Campus Colleagues: Kristin Palm

November 30, 2022

Inspired by how art and writing creates change and lifts communities up, UM-Dearborn's assistant director of communications explores different ways to help people share their stories.

Portrait of Kristin Palm
Portrait of Kristin Palm/ photo credit Julianne Lindsey

Meet Assistant Director of Communications Kristin Palm. She taught poetry in the Detroit Public Schools, was a regular contributor to the Metro Times and leads writing workshops in and outside the prison system. Now at UM-Dearborn, Kristin’s focused on increasing the visibility of the outstanding work of our faculty, staff and students.

Kristin is a long-time Wolverine.

“I am a proud alum of the Michigan Daily, where I served as Arts Editor — a designation that should have been revoked the night I decided I was too tired to see an up-and-coming band called Nirvana at The Blind Pig. Fortunately, I stayed at the Michigan Daily and my experience there remains one of the most formative of my life.

Flash forward a few decades to Macomb Correctional Facility, where I facilitate a weekly poetry workshop. Through this work, I got to know the UM-Dearborn folks involved in the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program and I had the honor of being a guest in their on-campus class several times in Winter 2022. Even before that class, I realized from interacting with the Inside Out faculty what a special place UM-Dearborn is — but spending more time with the students and facilitators really drove that home for me. I literally decided right there in the library’s Ford Collaboratory, as I watched the students’ brilliant final presentations, that I wanted to come work here. Then, the planets aligned, and here I am! I still love Ann Arbor, but the small, strong, supportive community here at UM-Dearborn is the absolute right fit for me.”

She’s made Detroit her home.

I grew up in Mt. Pleasant, then moved to Detroit in the early 90s after undergrad. I worked a couple editorial jobs and later taught poetry in the Detroit Public Schools. I also wrote for the Metro Times and other local — and later national — publications. I became very interested in the city’s history and the forces that caused its economic decline and began writing stories related to these topics. Eventually, I entered the graduate program in urban planning at Wayne State. After completing my Master of Urban Planning, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and I stayed there for a while, working at various nonprofits.

I returned to Mt. Pleasant in 2014 to care for my mother and was never more grateful to be from a small, caring community where people look out for one another. My mom passed away that year, and I relocated back to Detroit permanently so I could be closer to my dad. It took me a long time to write about the city again after I came home. But that is why great editors are so important. One of mine kept encouraging me and he asked all the right questions and I finally wrote this piece that describes what returning has been like for me.”

She realizes support makes all the difference.

“As the daughter of a political science professor and a special education teacher, I grew up knowing I would go to college, and my parents worked very hard to make this happen. Still, it was easier for our family than it is for many others and I never take that for granted. Nor do I take for granted how many tools I was given along the way. 

I always remember my father’s advice to me as I was leaving for Ann Arbor: “Sit in the front of the lecture hall and ask questions so the professor gets to know you.” I know many of our first-year students don’t get that kind of advice or any advice at all. I also know the lengths our faculty and staff go to to ensure these students get all the support they need. So, while I learned the value of a college education from a very young age — as well as the ways a university can anchor a community, which is really a profound thing to me — I think my parents also instilled in me that education is a right and it should be accessible to everyone. My dad died in 2018. I’m sad he doesn’t get to see me in this job. I know he would be very proud, just as it makes me proud to use my writing and storytelling skills in the service of the ‘family business’.”

Kristin joined the External Relations team in August — and already sees that Dearborn Wolverine faculty, staff and students are leaders in their fields. 

“One of my top priorities is to help garner more visibility for all the incredible work that happens on this campus. Just since I arrived in August, I’ve learned about a faculty member whose research on glaciers sheds light on the flooding in Pakistan, another who is a renowned expert on spiders, yet another who was short-listed to be a special master in the Mar-a-Lago case and still another who is an internationally known expert on gospel music. We’ve got a student who launched a top-ranked esports team and another who is leading Dearborn’s veterans outreach efforts. Our students also played a gigantic role in getting out the vote this last election, where Gen Z tipped the scales.

With the Communications team, I’m building out our media outreach plan so we can be more proactive about letting the media know when we have experts who can speak on timely news topics. We’re also working on ways to support faculty, staff and students who want to put themselves out there as thought leaders by writing and pitching op-eds. In my career, I’ve realized that one of my strengths is as a matchmaker. I love it when I can say, ‘I need to introduce you to so-and-so’ or ‘You should connect with this reporter’ or ‘You have a great story to tell. You should write it and send it here.’ So please, if you have an idea you want to develop or a timely news topic you’d like to weigh in on, let’s talk! My email is [email protected].”