By Tina Lu
Kim Case, Esq. serves as Executive Director of the Research & Development Council of New Jersey. As Executive Director, Kim assists in setting the Council’s agenda, advises its leadership on issues related to the Council’s mission of advancing R&D in the state, and runs the day-to-day operations of the organization. Prior to her work with the Council, Kim served as a middle-school social studies teacher in the South Bronx as part of the national movement, Teach for America (TFA), and received her Masters in Teaching from Pace University. Subsequent to teaching, Kim attended Rutgers School of Law-Newark and upon graduating, was a litigation associate. Kim received her B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers College. While at Rutgers College, Kim served as the Student Representative to the Board of Governors and Undergraduate Student Representative to the Board of Trustees. Kim was a fellow in TFA’s Emerging Political Leaders Fellowship Program. Kim was a New Leaders Council Fellow and Chair of the Board of the Women’s Fund of New Jersey.
Q: Why did you become involved in the Teach For America movement?
A: I have always been passionate about helping out in situations of unfairness. When I began my college studies, I realized very quickly that not all students were starting with the same skills and knowledge base. I in particular learned that my high school studies were not as rigorous as that of my counterparts. When I learned about Teach for America and its mission, I knew I wanted to join so that students similar to me would not face the same disadvantage I faced.
Q: What inspired you to become involved in the Research and Development Council of New Jersey?
A: I was working as a litigator and feeling like I needed to be a part of something bigger-I wanted to help build something. A mentor of mine mentioned to me that the Research & Development Council of New Jersey was looking to hire an Executive Director, and it sounded like an interesting position. I was definitely interested in being part of a Board of Directors and also interested in supporting students in STEM. I knew that an organization like this could have a huge impact on policy in New Jersey because of the large STEM economy here in this state-that seemed exciting to me.
Q: How do you apply your political science and law degree in your job as Executive Director?
A: I regularly deal with policy issues related to research and development, STEM in general, and STEM education in particular. Policy needs to have legislative and executive support, so my political science training definitely comes in handy here. In terms of my law degree, the Research & Development Council of New Jersey is a non-profit, and we have laws and regulations we have to abide by to be in good standing, so a legal eye definitely comes in use. Also, law impacts policy, so I have to keep a watchful eye on court decisions related to policies and identify how my organization can protect policies that support its members.
Q: What challenges did you face in your educational or career experience? How did you overcome these challenges? Please highlight any gender-specific challenges you have encountered.
A: I have faced many challenges as a first generation college student. When I first started college, I thought many of my peers would be in a similar situation as I was, but that wasn’t the case, particularly in law school. Not only was I fully funding my own education, but I also didn’t have anyone in my family to ask for college-related advice from, which was daunting.
Gender-specific challenges have come into play more often than I would have thought when I started my career. I have been taken aback by some comments. For example, when I asked how I could my resume more competitive, one lawyer who interviewed me for a summer associate position told me I could be a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader (I later found out another female attorney at the firm had this on her resume). I have also been asked by male employers how many children I was going to have, I have been told to talk over job offers with my husband, I have been told not to take job offers because of my kids (both from men and women). And unfortuantely, I don’t think these comments will ever completely subside.
Q: Do you have any advice for female leaders? (i.e. what should a female leader do if she is having trouble commanding authority from her male counterparts / constituents?)
A: My advice is: don’t think anyone is out there for you – you have to be out there for you. Be your best advocate and make sure people know what your contributions are. Don’t underestimate yourself. Know your self-worth. Get a sponsor – someone who is not only a mentor but someone who can help you climb the ladder of success.
Thank you, Kim Case, for allowing Project GirlSpire to interview you! We respect your story, and we surely learned a lot 🙂