Meet Kathleen Wood LaurilaJuly 07, 2009
1988–89 Career Development Grant recipient Kathleen Wood Laurila started breaking through barriers at a young age. In 10th grade she broke the gender barrier by taking the boys’ shop drafting classes to prepare herself to work as a facility planner/designer. Later on in college, not finding the right major to suit her, Kathleen designed her own course of study to fit her vision.
Working as a commercial space planner and interior designer, Kathleen decided in 1988 she wanted to pursue a new interest: mass communications. Already a lifetime AAUW member, Kathleen applied for and received an AAUW Career Development Grant. “[It] provided me with much-needed funds to support my pursuit of an M.A. in mass communications,” said Kathleen.
Beyond the grant, AAUW continues to play a large role in Kathleen’s life. “It was in AAUW that I found intellectual challenge that would undergird the knowledge I needed to be an effective advocate,” Kathleen said. She further expounded on the large role AAUW played in shaping her life, saying, “As the AAUW topics and issues evolved, so did my own interest and pursuit of additional avenues for possibly making a difference — women’s worth, networking, reproductive rights, education equity, etc.”
Kathleen’s nontraditional career path led her to work as an independent contractor, which she says fit into her ideas of balancing home and family life, being actively involved in community work, and maintaining a professional career. Most recently Kathleen worked as the executive director of a foreign policy think tank, where she used her organizational and communication technology skills to manage a far-flung staff of writers. Kathleen has also stayed actively involved in community work dedicating her time to global causes such as human rights, gender mainstreaming and the environment.
Looking over her life, Kathleen says she is most proud of finding opportunities to expand on her multicultural experiences. Highlights include leading an 85-person group to Australia for a Friendship Force exchange, being appointed as the non-clergy representative for the U.S./Soviet Chautaugua commission in Moscow and Leningrad, and chairing the Iowa Governor’s International Task Force.
According to Kathleen, one of the most important lessons to learn is that “the measurement of success is a balanced approach to life.”