Keren and Keith Clinton continue UMSL family legacy
As children, siblings Keren and Keith Clinton spent hours in the hallways and classrooms of the University of Missouri–St. Louis campus while their mother, Kimberly, went back to school to earn her bachelor’s degree in social work.
Their grandmother had wished for all her children and grandchildren to pursue college, but Kimberly didn’t have the opportunity to do so until later in life. It wasn’t always convenient juggling a family, school and running a family business, but the Clintons did what they had to in order to make things work.
As Keren and Keith spent more and more time at the university, they saw how much education meant to their mother and how transformative it could be.
“I definitely think we learned to appreciate even more the drive that she had to further her education,” Keren said. “That has taught us to really value education and the opportunities that college can provide for you.”
They also began to form relationships with faculty and staff members who encouraged their presence.
“That was one of the biggest things that she has taught us here, is how to network,” Keith said. “We made several connections just by coming along with her. We were going to class or sitting out in those hallways, but I was about eight years old, meeting college professors. They were really just telling us to keep doing what we’re doing and we’d be able to succeed as well.”
They didn’t know it at the time, but those experiences would eventually lead them back to UMSL as students.
In May, Keren graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in marketing, while Keith, who is majoring in business with an emphasis in entrepreneurial studies, just completed his first year. In doing so, the two are carrying on a family legacy that started with their mother and continued with their older siblings Devon and Kalynn.
After completing her bachelor’s in 2013, Kimberly returned to UMSL, earning a master’s in educational psychology in 2018. She’s now working toward her doctorate in educational psychology and continuing to inspire her children.
Kalynn, a lead business analyst at Cigna, was the first to follow in her footsteps. In 2016, she enrolled at the university and went on to earn a BSBA with an emphasis in supply chain management. Her successful academic career included winning several competitive scholarships and interning at Express Scripts. She’s also returned to UMSL to pursue a master’s in information systems.
“Seeing her thrive and all the things that she was involved in and all opportunities that she got from her time here, I think that was definitely a strong motivator for me,” Keren said.
It also motivated their brother Devon, a supervisor at St. Louis Lambert International Airport. He soon followed suit and is currently working toward a degree in criminology and criminal justice.
But continuing that tradition wasn’t a foregone conclusion when Keren, then Keith, began exploring college options. She considered attending New York University, while he weighed prospects to play basketball at several other schools. In the end, family and the numerous opportunities available at UMSL won.
Keren and Keith both have a natural sense for business and an entrepreneurial streak, which led them to the College of Business Administration. It’s something they learned from their father, Keith Sr., who founded KC Productions, a multimedia production company. When they weren’t tagging along to classes at UMSL, the Clinton children were often watching their father work or, in some cases, serving as his support staff on shoots.
“I think that entrepreneurial spirit kind of rubbed off on me, and I always knew that I wanted to do something creative,” Keren said. “So, when I was 15, I started KC By Design, which is a marketing company, as a subsidiary of my parents’ business. From there, it just kind of took off, and I decided to major in that to build on my own business.”
Keith was equally impacted by being involved in the business.
“Seeing that before my eyes as a younger child, that really inspired me,” he said. “I noticed that I had a lot of characteristics of an entrepreneur, and that just seemed like the only path to take for me.”
The siblings brought that industrious spirit to UMSL and have worked to make the most of their time in college. Keren first became involved on campus through a part-time job, where she found more than a paycheck.
“I worked in the Technology and Learning Center on South Campus with Michael Butler,” she said. “He was not only a boss, but he was also a mentor to me. He fostered that spirit of striving for more and understanding that my education is my responsibility, and it takes a lot more than just a degree to be successful.”
She took Butler’s advice to heart and built her resume by participating in Boeing Future Leaders in Thought and Experience – a prestigious 10-week business internship also known as the FLITE program – and serving as the Black Business Student Association marketing specialist for more than two years.
“UMSL fostered that sense of not only striving for more, but striving to have an impact on your surrounding community and your surrounding environment,” Keren said.
While Keren was finishing her time as an undergraduate, Keith was just beginning his collegiate journey. At first, he had some difficulties with time management, but with increased focus, he improved his academic performance.
“It was analyzing the situation and seeing where I was falling short, and then making the change for the next semester coming up,” he said.
Like Keren, Keith also got involved on campus. He served as the manager for the women’s basketball team, played intramural basketball and worked as a business intern with UMSL Accelerate. While interning, he learned as much as he could from Butler and Dan Lauer, UMSL Accelerate founder and former CEO.
“They were great examples of how to network and how a handshake can go a long way,” Keith said. “That was one of the main things I liked about working in the Accelerate building: I was able to meet a lot of different business people in corporate environments.”
Since graduating, Keren has been thinking about her next steps. She’s contemplating coming back to UMSL for graduate school but also considering taking a full-time position in UI or UX design or social media strategy while she works on her own ventures. Meanwhile, Keith is looking for internship opportunities as a technology sales development representative.
No matter what they go on to achieve, the Clintons know it wouldn’t be possible without the example their parents set and the UMSL community, which has become a second family.
“UMSL makes you feel as though you’re more than just a student number, and honestly, someone who is not only seeking a degree but seeking to better themselves, seeking to be more successful in life,” Keren said. “I would definitely say that UMSL values community. They promote that to students saying, ‘OK, you can find your core group of people, and there’ll be an administration and your specific college that really show up and care for you and will follow you throughout your entire educational journey.’”
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