Author: Juliet Suess
Katherine “Kai” Allen ’10, a Fulbright Scholarship winner, suddenly died on Saturday, Aug. 18 while doing graduate research in Argentina. Allen was an esteemed member of the Occidental Community, graduating with College Honors and partaking in many on-campus activities.
Born on April 1, 1988, Allen grew up in New York. At Occidental, she became involved with various organizations on campus, including Feast Arts & Literary Magazine, Ditz Magazine and the Occidental Weekly. She also worked with the Center for Academic Excellence (CAE).
Laura Serafini was Allen’s boss when Allen worked as a Student Assistant at the Circulation Desk. “In the initial interview she impressed me as someone open, honest, and confident. As I got to know her, I loved her willingness to be human and share herself. Giving was her strength,” Serafini said.
Allen worked with Professor Julie Prebel while she was a Writing Adviser at the CAE. “Kai enriched our program in the CAE in a myriad of ways, by challenging us to consider our methods and assumptions, by approaching each interaction with her peers with an openness that inspired us all, and by being an unwavering, supportive colleague,” Prebel wrote in a remembrance of Allen.
Allen majored in Critical Theory and Social Justice (CTSJ) and received the departmental award for her senior comprehensive project paper entitled “So I Heard: The Singularization of Plural Identity as the Focal Point for Concentric ‘Rapes’ in Chiloe, Chile.” The award stipulates that she best integrated critical theory and social justice. She was one of the creators of the Critical Theory and Social Justice Journal of Undergraduate Research, and the next edition will be dedicated to her memory and work.
After graduating, she spent a year in Valparaíso, Chile working with the School for International Training (SIT) program with which she studied abroad. This SIT program has dedicated this fall semester and the student library to Allen. In addition to her work with SIT, she also taught English to individuals and worked to advance the rights of women and underprivileged groups.
In Argentina, she was using her Fulbright Award to attend the Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Argentina to get her masters in psychoanalysis while simultaneously conducting research on LBTQ organizations in Rosario.
In her spare time, Allen was an avid poet, who authored two volumes of poetry; the first while she was still in high school. Her poetry collection is entitled The Places of Names. She also published in magazines and newspapers. In the spring of 2008, the library sponsored three speaker events: Artist books, mystery books, and poetry. “I invited Kai to be the poetry speaker and her response was ‘this a dream come true,” Serafini said.
Yet, her adviser, Professor Jeff Tobin says there was so much more to Allen than her achievements. “In the wake of her death, what struck me most was the tremendous impact she made on people in such a short time,” he said. Before her death, Tobin took a trip to Argentina where he met with Allen, who only lived there for five months.
“I was repeatedly impressed by the great number of people in Rosario who got to know and care deeply about Kai […] They were all eager to celebrate Kai’s life with Kai’s family. Over the month
following Kai’s death, it became clear to me that ‘La Kai,’ as she is
known in Valparaíso, was an inspiring member of LGBT, feminist, and
poetry communities there, as she was at Oxy.“
Memorial services were held this previous weekend in New York.
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