On May 21 in the Swift Hall Common Room, contemporary artist Laura Kimpton stepped up to the lectern to address student winners of a fellowship named after her grandfather, former University of Chicago President Lawrence A. Kimpton.
While Laura Kimpton was very young when her grandfather passed away, she said the event helped her feel closer to him.
“I knew about [my grandfather’s] impact on the University of Chicago and to see that our family name is being used to help students figure out how to start their careers is really beautiful,” she said. “To support graduates of UChicago, after four years of extremely hard work, and to give them a moment to really reflect on their potential career paths, [is] a great thing.”
The Kimpton Fellows Program has provided employment fellowships for recent graduates of the College in a variety of career fields since 2018.
Lawrence Kimpton was a seminal figure in the mid-20th century transformation of the College during a time of uncertainty for the University. During his time as chancellor (the title used in Kimpton’s era for the University’s chief executive) from 1951-1960, he instituted a development campaign that brought the University out of a decades-long deficit and then restablized the College’s enrollment by improving its liberal arts programs.
Part of the extensive and distinctive set of career resources offered to UChicago students by the Office of Career Advancement, the Kimpton Fellows Program was launched to honor Lawrence Kimpton’s legacy of championing robust experiences for students both within and outside the classroom.
The Kimpton family’s commitment to professional excellence has continued for generations. For example, Laura Kimpton is an accomplished contemporary artist whose work consists of painting, mixed-media installations and sculpture.
Laura Kimpton said she finds the principle of setting aside time to know oneself early in one’s career invaluable. A proponent of meditation and mindfulness, she traveled through Europe and Africa before fully launching into her career as an artist, which she said was the most formative experience in her life. Her art has been displayed at Burning Man and other similar well-known festivals. Most recently, her work was viewed by thousands of attendees at Chicago’s Heatwave Music Festival in Douglass Park on July 16-17.
“Self-awareness as a daily practice is crucially important for all people, but especially those just starting their careers,” she said. “If you get up every day and do something for an hour or two that’s creative, be it art or something else, the process will take you somewhere. The final result is not the reason to do this. For me, I’m not an artist because of the products I make, I’m an artist because of the way I live.”
The Kimpton Fellows Program is designed to facilitate this type of exploration and experimentation for students. Modeled on the highly successful Jeff Metcalf Internship Program, the one-year program offers graduates access to mentorship opportunities and professional development resources in an effort to help make the first year of their careers a success.
Dean of the College John W. Boyer said the Kimpton and Metcalf programs complement each other, providing meaningful experiences and opportunities to students not only during their time in the College, but also once they graduate.
“Over the last five years, the College has been pleased to honor the legacy of Lawrence Kimpton through this impactful program,” Boyer said. “The Fellows Program reinforces our commitment to providing our students with transformative experiences that extend beyond the classroom as well as opportunities to effect change on both local and global scales.”
The program offers employment opportunities within a diverse range of organizations, including for-profit companies, nonprofits, government agencies, research and philanthropic institutions, educational organizations and social service providers.
Rebecca Barel, AB’22, part of the newest cohort of Kimpton Fellows, studied political science and public policy as an undergraduate student. But as her fourth year in the College drew to a close, Barel said she was undecided on what was next for her.
She applied to the Fellows Program, which placed her at The Giving Back Fund, a philanthropic consulting organization. Beyond guaranteed employment after graduation, Barel said it was exciting to be in a program that “had her back.”
“I realized that I had a really wide variety of interests and careers that I felt like I could do, but I was really unsure of what exactly I wanted to do,” she said. “I applied for the program because I knew it would help me find something that I enjoyed doing right after I graduated. Hopefully, I can continue to learn throughout this short-term position and then move on from there to a fulfilling career once I've kind of discovered myself a little more.”
Many Kimpton Fellows find fulfillment through their placements and stay on for much longer than one year. For example, Kuba Sokolowski, AB’20, has now spent two years at Braven, a nonprofit that works with colleges to help first-generation and underrepresented students gain career-readiness skills.
Having double-majored in English and geography with a statistics minor, Sokolowski said he had always been interested in a career in social impact organizations, but lacked what he felt was a necessary network to break into the fields.
The Metcalf Program helped connect him to and support his internship at an affordable housing nonprofit in Chicago the summer after his third year in the College, and through that experience, he said he decided to explore the other resources available to him through the Office of Career Advancement.
Sokolowski applied to be a Kimpton Fellow the following school year and successfully transitioned into a manager role at Braven two years later where he fosters university partnerships. As a former first-generation, low-income student himself, Sokolowski said he finds fulfillment inhelping connect current FLI students to impactful resources and opportunities.
“I personally was grateful to participate in programming that helped me make the most of my talents and connect my education to a career that I'm passionate about,” he said. “My experience as a Kimpton Fellow and now as a professional has shown me the importance of institutional actions that are effective and intentional to build equitable paths for students.”