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Meet the D3 Staff: Kit Frohardt-Lane

Kit came to Data Driven Detroit (D3) in 2010. Her projects have ranged from community needs assessments to analyses of vital records data with several in between. Kit has worked with survey research and large data sets for several decades and especially loves developing novel ways of summarizing and displaying data.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Indianapolis and lived there until I went away to college. I was born in Virginia but only lived there a month.

Kit Fordhardt-Lane

What is your degree in? Why did you choose that degree?
I have two undergraduate degrees, one in anthropology from Oberlin and one in psychology from Berkeley. It was at Berkeley that I developed my interests in demography and survey research. After finishing a masters degree in public health at Berkeley, I completed my Ph.D. in population planning at the University of Michigan. Why did I choose those degrees? Not for the job prospects but because that’s what I was interested in at the time I got the degrees.

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.
I spent the summer after college working in work camps with the International Voluntary Service (IVS) in Europe. We built an access road behind an orphanage in central England; worked on a major road near Belgrade, Yugoslavia; and painted the interiors of seniors’ houses in Brittany, France. Volunteering with the IVS was a great way to meet and talk with people from all over Europe.

Another surprise: When I was working at General Motors, I submitted a suggestion that GM institute a paper recycling program, and in 1991 the suggestion was adopted and the GM-wide paper recycling program was born.

What is your history with Detroit?
My history with Detroit began in the 1970s when I was living in Berkeley, California and working as an interviewer for a housing study in Detroit, Indianapolis, and the San Francisco Bay Area. That was a short introduction. I became more attuned to Detroit’s unique combination of strengths and weaknesses when I worked as an evaluator for Metropolitan Hospital in the city. After a 25 year diversion working in the automotive industry, I became re-immersed in the city. I am invigorated by the dedicated, driven community leaders and neighborhood initiatives I see.

What did you do before working at D3?
After working at Metropolitan Hospital, I was a research assistant for three years at the University of Michigan’s Center for the Education of Women. Then for nearly 25 years I worked at GM on a variety of staffs. I spent the last 11 years at GM on the Labor Relations Staff forecasting employment levels.

What do you like about working at D3? How do you think the work you are doing benefits the city/region?
Four words: People, Mission, Data, Products. People: It’s a pleasure working with such intelligent, competent, and motivated colleagues dedicated to the mission of D3. Mission: We’re driven by our mission of disseminating quality, unbiased information into the hands of people who can use it to improve the well-being of their neighborhoods. Data: D3’s treasury of in-house data sets and ability to bring in data from national, state, and local sources makes it possible to put findings into a larger context, which makes the data so much more informative. Products: Over the years, we have produced numerous products that have made a difference to the people in the region’s neighborhoods, and that is gratifying.

What are your favorite types of data?
I love to work with large data sets, particularly vital statistics and survey research data. There’s so much that can be done with data sets with thousands of records, especially if the records cover the entire population of interest, such as all births in Detroit for a given year, or are a representative sample of a population. I also enjoy the challenge of data cleaning, looking for inconsistencies in the data records. It’s like solving a puzzle.

Who or what inspired you to take the path to Detroit, data, or both?
My reason for moving to Detroit was straightforward: My husband was hired by Wayne State University. Less straightforwardly, once I retired from GM, I wanted to give back to the city. With my background and interests in demographic data and research, working with D3 was a natural fit. I’m delighted that it worked out the way it did.