A deep fascination with different cultures and human behavior led Kay Klo, 27, towards anthropology during her undergraduate studies. As executive director of the Midtown Utica Community Center (MUCC), Klo works closely with Executive Board Member Dr. Kathryn Stam, who is a Professor of Anthropology at SUNY Poly and serves as the coordinator of their Information Design and Technology (IDT) master’s program.
The two connected about the IDT program, which offers an interdisciplinary examination of the role of new and emerging media within contemporary culture and communication while allowing students to develop a specific area of research to suit their unique academic and professional goals. This piqued Klo’s interest, and her participation in the program has resulted in new skills that complement her anthropological background.
“IDT offers a more holistic look at technology design and new media,” said Klo. “In anthropology, you really learn about intersectionality and understanding how you can look at things from a different lens. I had a social science background, but not a lot of experience when it came to studying technology and computers, so it’s been really helpful being in the IDT program. It’s given me that different perspective, learning about user experience and how we can engage with information online in a way that’s intentional to whatever initiatives we want to accomplish.”
With an interest in different cultures, Klo is in the right place, as the Utica area has a storied history welcoming immigrants and refugees for over a century. Klo and her family have lived that story, relocating to the city in 2004 due to the ongoing civil war in Myanmar. After receiving a B.A. in anthropology from Mount Holyoke College, Kay spent one year in Thailand as a Fulbright Scholar, where she taught English and learned Thai.
In 2021, she took on the role of executive director at MUCC, which strives to create a multicultural, refugee-friendly space that fosters safety, health, and educational opportunities for all. This is especially important given that the government support refugees receive is short-lived. In her role leading MUCC, Klo works closely with the board of directors and oversees the organization’s finances, maintenance of their Utica headquarters, their many dedicated volunteers, and programming. She also leads fundraising endeavors.
Klo’s tireless efforts assisting the Mohawk Valley refugee community have not gone unnoticed, as she and Dr. Stam were recognized as “Women of Distinction” by the New York State Assembly in 2022. Her future plans include continuing to make MUCC, which is always looking for volunteers, an organization that can be sustainable long-term. Klo also hopes to eventually further her education in anthropology and international foundations.
As she’s set to finish up in the IDT program this month, Klo is already putting the skills she’s gained to good use. This includes evaluating how MUCC could improve their website, making it more engaging to the community and responsive to their needs. IDT has also helped Klo with fundraising initiatives, more specifically, how to make information more engaging for a campaign’s targeted audience.
“IDT has made me rethink how to use technology in a way that helps make our jobs [at MUCC] easier,” she said, “and just makes the lives of those in our community better by improving the accessibility of information.”
To learn more about SUNY Poly’s IDT program, click here.