Early Childhood Center executive director embodies ‘Spirit of Philanthropy’

Tobin and Rattenborg smile as Rattenborg receives her award at the Celebrate! CSU event.
Kim Tobin, vice president for University Advancement, left, presents the Spirit of Philanthropy Award to Karen Rattenborg, right.

Karen Rattenborg, a three-time alumna of CSU, shows her passion for her alma mater in many ways. As assistant professor and executive director of CSU’s Early Childhood Center since 2012, she not only supports CSU’s youngest Rams through the provision of quality early care and education, she also advocates for the ECC as a committed donor.

Now, Rattenborg is being recognized with the 2018 Spirit of Philanthropy Award for all the ways she supports CSU.  The award was presented by the Division of University Advancement at the Celebrate! CSU event on April 11.

Long-time Ram

Rattenborg’s ties to CSU and the Department of Human Development and Family Studies go back to the 80s when she was an undergraduate at CSU. She earned both her bachelor’s degree and her master’s degree in HDFS. Rattenborg started her career at CSU when she began teaching HDFS undergraduate courses in 1992, before becoming the HDFS coordinator for undergraduate advising and experiential learning.

Along the way, she earned her doctorate in education and human resource studies in CSU’s School of Education and served as an assistant professor in the school. In her 25 years of experience, she has taught more than 60 sections of undergraduate and graduate classes on topics ranging from lifespan development and child development to internship, practicum, professional skill development, and grant writing.

Child care assistance grants

Rattenborg has been passionate about writing grants to support child-care assistance at the ECC. The ECC has been awarded $870,000 from the U.S. Department of Education to help low-income student parents with the cost of child care while they are in college. The Temple Hoyne Buell Foundation has also awarded $126,000 in child care assistance for income-eligible CSU student parents. In addition, grants from the Poudre School District enable the Early Childhood Center to provide education to at-risk children through the Colorado Preschool Program.

Rattenborg has also been instrumental in telling the story of the needs of the ECC to donors who are passionate about supporting early childhood education. “Karen is an engaged alumna and outstanding ambassador for the ECC,” said Kim Winger, executive director of development for the College of Health and Human Sciences. “She practices active listening, compassion, and creative visioning and shares opportunities for partnership and growth with donors and friends.”

Philanthropic roots

Rattenborg’s work to advance the mission of CSU has firm roots in her own giving. For more than 20 years, Karen and her husband Greg have made an impact on CSU through their own philanthropy, including a major gift to support the new infant and toddler playground at the Early Childhood Center.

She has also made a special point to share the power of philanthropic giving with her team at ECC, which has led to meaningful giving from young alumni and staff. During the 2015 Love Your State Day of Giving, Rattenborg led an effort to inspire giving from 100 percent of the ECC teachers and staff by suggesting that the staff could, as a team, make individual gifts toward a common purpose. Because this effort was so well received, Karen encourages her team to make gifts every April on the Love Your State Day of Giving.

Because of her generous spirit and support of giving at CSU, Rattenborg was asked to speak at this year’s 1870 Dinner, which honors both major donors and those who have given more than $1,870 to CSU over the course of the year. She was able to share what philanthropy means to her with this special group of CSU donors.

About CSU’s Spirit of Philanthropy Award

The Spirit of Philanthropy Award recognizes a faculty or staff member within Colorado State University who has demonstrated exceptional engagement in advancement activities, advanced the mission of CSU in a way that led to an increase in philanthropic support, and engaged key constituents to help increase public understanding of the mission and programs of CSU.

About the Early Childhood Center

The ECC is a laboratory school with a three-fold mission to (a) prepare university students for careers in the field of early childhood; (b) provide opportunities for research related to children, families, and early childhood education; and (c) offer a developmentally appropriate, Reggio Emilia-inspired learning environment for young children. Each year, the ECC serves approximately 150 children (ages 6 weeks to 6 years) while simultaneously training more than 170 students from various departments across campus including Food Science and Human Nutrition; Human Development and Family Studies; Occupational Therapy; the School of Education; and the School of Theatre, Music and Dance.

The Early Childhood Center is in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies and is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

Jessica Bennett contributed to this article.