Kimberly Ward’s ’10 connection to Illinois State was obvious on her first day as a full-time staffer in the College of Education’s Department of Educational Administration and Foundations (EAF).
That morning, several excited education majors stopped by her desk, incredulously asking, “You work here, now!?”
Prior to joining the College of Education, Ward served for six years as a house director for Alpha Delta Pi, a sorority on campus. The students still refer to her as their “house mom.”
Her role was to coordinate the house’s chef, maintenance/facilities personnel, and of course, support the students themselves. What’s more, she took on the task outside of her own full-time employment.
“In that role, you build great relationships with students. You’re there as an adult figure in the house, but you’re also a sounding board and a peacemaker,” Ward said. “But just as they learned from me, I also learned a lot from the experience, particularly with conflict resolution, and helping them work through their problems.”
One of the reasons she was drawn to that student affairs-like position was her own experience as a Redbird. Ward graduated from Illinois State with her bachelor’s in 2010, and even took an EAF foundations course along the way.
In March, Ward took over as EAF’s admissions manager, an integral role that helps drive positive outcomes for the department’s graduate programs.
“This opportunity feels very full circle,” she said. “Illinois State is what brought me to this community 20 years ago as a freshman. It’s also been the reason I’ve stayed.”
Her extensive work in the community also earned her outside recognition, including a 20 under 40 award in September of 2020.
Ward’s previous role was as a member of the support staff at Hammitt Junior-Senior High School, part of the Baby Fold’s community of schools, serving students ages 12-21. Hammitt is not the first stop for most of its learners. They usually enroll based on the need for more intensive services than their public school district can provide.
The school setting placed a premium on its faculty and staff’s ability to remain calm during tense moments, an interpersonal quality she also tapped as house director.
“I really appreciated my time with the Baby Fold, and the people there are amazing,” she said. “At the same time, I was ready for a larger role and a bigger challenge.”
Ward’s new charge involves serving a population of adult learners with demanding jobs and family lives outside of their EAF coursework.
Ward also works closely with EAF Department Chair Dr. Len Sutton and the department’s program coordinators.
“We hired Kimberly because of her extensive experience working in an educational setting, her diverse skill set, and her creativity,” said Sutton. “After just a couple of months, her fit within our culture and ability to pick things up quickly have made it clear that she will help make us stronger as a unit.”
Perhaps the best evidence of Ward’s creativity is her home business, Kim’s Konfections, specializing in a variety of sweet and savory treats. Ward is also a freelance event planner, an area of expertise she is excited to apply at EAF.
“I think my favorite part of event planning is the transformation. I love being able to transform space, being able to think outside the box,” she said. “I always tell people, ‘Don’t look at it as four walls; there are things we can do to make it look completely different.’”
In addition to lending her expertise to departmental events like the gala and student recruitment sessions, her interpersonal skills will be invaluable in helping graduate students keep things in perspective through their transformative leadership journeys.