Baltimore Collegetown Network
Kirsten Brinlee, executive director of Baltimore Collegetown Network since 2018, joined the organization in 2014 as program manager and became assistant director in 2016. The network, which began as a grassroots effort in the late 1990s, offers programs that bring together students from 14 colleges and universities in the region in hopes of attracting and retaining students and promoting Baltimore as a great college town.
Brinlee calls the creation of the organization’s Collegetown Underground program in 2015 one of her proudest professional moments, and she remembers the challenging period of its launch. The Underground program, which gives 30 students the opportunity to learn how they can make a difference in the community, was starting in the wake of the killing of Freddie Gray. The first program was in west Baltimore.
“I was nervous about taking students into a neighborhood that had largely been ignored by community engagement initiatives at colleges and universities,” she said. “But the students fell more in love with the city after participating in the program. The opportunity to take students to often-unseen parts of Baltimore reminded me that when you see Baltimore up close, you love it more.”
She said the network has helped persuade students to stay and invest in Baltimore after graduation. “I know our programs like Collegetown Fellowship and Collegetown Underground have helped to change some minds about a city that can be complex and difficult to understand.
“I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish with our first four Collegetown Undergrounds, and as we prepare for our next one I am excited about the ways we will continue to connect students to Baltimore in unique ways.”
Brinlee, an Oklahoma native, has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Oklahoma and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of North Texas. Before joining the network, her first job in Baltimore was as assistant director at the Center for Social Concern at Johns Hopkins University.