Kate Quillin of Manitou Springs graduated from Colorado State University with her B.A. in social work and sociology in 2009. In the years since, she has traveled across the world as part of the Peace Corps to advocate for people facing discrimination and abuse. To learn more about Quillin and her current position, read her interview below.
Describe your current position and some of the responsibilities that come with it.
I currently oversee the enforcement team at Denver Metro Fair Housing Center (DMFHC) as the enforcement program coordinator. DMFHC’s mission is to eliminate housing discrimination through comprehensive education, advocacy, and enforcement of the Fair Housing Act. As the head of enforcement, I oversee all investigations regarding potential housing discrimination based on the eleven federal and state protected classes. The protected classes covered in Colorado are race, religion, national origin, color, disability, sex/gender, familial status, creed, ancestry, sexual orientation, and marital status.
When discrimination does occur regarding one or more of the eleven protected classes, I file an alternative to a lawsuit, called an Administrative Complaint, with either Housing of Urban Development or Colorado Civil Rights Division. As part of this, I act as the advocate for the victim throughout the process to ensure that the housing provider is well educated in the law and will no longer discriminate. In other instances, I seek out legal counsel and work with attorneys to take cases of discrimination to federal court with the same goals in mind. We aim to ensure that the defendant is properly trained in Fair Housing Law, agrees to no longer discriminate, and works to provide restitution to the victims of discrimination.
What led you to your current field?
Passion, timing, and networking led me to my field. As a child in school, I remember learning about the great social justice work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and dreaming of working towards racial equality, just as he did. Once at CSU, I majored in social work and sociology, and after I graduated, I first served in the Peace Corps for two years, advocating for children’s rights in the Philippines.
After the Peace Corps, I worked for two years at Court Appointed Special Advocates where I supervised CASA volunteers who were assigned to court cases involving child abuse and neglect. I loved working with children, but what spoke to me more was giving a voice to the voiceless through advocacy work. As I completed my second year at CASA, my former supervisor, who had left CASA, contacted me and informed me that her new employer, DMFHC, was hiring a fair housing specialist.
Once hired at DMFHC, I spent my first two years proving that I was successful in my position and capable of management skills. I was later offered a promotion to my current position to oversee the enforcement team. Now, I have the privilege of working to promote fair housing and social justice based on the great piece of legislation that was passed in Dr. King’s honor a week after his assassination, the Federal Fair Housing Act.
How have your education and experiences at CSU helped you in your career?
My combination of social work and in sociology provided me with a well-balanced education. Studying sociology has given me the foundational knowledge of civil rights, race and ethnic inequalities, and social justice that I use on a regular basis at DMFHC. My social work degree has equipped me with the skills to empower and build healthy rapports with clients. It has also helped me coach the employees I supervise on how to manage clients in that same manner.
What career tips/advice would you lend to students who aspire to similar career goals?
I can’t emphasize building relationships enough. If I had not maintained a strong relationship with my former supervisor, I would not be where I am today. When I was job hunting, I sent out countless applications with little to no responses. I would suggest if you want to work within a community or in a particular industry, do whatever you can to get know professionals in that area and look for opportunities to volunteer and engage with them. It will show how invested you really are and give potential employers a chance to see your skill set in more depth than a resume.
Internships, networking, and volunteer opportunities are all great ways to show potential employers that you are dedicated to their organization’s mission and willing to step up to the plate.
The School of Social Work is part of Colorado State University’s College of Health and Human Sciences.