.5% of Asian Minnesotans have a postsecondary credential of some sort. But when you disaggregate it, or when you break it down by ethnicity, what we know that is that there are huge gaps within those different ethnic groups. For example, only 5.4% of Burmese Minnesotans have post secondary training, 17.9%, of Somali, 10.7% of Salvadoran Minnesotans. And then that's juxtaposed against the 59.8% of white Minnesotans. And so it's just, we cannot return to failing our communities, because we are all, all of us are Minnesotan, we all live here. We all deserve access to great and equitable education. That's one of the reasons why I really do hope that we take this innovation, because that is one of the things that I hold dear, I suppose or one of the silver linings to the pandemic is that everyone was forced to innovate. Whether or not they liked it, they had to turn on a dime, they had to pivot and make it work, right? Because one of the things that I heard prior to the pandemic so many times is that, you know, "Government work's slow, education work's slow, I can't do it, I can't make this change." And then all of a sudden, just like that, they had to do it. And so now that we know that we can pivot and make these innovations, that we should, that we have to because we cannot continue to fail these communities. And like I was, like I was saying before education is for everyone, and we all deserve access to it.

Liz Bolsoni  14:01
That's a really powerful message. And I really appreciate a lot of everything that you've said today. Thank you for joining me and sharing some inspiration about this podcast and what it means for our listeners. So thank you for joining me.

Kat Klima  14:18
Thanks for having me.

Liz Bolsoni  14:19
Awesome. I also want to give a quick shout out to our listeners. Thank you so much for spending some time with us today. This podcast was brought to you by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. And we encourage you to dig into the resources mentioned in this episode, which you can find in the show notes at our website Don't forget to follow this podcast on Apple, Spotify, Google Play or wherever you listen to your podcast, so that you don't miss any future episodes. Until next time, everyone. I'm Liz Bolsoni. Stay well, stay hopeful, and stay ready because you all are the future.

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