Meet the Experts: Kimberly Poole
Kimberly Poole is in her third year as associate dean of students in the Office of Advocacy and Success within the Division of Student Affairs. Prior to her time in this administrative position, Poole was a clinician for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for about a decade, serving as the coordinator of relationship and sexual violence services. Poole was assistant dean of students for a year as well.
In her current role, Poole oversees a staff whose overarching purpose is to serve Clemson students as a trusted place for care and referrals to campus and community partners. Poole manages the dean on-call system, chairs the university’s Behavioral Intervention Team and is a member of the Threat Assessment Team.
We recently caught up with Poole to discuss her Clemson-centric background (she owns three degrees), transferable skills used during her transition from counseling services to student support, and what rewards and challenges she sees in her current position.
Q: As someone who grew up in the Clemson area, was attending school here always a foregone conclusion?
Poole: Actually, I was accepted into school at the University of South Carolina as well. But Clemson provided a better scholarship opportunity. I’m a local, so it really did come down to the two rival schools. I had a cousin who had attended South Carolina, which was my primary exposure to the school. I was probably the only person in my extended family to come to Clemson for a long time, but now a few of my younger cousins have come here and graduated.
One of the neat things about me is that every graduation ceremony I’ve been a part of has been on Clemson’s campus. My graduating class at Seneca High School also went through commencement in Littlejohn Coliseum.
Q: Were you involved in Student Affairs during your time as an undergraduate?
Poole: I started reflecting on that a lot during the last few years. Honestly, I can’t say Student Affairs itself was on my initial radar. But, coincidentally, we had what were then known as desk clerks. We would manage the front desks in each of the residence halls. You handle basic things such as checking out keys, logging people in and out of the building, etc. As a sophomore and junior, I served in that role. My senior year, I was the head desk clerk. I was in the horseshoe, working in Smith and Barnett halls. I spent all four of my years living in the high rises. At the time, it was simply a job. But I had several friends who were resident assistants. I now realize I was doing Student Affairs work, to an extent.
I don’t think I always had a set direction, so to speak. I just knew that I always wanted to help. I’ve been fortunate to have great opportunities that have come my way. And they’ve built on themselves and exposed me to the next opportunity. The last several positions I’ve held were newly created positions that didn’t exist prior to the time I was hired. I knew I always wanted to be a helper. I began my career after undergrad in social services, and did that for several years. But I realized it wasn’t my ultimate purpose. I decided to do counseling, and when the opportunity came up to work with CAPS on campus, that was my first true exposure to Student Affairs and working in higher education. That’s where my passion for it came into play, and when I decided to pursue my doctorate.
Q: What types of things did you take from your career as a counselor that you find useful today?
Poole: Rapport building. Understanding student needs and their development. I was not only a counselor, but also the coordinator for relationship and sexual violence services. In that role, outreach education and training were a large part of that. I had exposure to many departments across campus, which is how I began meeting people, knowing resources and understanding the value of each role on campus. As I saw those opportunities, I knew I wanted to help and make a difference at a higher level. But my background wasn’t in Student Affairs. That’s when I decided to work toward a doctorate in educational leadership with an emphasis in higher education. The program required cognate courses related to our research interests. I was able to take some courses related to Student Affairs theory and student development during my doctoral program.
Q: What have been some of the biggest challenges and common misconceptions you see in Advocacy and Success?
Poole: One of the biggest challenges is making sure students are aware of our office, and to know that we’re here to help and support them. A common misconception is students often think we’re the counseling center. We do provide support to students in distress, but we are not the counseling center. I’m licensed as a clinician, but I do not practice. People often make assumptions because we’re under the umbrella of Dean of Students. We are not an office that excuses absences or changes grades. We do not have that authority. But we connect them to those departments who hopefully will be able to provide support.
Q: What are the most rewarding aspects of your current position?
Poole: I love the student engagement and interaction. Now that I’m in more of an administrative role, I’m grateful to be able to shape the way with which we care for our students. What are their needs? What trends are we seeing? I like creating the different ways we can best support our students. I also enjoy the different opportunities we receive working with various student organizations and through events held on campus.
Q: What types of activities do you enjoy when you’re not at work?
Poole: This past year has been a bit of a transition. I was really engaged with my niece when she was involved in competitive cheerleading. But that’s ended, so we do not have all of the practices and travel for the competition weekends anymore. I’m now more engaged with my sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., which I initially joined here at Clemson. I’m a member of the graduate chapter in Anderson. I enjoy doing volunteer work in the community. I try to make time for myself to walk, jog and get out and enjoy nature. I used to not enjoy being outside at all. And even though I still don’t enjoy insects and creatures, I enjoy good scenery, such as waterfalls and mountains. My most recent hike was for my birthday weekend. I climbed Crowders Mountain right outside of Charlotte and that was relaxing and fun.