Workforce expert Christensen ’73 returns as commencement speaker
A distinguished UW-Green Bay graduate who is one of the nation’s leading authorities on the American workforce will deliver the commencement address when the University marks its 43rd spring commencement at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, May 12, at the Kress Events Center.Kathleen Christensen directs the Working Longer program at the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, based in New York City. She is a summa cum laude graduate of UW-Green Bay, having received her bachelor’s degree in Urban Analysis in 1973.
The program Christensen oversees is charged with deepening the understanding of the work patterns of aging Americans; variations in employer practices by industry and sector; obstacles to continued employment of older Americans; and the economic consequences for individuals and the federal budget of an aging workforce that is working longer.
In 2011, she was named by Working Mother magazine as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Work-Life Field,” which identified her as the “foremost strategic supporter of work-life research and practices.” She is a widely quoted expert whose editorials have appeared on the Op Ed pages of the Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer and Atlanta Constitution.
Christensen has published extensively on the changing nature of work. Her books include Workplace Flexibility: Realigning 20th Century Jobs for a 21st Century Workforce (Cornell University Press, 2010); Contingent Work: American Employment Relations in Transition (Cornell University Press, 1998); Turbulence in the American Workplace (Oxford University Press, 1991); Women and Home-based Work: The Unspoken Contract (Henry Holt, 1988); and The New Era of Home-based Work: Directions and Policies (Westview Press, 1988).
Christensen earned a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. She began her professional career as a policy analyst at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., and later joined the faculty of the City University of New York as a graduate professor of psychology.
In 1994 she was recruited to join the Sloan Foundation, one of the world’s largest philanthropic, grant-making organizations. Established 75 years ago by American industrialist Alfred P. Sloan Jr., the foundation has well over $1.5 billion in assets and is known today for making grants to support original research and education related to science, technology and economic performance.
Her first assignment with Sloan was to spearhead what would become its initiative on the Workplace, Work Force and Working Families. Under her leadership, the foundation was credited with pioneering the field of work-family research and helping create a national movement to create more flexible workplaces that effectively meet the needs of employees while also supporting business productivity and strengthening the economy.
She has served on a number of national work-life advisory boards, and in 2004 was awarded the inaugural Work-Life Legacy Award by the Families and Work Institute for her role in founding the work-life field. Her academic honors include recognition with Danforth, Mellon, Rockefeller and National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships.
In 2007, Christensen returned to UW-Green Bay to receive the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award. In her acceptance speech, she described how she made the decision to transfer to UWGB as a college sophomore studying abroad in the early1970s, when she saw her new university’s environmental focus and interdisciplinary academic approach drawing widespread attention. “That mission was prescient… and I was hooked,” Christensen told her alumni audience. “I had never seen a faculty so excited to be teaching… I was very well prepared by UWGB.”