Kat Rohn

Composing music and being a social advocate are more similar than you might think. You’re generating a movement, in both senses of the word, that you hope will attract and inspire people, and maybe change the world.

MPS in Civic Engagement (CIVE) student Kat Rohn, who studied music composition as an undergraduate, personifies this idea. “Putting together all of these different pieces to make something that's resonant as a whole is not all too different from what it looks like to engage people in civic life.”

Kat continues, “They're just different frames. We're trying to organize something into meaning and create engagement around it.”

Walking the Walk

Kat Rohn stands against a white brick wall with a red trimmed window. They wear a gray dress and a red cardigan.

Kat was doing fundraising work for the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences when they applied to the Civic Engagement program. They were hoping to eventually step into a leadership role in a nonprofit space and thought that the CIVE master’s would be the perfect pathway.

“It's not unfamiliar territory for me to be engaged in social life,” Kat says. “But as a member of the LGBTQ community and the heightened political landscape around this really pushed me into thinking about what my engagement looks like.“

A month after being accepted into the program, Kat got a new job as executive director of OutFront Minnesota, the state’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy organization. “I jumped into the job that I was hoping to set myself up for. But now I get the experience of going through both together.”

OutFront’s impact is present all across the State. At 36 years old, it has a long, successful history of legislation and policy work, organizing, education, training, and community support.

“For me, so much of this is about engagement in the community sense but also the policy sense,” Kat says. “This is really about trying to move towards building a more equitable, inclusive, welcoming State and doing it through all the potential frames of civic engagement.”

Kat also believes that activism and advocacy is about creating significant improvements on small and large scales, in geographical communities as well as communities connected by issues or identities.

“It's about thinking deeply about how change happens in communities and what leads to the most meaningful changes. When you do that and invest in that longer term, community based culture change, that's where we start to transform these structures for the better.”

Two Benefits of Formally Studying Civic Engagement

1. Exploration of different techniques and skills 

“Whether you're a professional in an organization or you're an engaged citizen, there's a lot of value in looking at this to better understand how people engage and what tools you can bring. There are so many different approaches to making social change and civic engagement happen, so having that space to explore and reflect on them is really valuable.”

2. Exposure to other disciplines and networks

“It's such a varied field. I've been able to bump up against people who are doing very different civic engagement work and have been exposed to leaders that have helped me to better understand both my place in this, but also how that work interrelates and overlaps. I think there's a lot of value because it's an interdisciplinary program. It doesn't just pull from one area. You get exposure to a lot of different concepts and classmates.” 

Memorable Courses 

Facilitating Community-Driven Leadership (CIVE 6311) 
“There were a bunch of times where I could draw direct connections between the reading and my job or things that we were experiencing in the workplace. It was just good to know that this is super relevant to the work that's happening and connect it to leadership challenges.”

Leading Projects and Teams (CIVE/ASCL 6314) 
“I used pieces of that course when I was putting together a strategic plan. It's also a great network of folks who have similar adjacent roles, even if their work is very different. There are a lot of connections I've been able to make.”

Critical Approaches to Civic Engagement (CIVE 6001)
“There's a lot of interesting readings and conceptual frames that are really helpful to reflect on. I think sometimes when you're doing civic engagement work, you're so focused on the task that you don't always have that space to step back and say, how does this fit into the bigger picture?”


Kat is a recipient of a Nolte Miller and an Ingrid Lenz Harrison scholarship.


Mia Boos is a writer and content strategist with the College of Continuing and Professional Studies, covering the College’s graduate programs and undergraduate individualized degree programs. She joined the CCAPS Marketing team in 2014 and has worked for Thomson Reuters and New York University. Connect with her via LinkedIn