TRIO UB Director Spotlight: Caitlin Siefkes

Selected president-elect of the Minnesota TRIO Association

Caitlin Siefkes, TRIO Upward Bound director at Dakota County Technical College, has been named president elect of the Minnesota TRIO Association. Caitlin will serve three years in her role with the association, the first year as president-elect, second as president, and third as past president.

Caitlin Siefkes

A state chapter of the Educational Opportunity Association (EOA), “Minnesota TRIO (MN TRIO) is a nonprofit organization that provides professional development, advocacy, and expertise on issues affecting educational access, retention, and completion for students from low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented backgrounds as well as veterans and students with disabilities.”¹

“I’m honored to be selected as president-elect,” Caitlin said. “It’s an exciting opportunity to learn more about TRIO at state, regional, and national levels. I’m looking forward to connecting with other college-access professionals across our state and region to learn about what they do, so I can better advocate for programs that support low-income, first-generation, and other underrepresented students.”

Caitlin reported that she will officially start her term as president-elect at the transitional MN TRIO board meeting in December 2023. Prior to the start of her term, she will be attending the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) Executive Leadership Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in October.

“COE and Johns Hopkins are sponsoring this event for future and current state chapter presidents,” she said. “In November, I will be attending the 49th Annual EOA Professional Conference in Detroit followed by our regional TRIO Association board meeting.”

More about Caitlin at DCTC…

Upward Bound Summer Session 2021

Caitlin started working at DCTC in 2013 as a TRIO Upward Bound advisor. She served in that role for six years, designing and teaching college preparatory programming for low-income high school students who would go on to be the first in their families to attend college.

Her other duties as an advisor included preparing annual performance reports for the U.S. Department of Education to track student progress while they are in high school and for up to six years after they graduate from high school. She built partnerships with various Twin Cities youth-serving organizations and routinely met with Upward Bound students to discuss their goals and check in on their progress.

In 2019, Caitlin accepted the position of TRIO/Upward Bound director at DCTC. Her responsibilities in that capacity are expansive and include overseeing all aspects of two Federal TRIO/Upward Bound grants that provide college readiness services to 110 low-income, potential first-generation students at South St. Paul Secondary School, Two Rivers High School, and Burnsville High School.

Caitlin manages an annual operating budget topping $600,000 and supervises up to 15 permanent full-time and part-time seasonal employees. During her time as director, she submitted successful applications for Federal TRIO and Minnesota Office of Higher Education grants.

Caitlin earned her B.A. in Anthropology and French from the University of Minnesota Morris. She is earning her M.Ed in Youth Development Leadership at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.

Upward Bound Girls Dream Code Website Demos at DCTC

More about Caitlin…


Caitlin is originally from Coon Rapids, Minnesota. She and her husband, Jacob, have been married eight years. Caitlin and Jacob have a daughter, Sally, 4. The family has one cat, Mitts, probably around 12, they adopted from the Animal Humane Society.

In her free time, Caitlin loves being outside and around water, especially in the summer. Outdoor activities she enjoys are running, paddleboarding, and kayaking.

“At home, I enjoy cooking, especially baking,” she said. “I’ve recently started baking bread, mostly sourdough, and I’m trying to hone my homemade pizza-making skills.”

Caitlin, Jacob, Sally, and Mitts reside in Woodbury, Minnesota.

More about TRIO Upward Bound

Federal TRIO educational opportunity outreach programs support and help motivate low-income, first-generation college students as well as students with disabilities to navigate academic environments from middle school to postgraduate programs. The goal of Federal TRIO programs is to increase the percentage of low-income and first-generation college students who successfully pursue postsecondary education opportunities.

Upward Bound provides academic and personal support and guidance to help qualifying high school students get to college. First generation college students, participants have college potential, but lack awareness of the many academic and career options possible after high school. The DCTC Upward Bound program closes that gap.

Part of the family of Federal TRIO programs, Upward Bound is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. TRIO programs ensure equal educational opportunities for all students by providing skills and information needed to overcome class, social and cultural barriers to higher education.


TRIO Upward Bound gallery

One word that best describes your experience at DCTC:


Caitlin Siefkes Q & A

Caitlin Siefkes

What inspired you to choose TRIO Upward advisor as your initial career focus?

I initially applied for the TRIO Upward Bound advisor position because of my interest in youth development. I’ve always enjoyed working with young people and helping them figure out their interests and work toward their goals.

What traits do you need to be successful as a TRIO Upward Bound advisor?

You have to be passionate about the work and really want to be there with the students each day. The job can be stressful because you have to wear so many different hats on any given day, but if you care about the students and enjoy working with them, it makes the rest of the craziness manageable. We get to do so many neat things with our students. The job can be really fun.

What do you enjoy most about your role as TRIO/Upward Bound director at DCTC?

It’s allowed me to see connections between the day-to-day operations of our Upward Bound program to the larger DCTC/Inver Hills community and to the larger TRIO communities in the Twin Cities metro, state, and national levels. I enjoy developing new partnerships to offer new opportunities for our students.

Three words that describe you as an academic professional:

What are the most challenging aspects of your work as Director of TRIO Upward Bound?

There are a lot of competing priorities and constraints on any given day. I feel a strong sense of responsibility and ownership for the program because I have been here for so long. It’s important to me that we have a high-quality program that offers positive experiences to our students. At times it’s hard to step back and realize the limits of what we can actually do within the confines of our limited grant budget, time, staff turnover, and our capacity in general.

What advice would you give high school students thinking about participating in TRIO/Upward Bound?

This program has a lot to offer students. We are able to offer more individualized support for our students than they may be able to get elsewhere. Our staff are familiar with the struggles that many low-income, first-generation students face when pursuing a college degree.

I think a lot of students shy away from college when they don’t have a specific idea of what exactly they want to do, but one thing we try to help students understand is that it’s okay to not know. We can help students explore different career and major options and help them understand that they always have options and it’s okay to change your mind. Basically if you are at all interested in college, you should join Upward Bound.

What person has influenced your life the most and why?

My grandpa, James Siefkes. He instilled family values of caring about others, seeking to understand diverse perspectives, and fighting for social justice. I think being so close to my grandparents growing up probably played a big role in my going into a career in education, nonprofits, and service to others. He always reminded all of us to “keep on keepin’ on” no matter what.

James Siefkes

Where do you hope to find yourself in 20 years?

Continuing to support the needs of students in some capacity, potentially as a consultant or as a trainer for staff who work directly with students.

Caitlin Siefkes 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Running and yoga
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Greece, Spain, or Italy
  3. Most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Studying abroad in college; I went on three separate summer trips, once to Morocco and twice to Paris
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Pay off all debt 2) Set up a scholarship fund for low-income students 3) Invest
  5. Best book or movie you’ve read or seen lately: The Book of Dead Birds by Gayle Brandeis
  6. Time period (past or future) you would explore if you could time travel: I’d love to see what the world looked like before humans
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in your life: Travel
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Ostrich
  9. Dream occupation: Travel show host
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Michelle Obama
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Making the perfect pie crust
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Structural/institutional inequities
Learn more about TRIO Upward Bound at DCTC by contacting:

Caitlin Siefkes
TRIO Upward Bound Director
Dakota County Technical College

¹ SOURCE: Minnesota TRIO

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