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Kimberly Holmes T’11,’17 on Her Professional Journey

From student to public servant to adjunct professor

October 2023 – Kimberly Holmes T’11,’17 has taken her Drew Theological School education full circle.

Following a non-traditional path, Holmes has utilized her education and experience for the betterment of New Jersey through service as the Assistant Commissioner and Chief of Staff at the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA).

DCA serves as New Jersey’s housing authority with a diverse portfolio of responsibilities, including running affordable housing programs, public housing and housing choice vouchers, eviction protection, and homelessness prevention designed to safely house and keep New Jersey residents in good living conditions.

Following the unexpected passing of Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, Holmes was named Acting Commissioner of the DCA. “I was blessed and privileged to have served as her chief of staff and assistant commissioner for five years,” she said. “I really got to work closely with her.”

She attributes part of her success from living in the community she serves. A Newark resident for over 20 years, and a fellow in the Leadership in Newark program, gives her the opportunity to learn more and become directly involved in the community. The DCA partners with Newark to provide assistance with many issues, including homelessness, employment, and affordable housing. “It helps to be a part of the community to understand people’s concerns. There’s a connectivity because I live there. There’s an intersectionality because I work for DCA, but am also a resident.”

“That’s where Drew comes in,” said Holmes. “The ministry training and dealing with death and emotional issues. We went through that at Drew. There are reflective moments where we would take time to breathe and be calm.”

Which is something that she brought to her own teachings as an adjunct professor at the Theological School, leading an elective course called Unmute Yourself, a new class she created.

She came with trepidation, but the course was an overwhelming success. Drawing inspiration from a book with the same title by Kat Armas, the course explored abuelita theology. By using techniques that included incorporating music, dance, and breakout sessions into her class, she  encouraged openness and sharing in a safe space.

“People just start sharing about how they could not speak up about things going on in their church and family culture,” said Holmes. “My favorite part of the class was the collaboration among the students. We had fun in that class.”

Holmes has also taught a Baptist and Polity course with a robust enrollment as part of the Doctor of Ministry program at Drew. 

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