Meet 2016 Forward under 40 Award recipient Laura Klunder ’06, MSW’07

UW Major: Social Work
Age: 31 | Madison
Social Justice Education Specialist at UW-Madison’s Multicultural Student Center

On January 14, 1985, Laura Klunder was recorded as K85-160 — the 160th Korean child that year to be put up for adoption. She was one year old when a couple from Wisconsin welcomed her into their home. Now Klunder has that same adoption number tattooed on her arm to serve as a constant reminder of where she came from and how important her work is.

While at UW-Madison, Klunder became involved with the university’s MultiCultural Student Coalition. In 2008, she was awarded the first annual UW-Madison Outstanding Women of Color Award for her work as a residence hall manager.

“I helped bring together 200,000 adoptees who have been denied access to their roots because of global systems of social injustice.”

As a representative for Adoptee Solidarity Korea, Klunder continued to advocate for social justice by engaging fellow adult adoptees in strengthening Korea’s social welfare system and fighting discrimination against unwed mothers.

“I helped bring together two hundred thousand adoptees who have been denied access to their roots because of global systems of social injustice,” she says.

In 2012, Adoptee Solidarity Korea succeeded in helping to secure an amendment to Korea’s adoption law.

It provides support for mothers who are considering putting their child up for adoption as well as a registration process that will enable adoptees to trace their family history.

Klunder also served as an adoptee relations coordinator for KoRoot: House of Roots. In that role, she initiated and cofacilitated the Adoptee Leadership Dialogue, a series that brought together multiple Korean adoptee-advocacy organizations and providers in an effort to start working together.

Her story and advocacy efforts with Adoptee Solidarity Korea have been featured in the New York Times Magazine and Gazillion Voices magazine, as well as on Milwaukee Public Radio.

After four years of grassroots organizing in South Korea, Klunder returned to UW-Madison in August 2015. She serves as a social justice education specialist with the Multicultural Student Center, where she is responsible for working with students to create change in campus culture so that all students have access to the best possible Wisconsin Experience.

“I’m grateful to return to Madison,” she says. “It’s a privilege to give back to the communities that inspired my leadership for social change.”

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