Originally from Nevada, Dr. Kim Louie began her education at the University of Utah where she pursued a degree in philosophy before deciding she wanted to study abroad.
She went to the local international office intending to go to Japan but found a program to Venezuela where she decided to put what little Spanish she took in high school to good use. The following summer she went back to Latin America with the same study abroad program and lived in Valparaíso, Chile where she fell in love with the people and culture. Louie finished her study abroad program before returning to Utah to finish her bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Once finished, she decided to return to Valparaíso for an extended stay and had the opportunity to take part in many challenging pursuits such as skiing the Andes and rafting the Río Pucón. The Andes were certainly thrilling, Louie remembers.
“Rafting the Pucón,” she says, “was an adventure. A group of friends and I decided to take the bus down south and explore other parts of Chile, which is how we ran into a company that took us down the river. Part of an ice glacier had recently broken off and the current was much stronger than our abilities as novice rafters. At one point, I looked behind me and the river guide popped right out of the raft before it flipped, and we were being whisked down river. While scary, it is one of the most memorable experiences of my travels.”
She spent two years immersing herself in the Chilean culture before deciding it was time to come back home for good and change course by continuing her education.
“It was a very enriching experience, but when I was done, I decided I needed to go back to school and pursue something different,” she says.
Deciding on the University of Nevada-Reno, Louie began working on a second bachelor’s degree when she met a professor who altered her course yet again.
“I was at UNR working on a second bachelor's degree in Spanish to teach high school when a professor told me that if I worked hard enough, I could apply for a teaching assistantship, get teaching experience, and earn a master's degree in Spanish,” she says.
Her hard work paid off with a teaching assistantship, and she completed a master’s degree in Spanish before entering into the PhD program at Arizona State University where she now holds a doctorate in Spanish literature.
In 2012, Dr. Louie arrived in Cape Girardeau to interview for a position as an assistant professor of Spanish and liked it so much she has remained for over a decade.
Now an associate professor with Southeast’s Department of Communication Studies and Modern Languages, Dr. Louie has recently been named chair of Southeast’s Faculty Senate, a position in which she is proud to serve.
“I wanted to be the chair of Faculty Senate because I like being on the Senate, I appreciate the challenge of the position, and I am always learning more about the University,” she says. “I like having the opportunity to interact with a variety of working groups on campus and learn about their perspectives, and I feel grateful that my colleagues have given me this opportunity to represent them this year.”
Most alumni (or students) probably aren’t aware universities have a “senate” of faculty. The Faculty Senate is a governing body comprised of one representative and one alternate nominated by each department who act as a voice for faculty members to the administration. Dr. Louie considers this line of communication vitally important.
This dialogue connects the different parts of the University with the academic affairs units and what faculty are experiencing in the classroom. Louie says when dealing with the concerns of the many departments, some may be affected more than others, but she said the role is critical so each concern will be heard.
“Some agenda items affect certain departments more than others, but the goal is a shared governance in which everyone gets to bring their concerns to the table. Every department is different and often their needs from University administration are as well. I believe departments want transparency, a clear understanding of why decisions are made, and to have open communication with the administration.”
Faculty Senate provides this avenue. When issues have been heard and concerns levied, the Faculty Senate then turns to projects to address issues or improve processes. This year, current focus is on the Faculty Senate Handbook which will be updated to be easier to search and to read.
“There are always projects we are working on and many of the news ones will arise out of the needs that come to our attention as the session progresses.,” Louie says.
While her leadership role in the Senate and her students occupy a great deal of her time, outside the University, Louie enjoys her time among friends and family or rising to new heights as an aerial artist. An aerial artist is a performer who executes choreographed sequences of movements off the ground by way of trapeze or silks.
“Years ago, there was a Groupon for the studio in town,” she says, “and they listed silks and trapeze class. The first day was so hard and so funny that I just kept going and never stopped. It’s definitely challenging.”
But it wasn’t soley the challenging aspect of things that drove her to new heights and countries.
“I do enjoy a challenge, but I think in the beginning it was more about not knowing what I wanted to do when I was young. I did not see those things as a challenge, but rather as this uncertain path I wanted to walk. I liked the unknown. Aerial arose out of looking for a fun way to exercise, which I always do in new cities. I have stayed with it all these years because it is still fun and incredibly challenging,” says Louie.
Whether taking on the rapids of the Pucón, soaring above the crowd as an aerial artist, or presiding over her new role as chair of Faculty Senate, Dr. Louie’s determination to meet challenges head on makes her a perfect example of Southeast’s famous “Will to Do.”