05 Jun Alumni Board Scholar Profile: Q&A with 1994 scholar Kara Penn
Members of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board are interviewing their fellow Boettcher Scholars to help the community get to know one another better. The following Q&A was compiled by Boettcher Scholar Gergana Kostadinova.
Name: Kara Penn
Scholar Year: 1994
College(s), Degree(s) and Graduation Year(s):
M.B.A., Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management,
M.P.P., University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy
B.A., Colorado College (1998)
Tell us about your current work and how long you’ve been doing it. What is your favorite aspect of your current occupation?
I own a small consulting company, Mission Spark, which partners with philanthropy, nonprofit and social enterprise leaders to achieve transformative social change and to strengthen the social sector. Mission Spark is celebrating five years this fall. I am a very mission-driven person, and every day I get to support passionate leaders and organizations striving to make the world a better place. It is such a privilege and gift to do this work, and there is so much variety in what I do on a day-to-day basis.
What role has being a Boettcher Scholar played into where you are and what you are doing now?
I get a little choked up when I think about the difference Boettcher has made in my life. I’ve always cared deeply about social and environmental causes and am driven by using my time and abilities to contribute in some way to the social good. Boettcher provided such a vote of confidence in my choices — and it also gave me the financial freedom to pursue my passions. Being selected as a scholar snowballed into so many other wonderful opportunities and experiences in my life. My gratitude to the foundation is immense, and I am always looking for ways to pay it forward.
Tell us about your involvement in activities, organizations or groups outside of work.
I recently trained as a Co-Active Coach through the Coach’s Training Institute, and am very much enjoying both being coached and serving as a coach through the Boettcher Coaching Program. I am the immediate past chair of the Boettcher Scholar Alumni Board and have been involved with so many talented and committed scholar alumni over the years in creating and implementing a vision for growing an active alumni community. Board service is really important to me, and I serve on nonprofit boards whenever I can.
I also had an incredible experience as a member of the Leadership Denver class of 2015, and co-chaired Ready, Set, College! — an initiative of the class to provide a day of support, networking, skill-building, celebration and financial support to first generation college students setting off on their college journey. My two girls — Ava (6) and Kayla (2) — dogs Curry and Caper, and my husband are my heart. I love my time with my family — especially when we are traveling together. We are always in search of a good adventure.
What’s the best advice you’ve received and what advice do you have for current graduates entering your career field?
The best lesson I’ve learned, both through advice and through experience, is to live each moment — to not rush through the hard times, ignore grief, or gloss over disappointments, to not underplay joy, rites of passage, or moments of triumph, or even the day-to-day mundane. Finding ways to truly experience and be present to whatever comes, to ride whatever wave emerges.
If you could have dinner with one person or a few people from history, whom would you choose and why?
Oh, there are so many people– artists, activists, poets– I’d need a pretty big table, and there would be plenty of people that history never recognized but that have made immense contributions in their own ways. I would choose change-makers and creators, people who live or lived with conviction and in service of others, who fought or fight for justice — people who inspire through their actions and can lift up the world with what they create, the vision they hold and their ability to lead others to see the promise of what’s possible.