Kimberlin Butler, '03 MPA

Program & Network Manager
Grantmakers for Education

Kimberlin Butler2

Kimberlin Butler is a Program & Network Manager at Grantmakers for Education. She earned her MPA from the Maxwell School in 2003, and has a BA in Mass Communication from Louisiana State University. Originally from Baton Rouge, LA, Kimberlin now lives in Portland, Oregon.

Grantmakers for Education (GFE) is a national network of over 290 foundations and corporate giving programs working to improve outcomes and opportunities in education. The largest network of education funders, GFE provides professional development, research and networking to help foundations and donors enhance the results of their grantmaking. At a moment when there is strong national momentum and investment in education, GFE is a dynamic organization that helps the field of education philanthropy achieve greater impact. It is uniquely poised as a thought-leader in education reform.

On a typical day, Kimberlin exercises strong facilitative leadership skills, which may include cultivating or curating ideas or programs that deepen funder collaboration, knowledge or networks. She's currently designing and managing one of two signature GFE programs - the Early Learning Member Briefing entitled The First Eight Years: Dramatically Improving Outcomes for Kids of Color, Poverty and ELLs occurring May 6-8 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This program will be the first allowing funders to bring along a "cohort" of community partners and/or grantees; the program is designed to solicit insights or smart strategies while hearing from national experts and learning public policy approaches impacting our most vulnerable learners. Kimberlin is also relentless in her pursuit of building GFE's funder networks and spends much of her time delivering a comprehensive workplan that facilitates grantmaker leadership opportunities, compelling webinars, and engaging programs throughout the year and during the annual conference. Also under her purview is leveraging the Education Policy Working Group to help design and inform GFE's most rigorous program, the Education Grantmakers Institute, a collaborative program with Harvard University.

Prior to her position at GFE, Kimberlin had a wealth of experience working in education, including the founding of the Young Leaders Collegiate Academy in Atlanta, GA. As she explains, "In an effort to create opportunities for thousands of underserved students in South Fulton County, I began advocating the mission, writing the vision, and developing the strategic direction of Young Leaders Collegiate Academy, a proposed college preparatory charter middle school. As Lead Founder, I built a Board of Trustees, designed a five-year, results-driven strategic and academic plan, secured over $250,000 in funding, garnered nearly 1,500 signatures and 40 key letters reflecting community support, created a diversified fundraising plan, and implemented a communications plan. With a team of finance experts, I developed a budget and financial plan to ensure fiscal health. In addition, I established our school's 501(c)(3) tax exempt status and built a relationship with a major Atlanta law firm for pro bono counsel.  My role as founder has one purpose-to build a school of uncompromised excellence that yields uncommon results in student achievement. I credit the Maxwell School for preparing me to drive our students to the highest levels of academic performance and civic leadership."

She continues to share how the Maxwell School impacted her career: "The Maxwell School taught me that leadership is an endeavor which thrives on servitude. In public affairs, to lead is to serve. Several courses challenged me to think critically about America's widening achievement gap and determine what school districts need to maintain the highest levels of accountability, ensuring all students attain an excellent education. Many of our students lack knowledge and skills needed to compete globally.  After taking both Educational and Social Policy courses, I was inspired to gain a firsthand teaching experience through Teach For America in Atlanta. I taught 6th/7th grade Social Studies and connected my students to civic leadership opportunities, inspiring each child to positively affect their local, national, and global communities. This two year commitment in an urban classroom and the education received at the Maxwell School shaped my desire to found Young Leaders Collegiate Academy. In essence, the Maxwell School played an integral role in my career as a social entrepreneur, committed to affecting systemic change in K-12 educational policy."

Public Administration and Democracy (PA & Democracy) was Kimberlin's favorite Maxwell course. As she puts it, "It was my first introduction to the Maxwell experience and taught by a dynamic professor, Rogan Kersh. The course truly allowed me to cultivate key relationships with fellow MPA peers and provided a sense of urgency to impact our nation's most complex social challenges.  It inspired me to connect history with present day public administration.  In addition the course further shaped my philosophy on K-12 education.  If education fails, democracy fails.  If education succeeds, democracy continues."

The course that gave her real-world experience to prepare her for her career was Nonprofit Organizations and Management. "Our group chose to provide consulting to the Jamesville DeWitt School System. Working alongside a district Superintendent to assess real challenges facing the district was truly invaluable. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act was fairly new and teachers were in a frenzy behind high-stakes testing and making data driven decisions for their students. Our group was challenged with creating buy-in for teachers and administrators to analyze data, a key requirement of NCLB. Our group recommended a streamlined, centralized data system to efficiently track student performance and strategies to improved teacher planning/collaboration. Not realizing at the time I would become a teacher through Teach For America and a school/system level leader, this experience informed my views of K-12 education in practice. The Superintendent was very pleased with our group project and ability to provide practical solutions in her district."

Kimberlin's advice for those considering Maxwell? "I highly recommend the Maxwell school for potential students that seek to leverage a career in Public Administration for a purpose driven life and career.  I selected the Maxwell School not only because it's the number one Public Affairs school in the country, but also because after making a visit to the campus, meeting professors, and seeing courses in action, I knew the school had the capacity to build me as a leader to affect systemic change in society. Although my passion is education, the Maxwell School addresses every social challenge in America and our communities abroad. The exposure to international students, their experiences and intellect, is matched by no other MPA program. The faculty and staff created a culture that often felt like a second family.  The professors not only teach, but genuinely care about student learning, connecting each course to real work experiences through case studies. I challenge students to be open minded, allowing the one year MPA experience to determine their academic and professional destiny. Alumni join the ranks of the world's best and brightest!"

Kimberlin can be contacted at