Money & Career
First Person with Dr. Kim Hunter Reed
8/6/2018 11:22:03 AM
First Person


Two months ago, Lake Charles native Dr. Kim Hunter Reed took the role of Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education. She has a three-year contract during which time she has big plans to improve conditions for Louisiana’s post-secondary schools and the students who attend them. The path that brought Dr. Reed to this position has been a winding road of meaningful public service in government and higher education. She worked as press secretary for Governor Edwin Edwards, state policy director for Governor Kathleen Blanco, and chaired Governor-elect John Bel Edwards’ higher education transition team before moving to D.C. to serve as Deputy Under Secretary in the Obama administration at the U.S. Department of Education. From there, she moved to Denver to lead higher education for the state of Colorado before returning to Louisiana this summer. "I think having the opportunity to work on a college campus, and at the state and federal levels in higher education sharpened my understanding of the needs of our students and the challenges and opportunities they face,” says Dr. Reed. "With both my parents, Brenda and Lawrence Hunter, serving as larger-than-life educators in Lake Charles, it’s no surprise that I came back to ‘the family business.’ Education is what we do and what we love.”

Tell us about growing up in Lake Charles. 
I had an amazing childhood because of my wonderful parents, great schools, and a special community. I felt loved and supported in Lake Charles. I have fond memories of my teachers at St. Margaret’s and St. Louis, my dance recitals with Ms. Shepherd, and running track with my dad coaching and cheering us on. I’m also grateful for the amazing community leaders who believed in me and supported my growth. It felt like everyone was family.  

Where did you attend college, what was your major, and what were your goals at the time?  
I did my undergraduate and Master’s work at LSU and earned my Ph.D. from Southern University. I started out as a broadcast journalism major largely influenced by Mr. Methvin, my high school honors English teacher, who thought that would be a great fit for me. He was right. I loved journalism, which eventually brought me back home to anchor the news at KPLC (1989 - 1991). From there, I expanded my interests and educational pursuits into public policy which allowed me to work at the state and federal levels in education.  

What does your new job entail and what are your goals for Louisiana higher education? 
The Commissioner of Higher Education is the lead policy and advocacy champion for increased talent development in this state. We know that in this global, knowledge economy we need more residents with greater levels of education and training. Our job at the Board of Regents is to set a vision for the work and an action plan to help more people succeed. We must ensure that higher education is affordable, attainable, and equitable in this state. We have lots of work to do, but I believe in our students and the committed educators and faculty who work to support them. It’s an excellent opportunity to serve our state at a critical time.    

What do you believe will be your greatest challenges in this role?  
Moving the needle on educational attainment is the greatest challenge. Louisiana ranks 49th [in the U.S.] in attainment, and we cannot have the vibrant state we want, nor the level of opportunity our students and families deserve, with those low outcomes. So, we must expand talent development and student success across our state — in both rural and urban communities. We must strengthen our ties with K-12, workforce, and economic development. When we look at the skills needed to contribute in a meaningful way to the economy, we simply must increase the education and training of Louisiana’s citizens. That means we need more partners, advocates and champions for our students and for education, as well.  

What are the most important issues in higher education today? 
There are many, but I think it boils down to improving our success with the students we have and dramatically increasing success with the residents we are not yet serving. That requires innovation at scale so that more students earn credentials in high school, and those who are not engaged have a pathway to earn education and training in our technical and community colleges, universities, and through industry-based certifications and training. We must erase the opportunity gaps that exist for low-income students and minority students. Knowledge transfer must evolve to better serve our traditional and adult students. How to accelerate that reality is the work that must be accomplished.

How do you fill your free time? 
I love spending time with my family. My daughter Bre, named after my mother Brenda, is already a high school senior so I am trying to take in every minute before she heads off to college. We love to read together, join my husband for a good movie, and since she plays volleyball year-round, we spend a lot of time in the gym at high school games or traveling with her club team across the South. For me, downtime is family time, and that is special. My father still lives in Lake Charles, so he keeps me updated on what’s happening in my hometown since I don’t get home very often. 
 
Is there anything else you would like to add? 
I want to say thank you to Lake Charles for believing in me and cheering me on throughout my journey. No matter where I go or what I am called upon to do, I will always be proud to call Lake Charles home. 
Posted by: Angie Kay Dilmore | Submit comment | Tell a friend

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