Crafting, researching, and helping educators make smart decisions are among this Austin, TX native's latest undertakings.
~~Q: Who are you? Introduce yourself as you would at a dinner party.
A: Hi, I'm Kat Torres. I am very much a Texas person who has secretly always wanted to live some place super green near the water. I also love to learn new things, so I have spent most of my adult life up in Ann Arbor, Boston, and now Seattle in various institutions of higher learning. I'm currently wrapping up my Ph.D at the University of Washington in Educational Leadership and Policy. My work time is split working on my dissertation, and on various projects focused on equitable parent-school-community collaboration research in partnership with the Roadmap Project, a collective impact initiative in South King County and South Seattle. When I am not doing that, I am usually enjoying a good meal and beverage, movies, cooking, reading various blogs, and doing something creative.
Q: What is your background? How does it differ from what you are doing now?
A: If you had asked me from ages 12-23 what I'd be doing, I would have told you in a heartbeat that I would be a psychologist. It definitely wouldn't have been in education, since that's what my mom has been doing as a Kindergarten teacher, then a stay-at-home mom, then a Spanish teacher. So when my first round of Ph.D applications for Clinical Psych programs didn't pan out, I stumbled upon Americorps Communities in Schools program as a worthwhile place to wait out the year until I could apply again. I didn't know at the time that it would have completely changed my whole trajectory.
Q: What are you working on right now?
A: Oh my gosh, just seriously writing and trying to keep up with my other academic/vocational/life commitments. It's pretty much crunch time until I graduate so hopefully my friends and loved ones won't hold it against me! My dissertation looks at how educators in Latino and ELL-serving schools engage and interact with data to improve student outcomes. Helping educators make smart and equitable decisioins to help their Latino and ELL students has been a passion of mine ever since I worked with three fourth-grade ELL classrooms in my hometown of Austin, TX during my time with Communities in Schools. Even though teachers work extremely hard and have the best intentions, we still struggle to improve student outcomes that are so neccessary for our rapidly changing school demographics. My work unpacks some of the issues that unfold as educators attempt to implement good ideas, such as using data for improvement, to better understand what sort of factors impact their implementation.
Q: Why did you join Impact Hub?
A: One downside of academic work is that it can be really isolating being in your head all the time. I like that Impact Hub provides folks an "office-like" environment and community so that you can take a break and chat with interesting and amazing folks. There is great productive energy there and always somewhere fun to get some delicious food and drinks. Pioneer Square really is the place to be right now!
Q: How do you make money?
A: Great question! Graduate school isn't cheap! I've been very lucky to have opportunities to work on various research projects at the University of Washington and was an Institute of Education Sciences pre-doctoral fellow for four years of my program, which allowed me to really grow as a scholar. I've had some opportunities to teach at the undergraduate and graduate levels as well.
Q: What is something that really excites you right now (a trend, life development, time of year, food, etc.)?
A: I think just seeing what all of my cohort and friends from school are doing now or are about to do as they finish their degrees. It's very inspiring! Getting a Ph.D is seriously like the most difficult marathon ever. You want to give up and quit sometimes, but then you remind yourself why you are doing it and the work inspires you to keep going. I also just got married last summer, so lots of big life changes are happening right now. It definitely feels like the next chapter is about to start!
Q: You have $10M to spend in the next year, and you can’t spend it on you, your friends or your family. How do you spend it?
A: I would love to use it as grant or seed money to help recruit and retain more students of color, especially women, into STEM fields. My father is an engineer and my volunteer experiences at the University of Michigan opened my eyes to the early struggles that girls and women have in developing their interests in the STEM fields.
Q: What’s on the horizon for you (a new project, career path, personal development)?
A: Right now I am going to make some delicious veggie-filled pasta for dinner. Then I am going to finish up a chapter draft and relax with the hubby. I have a lot of important life and career decisions to make on the horizon so I really relish these simple moments.
Q: Where do you usually hang out when you are at Impact Hub? How often are you here?"Ed"U"
A: You can usually find me on the second floor hooked up to a monitor, although I like to move around a bit when I work. As for how often, it changes quarter to quarter. I would love to be there more, but with meetings and teaching I can usually be found at the Hub on Thursdays and Fridays. Who doesn't love Member Lunch?
Q: What is something we don’t know? (Either about you, or something else)
A: Even though I spend a fair amount of time in my head for work, I really love making things. I've been crafting since I was a little girl, but had not done it very much since I started grad school. Then I went way overboard customizing and making things for my wedding and haven't stopped since. I just picked up sewing over at Drygoods Design in Pioneer Square and really enjoy taking a break to work on a project.
Q: Give us your top three Seattle gems!
A: My gems revolve around Lake Union. I love my little neighborhood of Eastlake. Serafina and Cicchetti are wonderful Italian and Mediterranean sister restaurants with amazing dishes and an impressive array of cocktails and wine. I look forward to their summer block party every year that is filled with wine, small bites and a pig roast!
Eastlake also has tons of mini parks along the water. My favorite one is off Lynn Street and is a great place to read a book and eat your lunch while watching the boats sail by.
While technically not "Eastlake", Westward is great to visit on a sunny day. It has an amazing view of all Lake Union and the skyline, and you can lounge under umbrellas or cozy up next to their firepit.
Contact Kathryn at [email protected] .