Spotlight on Humanities Alumni: Kim Stromgren
Name: Kim Stromgren
Education (UR and additional): B.A. in Studio Art & Art History, University of Rochester, 2003; M.A. in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology, Naropa University
Current city/state of residence: Denver, CO
Job Title: Psychotherapist
Community activities: Pro-bono counseling at Maria Droste Counseling Center, Volunteer work for Hospice of Boulder & Broomfield Counties; Snowboarding, soccer, meditation, and yoga all for fun.
When and how did you choose your major?
I chose to double major in studio art and art history and minor in religion during my sophomore year at Rochester. Throughout my life I have been drawn to art (no pun intended), but because I was always so focused on over achieving some of my true desires were compromised, such as making art. During college I finally realized it would be more advantageous to concentrate on a subject and discipline that I was truly passionate about than graduate with skills in a field I didn’t have interest in pursuing. Art continues to fascinate me because within it are infinite ways of viewing the world, since each individual perceives the world differently and therefore expresses art with uniqueness. I also believe that art of all kinds manifests the essence of what it means to be human.
What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?
I moved to Los Angeles because I felt chilled to the bone after four years in Rochester and also because LA has a thriving contemporary art scene. For a year and a half I was the assistant director of Sandroni Rey Contemporary Art Gallery, which I directly applied skills and knowledge I gained from my studies at Rochester. I decided to pursue fine art administration because I wanted to work within the field while building my own artistic portfolio and gain some life experience before pursuing an MFA.
What do you do now and why did you choose this career?
Seven years ago my own personal path hijacked my professional path, which forced me to take a new route all together. Although I loved making art and still am passionate about viewing art, the work of the fine art industry did not stimulate me as I had anticipated it would. I began missing the original reasons I was attracted to art, which was the connection I felt to each artist’s unique perspective on the world. Probably I felt detached from myself and consequently couldn’t feel attached to art.
I moved back to Denver, CO (where I grew up) to reflect and decide what was next. This led me back to very young interests of mine relating to counseling and psychology. I realized I needed to work with people on a deep and vulnerable level, but I needed to do so in a way that was not “analytical;” subsequently, I pursued an MA in transpersonal counseling psychology at Naropa University in Boulder, CO. Naropa was founded on the Buddhist belief, that it is not possible to learn if one’s mind is all ready full. Therefore their education is rooted in contemplation and all majors are required to maintain a meditation practice and receive training in mindfulness. This program is uniquely suited for therapists because as a psychotherapist/counselor/psychologist we use ourselves as vehicles for healing and insight, so it is essential that we build personal awareness and cultivate a practice for grounding and reflection so we’re better able to present and serve our clients.
How do you balance your work and personal life?
I stopped watching television seven years ago, which gave me lots of extra time even though I am very busy. It’s essential to have tools for self-care in place (exercise, socializing) built into my schedule so I have the energy to keep working hard professionally and giving to my family. When I notice I feel overwhelmed or over-extended I know it’s time to take a look at what’s happening in my world and make some changes.
What advice do you have for current students?
Find a path of study you are passionate about and realize that the way in which you manifest it in your future may change and that’s okay. This is one step in hopefully a long journey and the more you realize that, the less stressful the need to choose a path will be. If you’re the kind of person who has always known what you want to do with your life then congratulations it will be easier for you, but it will still benefit you to stay open to how your path unfolds and accept the subtle changes that will arise.
It’s okay to change, but whatever you choose commit to it and work hard because truly the personal reward you receive will be equal to the effort you invest