Kat O'Brien is a cinematic arts professor, and as a respected expert in curricular design, has translated her teaching in higher ed to develop programming and courses for K-12, and post-graduate professional development as well.
Outside of her work in Hollywood, Kat is a teaching artist and community activist with a passion for building pathways to platforms for underrepresented voices, and mentoring up-and-coming content creators.
Kat has created programs and courses in writing, filmmaking, professional development and the science of education for students and professionals at the University of Southern California, Columbia College Chicago, DePaul University, The Second City, The Doha Film Institute in Qatar, The Chicago Teachers' Union Foundation, Chicago Public Schools, Los Angeles Unified School District, and the Young Storytellers Foundation.
Tapped to develop the screenwriting program at The Harold Ramis Film School (now The Second City Film School) in Chicago, Kat also teaches in the world’s only accredited MFA in Comedy program at DePaul University, in partnership with The Second City. Kat teaches screenwriting and producing at DePaul University and Columbia College respectively, and has been an educational consultant for the Doha Film Institute in Doha, Qatar.
Kat is a frequent panelist at Chicago film events, especially in support of women and underrepresented voices in comedy and how to navigate opportunities in the Hollywood-based film industry. Her guest speaker appearances include supporting the Chicago Comedy Festival, Scruggs Fest at The Second City, NYTVF, and the Austin Film Festival, as well as guest lecturing at the University of Southern California and (upcoming) Northern Michigan University. Additionally, she served on the jury for the student competition in the JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival for the past three years.
Her passion for storytelling and changemaking led Kat to create, develop, teach and direct programs for K-12 students to write essays and explore their voices through creative fiction and screenwriting for the Young Storytellers Foundation in, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and in Chicago Public Schools. After several years as a mentor, head mentor, and curriculum designer for the Young Storytellers Foundation, Kat founded and directed the L.A.C.E.S Writing Center to help address opportunity gaps for students in grades 6-12 at the school. In 2018, Kat launched the Kindergarten Voices Project at LaSalle Language Academy in CPS focused on helping kindergarten students find their storytelling voices. The success of this project has led Kat to develop additional arts and literacy programming that she hopes to help implement in the 2021-2022 school year.
In service of the many creative communities Kat supports in Chicago and around the world, Kat's ChiTown Screenwriting project seeks to connect writers, filmmakers, and changemakers at all stages of their professional career -- from up and comers to her colleagues with 20+ years in the game -- to collaborative opportunities.
SUPPORTING OUR LOCAL SCHOOL COUNCIL
In July 2020, Kat stepped up to fill an appointed spot on the LaSalle Language Academy Local School Council, was elected Secretary, and got to work right away. She helped her school achieve their goal for their 100% Digital Access campaign within the first weeks of school -- ensuring that every student could connect to a device and reliable internet to navigate remote learning. Meanwhile, Kat supported administration and fellow council members on more effective collaboration and communications strategies, including council member training.
In November 2020, she was reelected to the LSC, and currently serves as the LSC Chair.
SUPPORTING CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS
There's a great need for visionary parents to step up and lead in a number of ways to make things happen in Chicago's Public Schools. Outside of Kat's work on the LSC, she stepped up to support our citywide CPS community with CTU and Fox32/My50 to Executive Produce Season 2 of We Still Teach. Broadcasting lessons by teachers on television to bridge the digital divide, We Still Teach connected more than 50K families weekly throughout 100+ mile radius of Chicago. Through the CTU Foundation, Kat also developed and taught in a professional development training program for more robust remote learning for CPS teachers navigating remote and hybrid learning during the pandemic-school year.
After decades of experience as a grassroots community organizer and changemaker impacting policy and cultural changes at the national level as well as the state and local levels from L.A. to Chicago, Kat is eager to share ideas for how to connect our community.