Kim Baldus named Honors College associate dean

Kim Baldus, Honors College associate dean

Teaching Professor Kim Baldus will begin serving as associate dean of the Pierre Laclede Honors College in August. (Photo by August Jennewein)

When newly minted PhD Kim Baldus accepted an adjunct position at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, she thought it would be the next step in her career. She didn’t expect to find a supportive, close-knit community where she felt at home immediately.

Nearly 23 years later, UMSL’s sense of community continues to inspire Baldus as she transitions from a teaching professor to the associate dean of the Pierre Laclede Honors College beginning in August.

“UMSL students are so dedicated to wanting to learn and be part of a community together,” she said. “That’s the thing that has kept me coming back – this sense of connection with students, feeling like students want to create those connections with each other and with the faculty. The bonds are just incredible.”

Since the onset of the novel coronavirus and the transition to remote learning, Baldus’ focus has been on maintaining a sense of connection between students and faculty off campus. As associate dean, she will continue to foster connections while providing support for faculty and students as they navigate blended courses that combine the strengths of face-to-face classes and online learning.

This summer, Baldus is teaching a Gothic literature course and enjoying the combination of students who are avid readers of the genre and those who are new to the texts. When she takes on her new role, she plans to continue teaching at least one course per semester.

Kim Baldus and students

Kim Baldus is joined by students taking a summer course via Zoom. As associate dean, she will continue fostering connections between students and faculty. (Screenshot courtesy of Kim Baldus)

“It’s important for us as administrators and faculty to be able to see how students are experiencing their learning, especially as they enter as freshmen,” she said.

Baldus is dedicated to ensuring first-year honors students enjoy the best experience possible. Since 2014, she’s helped lead the college’s peer mentoring program, which connects upperclassmen with those who are new to campus through classroom presentations, one-on-one meetings and opportunities for tutoring.

She knows the importance of helping freshmen find careers that are the right fit. In her first semester at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she was a chemistry major but found she enjoyed a world literature class and soon changed her major to English. After graduation, she planned to go to law school but felt drawn back to higher education. With the support of faculty, she enrolled at Northwestern University and earned a PhD in literature.

“I see students respond to and feel like they’re transformed by what they’re doing at UMSL,” she said. “They get a sense of community by feeling like they’ve got mentors with them in the trenches, helping them figure out what to do. They get it because they feel like they have allies in the faculty and staff who work with them.”

One of Baldus’ goals is to expand academic support for students, and she hopes to implement a peer mentoring program for transfer students.

In addition to her work with peer mentors, she teaches freshman experience classes and upper-level, research-based courses. She also helps coordinate events at the Honors College to support UMSL’s Common Read program, which brings people across campus together to read and discuss the same text.

Baldus cites the Honors College’s extensive and active alumni network as a huge asset. She appreciates how willing UMSL graduates are to support the college in whatever way they can.

But for her, the biggest benefit of working at UMSL is the knowledge shared throughout the university.

“I am continually learning new things every day from my students, from faculty that work with me, from everybody around me,” Baldus said. “I love the idea of constantly evolving. I will focus on trying to be a support for our faculty overall, making sure the kind of teaching and learning that’s happening in the Honors College is supporting our goals in the university and helping grow our program.”


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