Sam-KimBy Patricia Kaowthumrong, Asian Avenue magazine

While Samuel Kim enjoyed working with his peers in student affairs during his undergraduate and graduate studies, he never thought his involvement could actually turn into a career. Now Kim is the director of new student orientation and the Lynx Center at the University of Colorado Denver (UCD). Before that, Kim served as the university’s director of Asian American student educational programs and outreach for two years.

“I’ve been in higher education professionally for about seven years now. It definitely wasn’t the plan,” Kim says. “I kind of stumbled across it during grad school and fell in love with working with students and being in the educational sector. And I’m still here today.” For a long time, Kim says he was on the pre-med track and holds an undergraduate degree in biology.

He decided to pursue his love for student affairs and obtained a master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) in Greeley, where he went on to serve as the director of the Asian/Pacific American Student Services Office for two years. “During that time, there were a lot of adventures and challenges, but it was worth it because I had the chance to help other students, especially students that don’t have access to education,” Kim says. “I was knee deep working with students every day, making sure they got into the university and also graduated. It was a tremendous opportunity for me.”

Lee Tran, a senior at UCD majoring in communications who met Kim through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, says Kim not only acted as a role model to many students, but a hero in his community. “To describe Sam as simply a mentor would be an understatement, he is much more than that. Many students who came in to see Sam saw him as someone similar to a father figure. With that being said, Sam is also a hero to the community because he is ever vigilant in watching over the students of the community, making sure they are always on track and pushing themselves towards greatness,” Tran says. Dragon-Boat-Team-Photo-(Summer-2011) Although Kim was nominated for the Asian American Heroes of Colorado award in 2012, he is very modest about the positive effect he has on students. Kim credits his students for his progress and accomplishments. “The openness of my students and their willingness to engage in difficult conversations—to go outside of their comfort zone—really helped me develop, not just the program, but really who I am today,” says Kim. “So I would encourage that for anyone—to keep an open mind, to be compassionate, to engage with others, especially those who don’t understand.”

Samuel Kim with his wife Ashleigh holds his daughter Annabelle.
Samuel Kim with his wife Ashleigh holds his daughter Annabelle.

Kim says his positions in student affairs and education have also helped him explore his own Korean-American heritage. A native of South Korea, Kim immigrated to the United States at a young age, spent a good part of his youth in southern California and has found a home in Colorado for the last 15 years. “I’ve had the opportunity to walk in both realms with my Asian side and also obviously with my American side, to balance those roles and opportunities, and to be continuously open. There’s so much going on and so much that we can capture, but if we have a closed mind, they’re just going to go by,” he says. In his spare time, Kim loves to watch movies; his all-time favorites are the “Godfather” series. He is also enjoying the “joys of parenthood” with his wife, Ashleigh, and two-year-old daughter, Annabelle.