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Alumna Wins George Mitchell Scholarship

Kelly Kirkpatrick to study charitable organizations in Ireland

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November 21, 2011 | by Wendy Leopold
Kelly Kirkpatrick

Kelly Kirkpatrick

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Kelly Kirkpatrick wore a Northwestern-inspired purple dress Friday (Nov. 18) when she attended a reception for George J. Mitchell Scholarship finalists at the Irish Embassy in the nation’s capital. A day later, the 2009 Northwestern University graduate was named one of 12 recipients of the prestigious Mitchell Scholarship.

“Kelly lives a life that speaks to her priorities as a gifted leader, caring daughter and engaged public servant,” said Adam Goodman, director of Northwestern’s Center for Leadership. “As a Mitchell Scholar, she will learn a great many new insights about how we can be good stewards for the world.”

At University College Cork, Kirkpatrick will study how charitable organizations -- historically a vibrant part of Irish society -- operate in Ireland and the effects of new regulations on them. The Mitchell scholarships are awarded by the US-Ireland Alliance, which is dedicated to consolidating and building relations between the United States and the island of Ireland.

Not-for-profits, social change organizations and effective leadership have long been Kirkpatrick’s focus. She currently works at Olive Grove Consulting, a California firm founded by Northwestern alumna Emily Hall that advises not-for-profits and social change groups. 

After graduating from Northwestern, Kirkpatrick received a Capital Fellowship and worked with the California Environmental Protection Agency. There she took part in and contributed to policy discussions on issues from pollution prevention to environmental justice. 

Kirkpatrick’s name was virtually synonymous with volunteering, leadership and service while she studied at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy (SESP). With a passion for public service, she wrote her senior honors thesis on community engagement programs and received a SESP service learning certificate.

Not surprisingly, she also received the Senior Woman Award for Volunteer Service from The Alumnae of Northwestern University in recognition of her outstanding volunteer service to Northwestern and the broader community.

Kirkpatrick was instrumental in the creation of Northwestern’s Center for Civic Engagement, which promotes a lifelong commitment to social responsibility and helps integrate meaningful volunteer service with academics.

As the Northwestern University Public Interest Program coordinator, she secured placements for more than 60 recent alumni to work at service or social change organizations. 

She also co-taught a student-led seminar about campus leadership and community building for undergraduates and, as a teaching assistant, facilitated small group discussions and evaluated projects and papers for a class on “Introduction to Community Development.”

"Kelly is a person of enormous personal integrity, high academic achievement, natural leadership skills, and a sustained commitment to public service, said 2008 Mitchell Scholar and Northwestern alumna Lauren Parnell Marino.  Her humble attitude belies the high level of leadership and academic achievement she maintained as a Northwestern student. In the working world she's brought the same degree of compassion, analysis, and grit to everything she's touched.  

Kirkpatrick taught English literacy skills to a Syrian refugee twice weekly and became a certified English as a Second Language tutor. As an Evanston Community Foundation intern, she developed a curriculum for a grassroots grant-making program, and worked with the foundation throughout her years at Northwestern. 

She also interned at Public Allies, a Chicago group that trains community and social service leaders, as well as the Chicago Community Trust and the Sierra Health Foundation.

The Mitchell Scholarship Program is named in honor of former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, who played a pivotal role in the Northern Ireland peace process. Little more than a decade old, the Mitchell Scholarship has established itself as the premier award for U.S. college graduates committed to serving the needs of post-conflict societies.

At Northwestern, Kirkpatrick worked closely with Parnell Marino and with 2010 Marshall Scholar Jacob White, who now is at Oxford University. Northwestern alumna and Rhodes Scholar Sarah Smierciak will join White at Oxford next year.

Up to 12 Mitchell Scholars are chosen annually to do postgraduate work in Ireland. Kirkpatrick is the fourth Mitchell Scholar from Northwestern.