Kim Kleinman, director of undergraduate advising, is retiring after 29 years of teaching at Webster but has plans to stick around.
Kleinman has been the director of undergraduate advising, assistant director of advising, an advisor and a management professor at Webster. He has also played a part in the Gleich Honors College, helping out with events and getting honors students professional connections.
Out of all the positions he’s had, he is choosing to continue working with the college until further notice.
“I put in my signature block that I’m a ‘volunteer member of the Global Citizenship Program Committee,’ and that describes a lot of what I’m going to be doing for the university,” Kleinman said.
In 1994, Kleinman was hired at Webster University as a professor but stayed with the school because of its flexibility.
“I had a chance to change jobs and have a package. Webster has always been, on many
levels, a place where people can move with some flexibility,” Kleinman said. “Webster became this opportunity, and advising made it possible to make a difference and the faculty is really good about working with anybody who wants to help students learn.”
Throughout Kleinman’s experience teaching and advising, he has helped many students navigate through college. Junior Esha Vij points to Kleinman as her biggest support system at Webster.
“He was just someone if I was stressed out, I could go talk to, or if I didn’t know what direction to take, he could give me advice. He’s definitely more of a support system and a guiding hand than just a professor,” Vij said.
When asked about his proudest moment at Webster, Kleinman recounted a particular experience where his students wanted to continue his lessons out of class.
“At my retirement reception, one of the first students who I worked with really closely, she and another fellow continued the readings in a class for about two years. They just wanted to keep going deeper into a discussion, which was right up my alley,” Kleinman said.
According to Vij, the connections Kleinman has with his students aren’t rare. When asked if she saw an impact at Webster because of him, she talked about a time when she brought the advisor up to her classmates and got resounding approval.
“I wanted him to act in one of my student films one time, and he was totally willing to do it. And so, I brought him up, and then all my friends were like, ‘Oh my God, we love Dr. Kim,’” Vij said.
Kleinman’s willingness set him apart from other staff members at Webster, Vij says, making students all around campus go to him as their mentor.
“All my friends told me that he’s the one that they turned to rather than some of the advisors at Webster because Dr. Kim will be the most responsive, or he will be the first to do that course change rather than their own advisor, and so even outside of the Gleich Honors community, all these students know about him just because he’s the most responsive and most on top of things for them,” Vij said.
When it comes to why Kleinman chose honors students as his focus, he cites what he learns from those students as his main passion.
“I worked with an evolutionary botanist named Edgar Anderson at Missouri Botanical Garden. Anderson said, ‘For my students, with pleasure in what they learn and pride in what they taught me.’ It’s a great thing when your students learn, but we’ve got to be open as faculty. We should be open to learning from [students]. Doing that keeps me in touch with growing, keeps me in touch with new things and helps me to continue to grow because I will grow every gray hair on my head, but I don’t want to be old in the sense of defeating, cynical, bitter or closed off to things.”
After 29 years of being able to teach yet also learn from his students, Kleinman is retiring, but only in a formal sense. Kleinman will still be helping out with the Honors College. Vij was relieved to hear he wouldn’t be gone forever.
“I feel happy for him because he works really hard. I’m glad that he’s taking some time off, but I was also sad when I thought he wouldn’t be around,” Vij said.
When asked about his plans after retirement, rather than focusing on his role switch, Kleinman is most excited for focusing more on self-care.
“I want to exercise more. You know, if I’m leaving the house at like 9:30 or 10, then I can do my yoga! I won’t be in an office where there are some yummy snacks just outside my door, so I’m going to eat better,” Kleinman said. “I like playing music and want to get better.”
Kleinman officially retired Aug. 31, but he will still be on campus helping out with Gleich Honors College.
“As I’ve always said, this is a retirement with an asterisk, so don’t worry, there’s other stuff I’m going to do from this.”