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Meet a Member: Kara Kinas Jankowski

As vice president of the Wisconsin Alumni Association’s APIDA Affinity Group, Kara Kinas Jankowski ’07 wants all Badgers to feel welcome in the alumni community.

Kara is smiling, wearing a white blouse under a navy blue cardigan and light blue dangling stone earrings. Her shoulder-length hair is curled, and she's set against a blurred green backdrop with natural light coming in from the right.

If Kara Kinas Jankowski ’07 had had her way as a high school senior, she would have sent in a single college application: UW–Madison was the only school for her. The UW was where her grandfather, Don Kinas x’52, played football. It was home to the hospital that treated her mother for a number of health issues. And it was just far away enough from her hometown of Milwaukee for her to gain a bit of independence. Thankfully, she never needed the second safety school application that her mother made her submit, just in case.

Fifteen years and a history degree later, Jankowski is still a die-hard Badger. And as a member of the Wisconsin Alumni Association (WAA) and the vice president of the organization’s Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) affinity group, she couldn’t be in a better position to connect with other Badgers who share her pride.

How did you become involved with the APIDA affinity group?

I wanted to be more involved with alumni groups and just connect more with the Badger community. [The APIDA group] came up in an email for anyone who was interested in affinity groups. So, it was a good opportunity for me to get back in the fold of things. And it piqued my interest because I always wanted to also have a little bit more involvement within my affinity group. This hit both of those for me.

I’m adopted, so I never really felt like I was part of any group affinity. I was raised in a Caucasian home, but I looked Asian, so there was this sense of not really belonging. When I went to college, there was the group of Asians that I maybe didn’t really fit in with because they had a common culture, or language, or something that I never experienced really growing up. But I still wanted to be a part of that. My involvement with the affinity group also stems from wanting to be inclusive of anyone who might have had that same experience, being adopted, or maybe being of mixed race, or someone who just wants to be an ally.

What are your duties as vice president of the group?

Since we’re still a very small group, a lot of the chief officers share a lot of responsibilities. I’ve been actively helping with fundraising. I have a background in fundraising, so that’s been something of interest for me. And then just helping develop ideas for engagement and getting more people involved and interested in being a part of our group.

What kinds of events does the affinity group host?

We’ve hosted a few movie watches, which has been really great. We did Parasite and Everything Everywhere All at Once. We try to pick something that’s tied to our affinity group that’s really popular or something that’s controversial or something that would spark conversation. We also involve maybe a current faculty member who might be able to come in and lead a discussion about it. We’ve talked about hosting dinners or lunches or trying to get together during Homecoming or other events where some people are already involved. Our president [Kevin Wong ’15] is involved with the current student group for APIDA, so we’ve worked really closely with them. That helps us not only have, hopefully, a good pipeline of APIDA alumni to join the group, but we can also support each other with networking events and career mentorships. There’s also an affinity group celebration in the summer. This year, [the event] is August 12 at the Pyle Center. That’s a really great celebration that we’ve all been involved in.

What are some of the group’s goals?

We’d love to expand events. We’d love to reach more alumni and to get more involvement and interest in what we do and to get some more regular people coming back and to build those relationships and those friendships with everyone. We’ve got quite a few alumni … from 22 years old all the way up to 100 years old and older. We want to be able to really capture a lot of those experiences and bond us all together. One of the goals of the affinity groups is always to have a scholarship for current students. Giving back to the university is a huge goal for us, too, and making sure that we can support those who are going through the experiences right now, so that we can help them through that to become Badgers in the world.

Apart from the APIDA affinity group, why join WAA?

Badgers have such a bond. No matter where you are, or who you are, if you’re traveling around in Europe and you see a Wisconsin shirt, you’re just like, “Yeah! Go, Badgers!” Everyone’s for it. It’s just this really great culture that just brings people together, and you have this immediate bond with that other person. Being a part of WAA strengthens that, and it puts you around other people who also have that pride of coming from this great institution. It helps solidify that and helps you know that you have people wherever you go.

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