Caroline Altman Smith, The Kresge Foundation

TITLE: Deputy Director, Education 

FUNDING AREAS: Higher education opportunities for low income and vulnerable students

CONTACT: cbasmith@kresge.org, 248-643-9630

IP TAKE: Smith gladly leads the charge in Kresge's revamped higher education strategy that focuses on the students rather than capacity building.

PROFILE: The Kresge Foundation's Caroline Altman Smith has a long history in philanthropic and educational work. Before embarking on this journey, Smith earned a bachelor's degree in English and American Studies from the University of Virginia and a master's in Philanthropic Studies from Indiana University. While she was a resident at the home of the Hoosiers, Smith also obtained her certificate in Non-Profit Management.

From 2003 to 2008, Smith worked as a program officer at the Indianapolis based Lumina Foundation. While at Lumina, she worked to help create higher education opportunities for low-income, minority, and first-generation students. Not only did Smith work to create these programs, she also personally helped students who took advantage of the educational opportunities offered by Lumina to complete their postsecondary degrees successfully.  

During her time at Lumina, Smith also served on the boards of Girls Incorporated of Indianapolis, the Alumni Executive Committee of the Center on Philanthropy, the nonprofit foundation The Giving Sum. 

In 2008, Smith made the short trip from Indianapolis to Detroit to accept her position as the Senior Program Officer in The Kresge Foundation's Education program. This program awards grants to higher education institutions and national nonprofit organizations that work to improve access for underserved students in their undergraduate education.

When explaining the importance of her work, Smith has stated that "A first-generation student who earns a college degree changes the trajectory of his or her family forever. Education is one of the most powerful anti-poverty tools we have and it's a privilege to help implement Kresge’s new strategy."

Just to give you an idea of the new strategy of which Smith speaks, Kresge overhauled its grantmaking across all programs, include funding outside of capacity building. With this grantmaking revamp, more grant seekers, including those who were not working on constructing new facilities or expanding their existing ones, qualified for Kresge grant dollars.

Working closely with managing director William F.L. Moses, Smith helps oversee the Education team's national grantmaking activities. She also actively seeks out national organizations that demonstrate innovative education programs working toward increasing college degree completion for traditionally underserved youth populations.

Though she's a busy lady, Smith still finds the time to work one-on-one with grant seekers throughout their entire education proposal process at Kresge, sharing with them her volumes of information about grant research and best practices.

Outside of her main grant making duties, Smith helps manage the Education team's grant portfolio and is responsible for the majority of Kresge's Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count Initiative Grants.

In her off time from her responsibilities at Kresge, Smith is an active member of the Michigan College Access Network Advisory Council, serves on the committees for Independent Sector and Grantmakers for Education, and she is an instructor at Grand Valley State University's Grantmaking School. Smith also used to chair the Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy National Board of Advisors.

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