Kristin Love: Community Activism in Chicago and Beyond

By Michelle Lee, UCSC Communications Intern

Through college, law school, and her professional career, Kristin Greer Love has stuck with the University of Chicago.

A 2006 graduate of the College majoring in History and Law, Letters, & Society and 2009 graduate of the Law School, Love has been intimately involved with the Hyde Park community, the city, and beyond since she first stepped foot on campus.

Love threw herself into community activism as an undergraduate. She became familiar with her surroundings from biking and running through the city, volunteering with the University Community Service Center (UCSC), and even working for State Senator Obama’s campaign. She also worked to promote environmental sustainability on campus, becoming involved with Green Campus Initiative (GCI) and Sustainability Council.

Love’s most valuable undergraduate experience, however, was Summer Links—a 10-week intensive UCSC internship program for 30 UChicago students centered on public service, community building, and social change. “We got to meet so many people and so many institutions that really make the city what it is,” she said. It was an opportunity to “understand and learn about [the community] in a really rich way…engage in thoughtful, institutional self-critique, and engage meaningfully with Chicago.”

Summer Links challenges students to go beyond the classroom and interact with community members firsthand. Students not only work with a non-profit organization, but also participate in group discussions and training workshops that take place in different neighborhoods in the city. Love enjoyed the experience so much that she began working at the UCSC as a Program Assistant, coordinating tours and discussions for both community and campus members.

Love also worked as an Education Intern and then a Docent at Smart Museum. There, she was able to collaborate her interest in environmental advocacy with her interest in art and education. What she enjoyed most was simply teaching and interacting with children from the Chicago Pubic Schools system, helping to expose them to art.

Love became more active in social justice issues upon entering the Law School. She worked with the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic to represent individuals charged with federal crimes, which greatly impacted her community outlook. “It reaffirmed for me my commitment…to social concerns and the community where I lived,” she said. “[I witnessed] the grinding poverty in Chicago…and worked with people to root out social injustice.”

It was this dual passion for working with children and fighting against social injustice that led Love to her current work at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights at the University of Chicago. “[The Young Center] is the only organization that advocates for the best interests of immigrant children, their safety and wellbeing,” Love said. “The children [often] endure really awful experiences in their country of origin and on their journey to the U.S…. [They] arrive without parents, without legal status.”

As a Staff Attorney, she advocates for and works with these children firsthand, accompanying them to immigration court and critical interviews with government officials. Because these proceedings do not distinguish between adults and children, “[the children] really have no idea what’s going,” she said. She hopes for “major reforms in the immigration system,” so that it “recognizes that children are children.”

“I would love for every child…to have a child advocate to represent [the child’s] best interests,” she said, adding that while child advocates and child attorneys (who represent what the child wants) often advocate for the same thing, that’s not always the case. In such instances, the child advocate must stand up to the judge.

Love joined the Center in May of this year and recently moved to its new office in South Texas, near the Mexican border. She hopes to continue to make the immigration system more child-friendly and increase migrant and immigrant advocacy. She hopes that students at the University of Chicago will continue to “collaborate and do great things with the community” as well.

“[It’s important to] understand our neighbor’s perspective,” she said. “The University of Chicago is a very special place. I’m extremely grateful to have learned and lived with such a brilliant, curious, and kind community of scholars, students, and staff.”