Maggie Kollker, '08, Remains Community and Service Minded in Corporate America
By Lia Kizilbash Gillet

Maggie Kollker, '08, enjoys learning about new communities through her career and travel. (Photo: Maggie Kollker)

Maggie Kollker, ’08, executive director of marketing strategy for Community Development Banking at JPMorgan Chase, never thought she’d work in corporate America.

During Kollker’s youth, the experiences she held close to her heart—and were representative of her values—were with nonprofit organizations. Growing up in Downers Grove, Illinois, she participated in various projects with the Girl Scouts of USA and built houses in the Appalachia region with her church youth group. Through these experiences, she built confidence and compassion toward her community and felt fulfilled when serving others. 

“We had our financial struggles growing up, so I felt a connection to the less fortunate in that way,” she said. “I walked in their shoes.”

After Kollker graduated from NIU with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, she started her career in the nonprofit space, working for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. There, she planned fundraising events and managed many related functions. 

“I knew when I graduated NIU that I was going to start my career in the nonprofit space,” she said. “I felt like I was not going to be using my skills and passion to the fullest if I wasn’t.”

After four years, Kollker reexamined her previous notion of having to work for a nonprofit, given economic conditions and the cost of living in Chicago on a nonprofit salary. She moved to higher education and worked at Kendall College for six years, working her way up to the position of director of marketing services. In 2018, Kollker joined JPMorgan Chase, where she now enjoys sharing the stories of people who don’t have the platform to tell them themselves.

 “I was not sure if I was going to fit into the corporate world,” Kollker said. “But my experience at JPMorgan Chase could not be more opposite. Today, I am fortunate enough to still bring my passion to life because JPMorgan Chase focuses both on the people who work here and the people we serve.”

As executive director, Kollker manages the marketing strategy for Community Development Banking. Her work is to grow developer interest in investing in low-income communities across the country by building things like affordable housing, small businesses, community health centers and childcare facilities.

“I tell the stories of our amazing developer and community development financial institution clients who are making a difference every day,” said Kollker.

One video story covering the renovation and preservation of McDonogh 19, a historic desegregated New Orleans elementary school, recently won Kollker a Telly Award. Kollker says the award-winning story, told through an interview with Leona Tate, one of the first black students to attend and integrate McDonogh 19, was special. 

“I meet the most amazing people when filming in distressed communities across the U.S.,” she said. “But Leona Tate’s ability to retell her story from that day in 1960 was magical. The first time I heard it, I knew I had to immerse people in it with a 360-degree view and to win an award for bringing her Civil Rights story to life has truly been an honor.”

Kollker says it has been fascinating to learn about the history of each building and its surrounding community, whether it has been a former school, church, hospital, factory, theater, or even a hotel.

“It’s not just about building preservation,” she said. “The meaning of those four walls tells the story.”

Kollker is proud to work for JPMorgan Chase because of their “double bottom line” which extends their focus beyond financial profit. She emphasizes that the firm's efforts surpass measuring its impact on environmental, social, and governance standards or diversity, equity, and inclusion programming and describes these values as “engrained in her daily work.” 

Outside of her job responsibilities, Kollker is active in JPMorgan Chase's employee-led volunteer group and is on two charity boards in the area. She credits her mom for instilling a sense of community and a focus on giving back. 

“She taught me to be kind and to work hard,” Kollker shared. “I watched her work multiple jobs so that my siblings and I could go to the private elementary school she wished for us.” 

Maggie Kollker poses between Dennis and Stacey Barsema while a student at NIU. (Photo: Maggie Kollker)

Kollker’s hard work in school paid off when it came time for college. She received scholarships and chose NIU because of its top-ranked College of Business.

“I loved NIU! Especially my marketing classes,” she said. “I joined as many things as I could, worked hard and met as many people as possible."

Kollker met Dennis, '77, and Stacey Barsema, NIU donors who exemplify the same values her mother had cemented in her. 

“At a pivotal moment in my life, Dennis and Stacey Barsema entered with grace, love and understanding,” Kollker said. “They truly believe in the students at NIU, and boy was I lucky to have stood out. After spilling water on them at an event I was catering, no less! Meeting Dennis and Stacey has brought nothing but positive outcomes to my personal life and professional career. I was given opportunities because of my drive and stamina. I was looked at as more than just another student in the business school. They saw my passion, helped me see its depth and encouraged me to pursue it.”

Kollker participated in a microfinance and entrepreneurship course taught by Dennis Barsema. She traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico, to meet artists and small business owners as part of the course. She says she still talks about this trip over 15 years later and has artwork on her walls at home from the entrepreneurs she met.

"One of the main takeaways I have from this trip, and this course, is that everyone starts somewhere," said Kollker. "From Portugal to Peru, all the way to the streets of Chicago, I spend my money supporting diverse-owned entrepreneurs, small businesses and start ups."

With gratitude for her ability to travel and see how others live and work, Kollker visited Ireland through an NIU sales class. She completed a sales strategy course there and had the opportunity to shadow a sales professional for the day around Dublin. Kollker also traveled to Louisiana to help clean up after Hurricane Katrina. 

“Travel has humbled me, made me more generous and allowed me to grow emotionally,” Kollker shared. “In particular, places like Mexico, Guatemala, Panama, Portugal, Thailand and Croatia taught me a great deal about humankind and economies. Travel is something I look forward to, and I always have my next adventure planned! In fact, I have only one U.S. state left – Alaska. My rule is I must sleep in the state for it to count. My mom also only has Alaska left, so we are planning a trip for 2025 together.”

In addition to travel, Kollker is exceptionally grateful for the network of individuals who have stepped into her life, creating a flourishing network of friends, professionals, mentors and mentees. She keeps hobbies outside of work to help her stay balanced and to meet new people to add to her extensive network. She attends the NIU-themed White Sox and Blackhawks games each year and enjoys hanging out with fellow Huskies. 

“I love going to alumni sporting and social events and meeting other alumni from all decades,” Kollker remarked. “We all have something in common: pride. It is a feeling that only comes if you have attended NIU. Pride in where we came from and pride in where we are at today.”