Campus Conversation: Genevieve Kirk


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Northern Illinois native GENEVIEVE KIRK moved to Champaign-Urbana in 2014 after working at nonprofits in Chicago, New Mexico and the San Francisco Bay area and a Peace Corps stint in Mauritania.

Since 2017, she's been director of the Champaign Center Partnership, the nonprofit business association serving the Downtown, Midtown and Campustown districts.

In this week's episode of "Campus Conversation," Kirk talked with staff writer Julie Wurth about the redevelopment she hopes will link the three business districts, her own career, and the "13 Thursdays" promotion encouraging people to visit Campustown in the summer for free movies on the Quad, store discounts and other events, including a pub tour on July 18.

Here's a sample:

With all the redevelopment and apartment construction, do you have any concerns about Campustown losing its charm, that sense of history, and looking like, as one of my friends says, Anywhere USA?

I think my perspective is a little bit different, given that I didn't grow up in this community. So I don't have maybe that same sense of nostalgia for what Campustown used to look like. ...

I can say looking at the districts, all three that I represent as a whole, particularly in Downtown and Midtown, keeping historical facades has been a real preservation factor that city folks and developers have really taken into great consideration.

As far as Campustown, from my vantage point as a new resident to Champaign-Urbana, I think it's striking to see such modern amenities in this smaller college town in the middle of the cornfield.

I find it really cosmopolitan. I find it very micro-urban. ... I see it as progress, change and overall development of the area that's leading to growth in population, growth in business and economic development.

Tell us about the nonprofit you worked for in Chicago, Kids in Danger.

That was actually my first job as a work-study student at the University of Chicago, where I did my undergraduate studies. It was founded by a couple of University of Chicago professors whose son was killed in a recalled portable crib in his licensed child-care facility when he was 18 months old.

It was a collapsible crib that could fold up for storage in a V-shape. It was kind of a freak accident, is what they found. But as academics they did a lot of research into the matter after the fact, and they learned that he was the eighth child to die from in that particular model of portable crib, which had been recalled from the market years earlier but obviously word hadn't gotten out about the recall.

So these professors, one who was with the graduate school for business and one was a professor of psychology, started the nonprofit to initially to just do some education about recalls. But they've been around for 20 years and they have changed legislation to mandate safety testing on durable children's products prior to going on the market....

Working for this organization, I have to say, opened my eyes to the role that nonprofit organizations can play in terms of just being mission-driven and being able to mobilize resources, even after a significant loss like this, into something that can become a positive change for good.


Julie Wurth is a reporter covering the University of Illinois at The News-Gazette. Her email is, and you can follow her on Twitter (@jawurth).