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University Circle Inc. Leadership


Kate Borders

President, University Circle Inc.

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Kate Borders previously served as the President for the Downtown Tempe Authority (DTA) and the Downtown Tempe Foundation (DTF). The DTA is an Enhanced Services District that exists to ensure the growth of downtown Tempe while retaining the character and quality of this urban walkable district. The DTA is an integral partner with the City of Tempe and has assumed many responsibilities that were once municipal services. The district services include complete parking management within the downtown, a safety patrol in the downtown and lake districts, a clean team, and a marketing and events component that helps to create a destination. The DTF is the nonprofit arm that focuses on events, placemaking and the social service needs of our community.

Prior to moving to Tempe, Kate was the first leader of the Downtown Fresno Partnership. While in that role, Kate made connections with some of the key political leaders, developers and business owners in downtown Fresno, immersing herself into the community and pushing for the revitalization of Downtown and its Main Street - Fulton Mall. Through her leadership, the Partnership became the primary organization for connecting businesses and events to the growth of the central business district.

Before joining the Downtown Fresno Partnership, Kate spent 7 years in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as the Executive Director of East Town Association, a membership-based organization with an economic development focus. In addition, East Town Association produces large-scale events that have transformed the local economy and stimulated the residential relocation to Downtown Milwaukee. Many of the events focused on the local music scene and partnerships with music education programs were a high priority. The role also brought Kate into the city planning arena with streetscaping, public art, and wayfinding signage projects.

Prior to her Milwaukee tenure, Kate was the Executive Director of the Peoria Art Guild in Peoria, Illinois. The Guild is a community arts organization with exhibit & gallery space, an arts consignment store and community art classes. The Peoria Art Guild produces one of the country’s top 10 annual fine art fairs that regularly attracts artists from around the country. It was here that Kate first saw the power that cultural institutions can harness to create positive community engagement and have an economic impact on a downtown.

Kate’s career started as a grant officer with The Coleman Foundation in downtown Chicago. She was charged with assessing the viability of different non-profits and recommending whether or not they would receive grant funding. Gaining an insider view of the philanthropic community and being trained to review non-profit organizations from a funders’ eye was a priceless experience that continues to serve her well.

Kate hails from South Carolina. She received her BA in Music from The University of Arizona and a Master’s Degree in non-profit Arts Management from Columbia College in Downtown Chicago. With a professional fine art photographer for a mother, Kate was raised with the arts as the foundation for every meaningful venture. Kate began ballet training at age four, piano lessons at age 5, viola training in elementary school and vocal education in high school. Kate is raising her two daughters to appreciate music, the visual arts and the historic beauty of architecture so that they inherently value the culture that makes our environments more enriching.

"I always find our paths intriguing and I'm so grateful for each step that has gotten me to this point. Honestly, my Journey began with my mother's passion for the arts. She was a working artist, who had achieved her MFA in photography and she was an art professor She took me to my first performance of The Nutcracker at age four and I was captivated. My ballet lessons began immediately afterward. She gave me piano lessons as a Christmas present in 2nd grade and I eventually went to college to study music. She was constantly exposing me to cultural experiences; theaters, orchestras, musicals, poetry readings, and gallery exhibitions were commonplace. Not to mention, the myriad of art mediums that she experimented with in the home. If she wasn't in her darkroom, she was trying her hand at basket weaving or printmaking and letting me "play" with her. The artistic richness of my childhood sparked a deep appreciation for the working hands of these magical creators.

I spent summers at Brevard Music Center on the staff. I worked in the box office and for the administration creating the program notes, to cover the cost of my music studies. One day I was walking to my piano lesson and stopped to enjoy the beauty of the musical chaos. Students were practicing under trees, lessons were happening in studios, choirs were rehearsing, an opera dress rehearsal was beginning, and all the sounds were colliding like a musical frenzy. As much as I loved performing, I wanted to be a part of making this happen more than I wanted to walk into that practice room. I finished my music undergrad degree and got my master's in arts administration and shifted from performing to programming.

Programming in the arts is adjacent to community events and community events often come from place management organizations and so my career moved in that direction. I am now in a field that wasn't even known to me when I was starting out, but this work is a sweet spot for me. Every day brings a different challenge and I am drawn to the scrappy and resourceful nature of the nonprofit world. One day you might be engaging with major corporate sponsors and the next day you might literally be cleaning garbage from a park before an event. Place management has now taken me from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Fresno, California to Tempe, Arizona, and will soon bring me to University Circle.

I see University Circle as an intersection of my passions. The major institutions that are located here are centers of inspiration. The arts enrich our lives and expose us to cultures and histories that are beyond our known experiences. The educational institutions bring a thirst for knowledge that breeds innovation, and the medical facilities are advancing healthcare in ways that bring improved quality of life to our residents and visitors from around the world. This coexistence of excellence is an opportunity to build the most dynamic place imaginable. It is both humbling and invigorating to be able to lead this organization and work with this caliber of facilities."

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