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  • Lily Warden

Interview with Dr. Kimberly Baldus

By: Lily Warden

Every year, the UMSL Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion hosts the Women Trailblazer Award Ceremony, which recognizes UMSL women who have contributed significantly to the University or the St. Louis Community. Dr. Kimberly Baldus, the associate dean of the Honors College, is one of the recipients this year. The Current sat down with Baldus to discuss her work within the Honors College and her experience with winning the 2024 Women Trailblazers Award. 

Kimberly Baldus by UMSL Pierre Laclede Honors College

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself? 


A: I have been part of the Honors College for about as long as I can remember. Since 1997, actually, when I started as a part-time faculty member. I've been here for a lot of fun changes in the Honors College, and I have gotten to see some of the neat new stuff that we've gotten to do over the years. I moved back to Saint Louis after finishing my degree in Chicago. I had my kids here, who are now in college and just graduated from law school. 

Q: Could you talk about your work with the Honors College? 


A: Sure! It’s changed over the years. I started as a part-time faculty member teaching writing courses. My background is in English literature and composition. I taught freshman courses, freshman composition and junior-level writing courses for several years before I started as a full-time teacher for the Honors College. Then, I taught a variety of English courses as well as composition courses. I did that for many years until 2013 when I started working more specifically with our first-year experience class, cultural traditions. I helped lead the faculty team that was teaching that course and we started developing some different programs. We developed the mentor program, and we developed a living and learning community. In 2020, I started as the associate dean for the Honors College. 

Q: Could you tell us about the 2024 Women Trailblazer Award? 


A: Trailblazers, generally, can refer to women who have done things to help transform the campus and experiences of people around Saint Louis. It has a different theme each year. This year, the theme was advocating for others or advocating for all. It really touched me that this theme was the one my colleagues in the Honors College nominated me for. That theme meant a lot to me. 

Q: What was your initial reaction upon receiving the 2024 Women Trailblazer Award? 


A: I'm very much a Midwestern person who feels like it's a little hard to step forward and receive that kind of recognition. It was very heartwarming, just because I heard from lots of colleagues, lots of students and others just congratulating me. They reminded me of the impact on others that I think all of us are here for in Honors. We get to know people, get to see how their lives are changing and where their lives are going too. This award for advocacy meant a lot to me. 

Q: What are some things you’ve done with the Honors College that you believe lead to you this award? 


A: I think in my own sense of how important advocacy is, it's certainly been something that's been part of the classroom experience for me. One of the things I love about being in honors is we are helping students discover new ways to keep improving and keep growing and learning new things. I saw my role as a teacher advocating to help make sure students were getting the most out of their educational experiences, and I felt like that kind of transitioned naturally into other areas where that kind of advocacy is important too.  

Our peer mentor program is at the heart of that. That’s something that I feel like has been a real gift within the Honors College. Students get to advocate for one another, and we can put students in positions of leadership. They're helping us to design programs and to connect with students in ways that we think are going to help them move forward and continue to do great things in the world. I think that program, especially, allows me to look back and feel proud. And just in general, I feel like there are lots of ways all of us in Honors really try to advocate not only for students but for one another. We are a close family in honors.  We really try to make sure we're all looking out for one another and supporting each other through all the important things we're doing.  

Q: Is there anyone you want to recognize after receiving this award? 


A: I want to recognize one person who is not here, Nancy Gleason. She was an associate dean for a long time in the Honors College and we're all thinking about her because we lost her last year. She's the person who hired me and was one of my initial mentors. She was certainly somebody I thought about. She won the Trailblazer Award herself, and when I sat down for the Trailblazer ceremony last week, a quote from her was on the screen. It was really a full-circle moment. 

At the awards ceremony, I called out the Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Birgit Noll. She used to work here in honors, and I continue to partner with her on lots of things between honors and the College of Arts and Sciences. She is an incredible faculty member and was a mentor to me as well. I also wanted to acknowledge Keeta Holmes. She is the head of UMSL’s Center for Teaching and Learning. I've worked a lot with her. These women have shown me lots of things that I have shamelessly stolen from them. I really tried to incorporate their influences into my own way of trying to be there for others. 

Q: What does this award mean to you? 


A: It was a rare moment to sit back and reflect on all the things we have accomplished in the Honors College. If I think about things like the Peer Mentor Program, we have a program that's not like any other on campus that works with first-year students in a different way. I'm working with the current group of peer mentors 10 years into the program, and it's exciting to see what we have accomplished as a program has taken shape. All that means being able to take a step back and feel like there have been these big, wonderful new changes in the programs that I got to be part of.  

Q: After receiving this award, what’s next for you? 


A: Currently, I’m continuing to develop programs for our transfer students like what we do for our freshmen. That's on my wish list of things that I really want to develop. We've learned over the years, events are things students tend not to seek out unless we require them. But once they've been required to go, they realize what they’re really taking away from it and they're so glad that they've done it. I would really love to expand the ways that we can serve all our students by building community. We think that’s so important. 


Baldus is recognized for her efforts within the Honors College with this year’s Women Trailblazer Award. Her work with the mentor program and her continued efforts to build new programs for students demonstrate outstanding leadership and her dedication to advocating for all. 


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