Kauffman School Founder and CEO Will Receive UMKC Bill French Alumni Service Award
Hannah Lofthus’ (B.A. ’07) service to the University of Missouri-Kansas City began while she was an undergraduate student and member of the UMKC Honors College; she co-founded the College’s service-learning program and established a partnership with a local charter school to provide opportunities for Honors students to serve the community. Lofthus said it was through that partnership that she began working at a local school and fell in love with the children she was serving. That partnership still exists today at the Ewing Marion Kauffman School, founded by Lofthus in 2010, where 180 UMKC students have volunteered since the school’s inception.
In 2017, Kauffman School was named a “School to Learn From” by Teach For America. Lofthus was inducted into the Mid-America Education Hall of Fame in 2015 and received the Accelerate Institute’s Ryan Award for transformational school leadership in 2016.
Lofthus continues her involvement with UMKC as a frequent speaker to students and prospective students on campus. She recently sat down to share what fuels her passion for service and education.
Your undergraduate degree at UMKC was in philosophy and political science. When did you realize you wanted to work in education?
You could say I was destined to be an educator—my parents were both teachers and school counselors, and my father was also a school principal. My parents always believed that an education could change a child’s life. Growing up, I watched firsthand how they dedicated their lives to serving others in their community and working to empower kids with an excellent education. That certainly shapes how I view service and commitment to my community.
How did developing the Honors College program and partnerships at UMKC help prepare you for your role as founding principal at the Ewing Marion Kauffman School?
Being one of the founders of the Honors College program opened my mind to what it was like to be an entrepreneur and build something. Designing something from a blank sheet of paper is incredibly challenging but also rewarding, and after doing that with the Honors College it sparked my desire to have that type of influence and impact in other ways.
What makes your school so successful? Is it a model that can be replicated, in KC and elsewhere around the country?
We’ve intentionally built the Kauffman School so that others can replicate what we do! All parts of our model and structure have been shaped in many ways by learnings that we’ve had from studying other models. We’ve shared our learnings across the community and country because we believe that we can share our lessons learned so that as many students as possible can benefit from our work. Our school is successful because of the combined effort of our dedicated students, families and staff who work together on a daily basis to understand where our students are, what they need to be successful and work tirelessly to get them what they need to achieve.
What advice do you have for those who’d like to follow in your footsteps?
Find out what problem in the world you are passionate about solving and pursue solving that problem with everything you have — all of your energy, passion and resources. I give that advice to my students. The world deserves and needs each one of us to dedicate ourselves to solving problems we’re passionate about so we can leave the world better than how we found it for those who will come after us. When people see your passion and that you have a strong plan, so many of them are willing to believe in you, mentor you, and take a chance on you.