2023 Alumni Awards Profiles

Kristin Layng Szakos ’81Kristin Layng Szakos ’81

Reunion: 40th
Residence: Charlottesville, Virginia
Grinnell major: Religious studies
Other degrees: Master of Science in journalism from Northwestern University (1983)
Profession: Journalist, editor, grant writer, and public service

3 ways Kristin embodies Grinnell College’s mission of lifetime learning and service

  1. Kristin was elected to two terms on the Charlottesville City Council. She took a leading role in making sure that Charlottesville’s Confederate statues were removed. This provided an inflection point for many other communities to reflect on the meaning and implications of statues and monuments.
  2. For 12 years, Kristin was the editor of the Appalachian Reader, a journal about citizen organizing in the 10-state Appalachian region. She and her husband Joe wrote a guide for community organizers, We Make Change.
  3. Kristin helped lead the counterprotests and the community work that followed the “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville and has continued to speak out to keep the threats posed by white supremacy in the public eye. She also helped to organize a statewide effort in 2020 to change Virginia law to allow all communities to remove Confederate monuments.

Something you probably didn’t know about Kristin

She has lived in Hungary and France and traveled Europe by campervan for six months in 2018.

Kristin Layng Szakos ’81 poses with family and their dogs.

Bonus Kristin Fun Facts

  • Kristin is a freelance writer and editor; a factchecker and copyeditor of financial reports with Spain Consulting; and a volunteer grants consultant and writer for local nonprofits.
  • She has served on numerous public boards, including the Charlottesville Alliance for Black Male Achievement, City of Promise, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization, Virginia First Cities, and the National League of City’s Youth, Education and Families Council and Race, Equity and Leadership Council.
  • Kristin was the guest of After the Movements: After the Real Talk about Race podcast episode co-hosted by Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist Michael Paul Williams and Kelli Lemon, and The New York Times podcast, The Daily.

A quote about Kristin

“I have known Kris since we were both in high school attending the same church. Kris was then, and is now, both a deeply compassionate person and a fierce advocate for justice and equity. I was surprised that she decided to run for public office but not at all surprised at her willingness to tackle the issue of Confederate monument removal in Charlottesville. … I was struck not just by her persistence in pursuing what was right, but by her equanimity and courage in the face of threats, and her deep empathy for her constituents on both sides of the issue.”

— Annie LaCourt, co-founder of Visual Government

Read more 2023 Alumni Award Recipient profiles.