Getting to Know Associate Dean Rachel Kleit
Our next featured College of Engineering leader in the “Getting to Know” series is Rachel Kleit, associate dean for faculty affairs. Kleit is also a professor of city and regional planning in the Knowlton School of Architecture and the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University.
Her research interests include housing mobility and location choice, housing as a poverty alleviation strategy, equity impacts of economic development, and urban and regional disparity. Kleit has taught courses on affordable housing policy, metropolitan policy, social equity and advanced planning theory.
Prior to her role as associate dean, Kleit served as head of the Knowlton School’s City and Regional Planning Section.
College of Engineering: As the associate dean for faculty affairs, what do you find most gratifying about the work that you do?
Rachel Kleit: There are two things: One is that I love mentoring people, and so one of the things I love to do is to help people do their best work and create situations where they can do their best work. Most of what I do in the college is concerned with that. Everything from making sure we recruit the right people to making sure we offer professional development that supports faculty growth, and also to making sure we have a culture that supports faculty success. The second thing I find most gratifying is that I get to affect culture in that way.
CoE: In this position, what do you see as the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity?
Kleit: The greatest challenge is that the academy is changing and we unless we change, we will be obsolete. And that means that there are new ways of doing research, there are new ways of communicating, new ways of understanding impact, and all of those are changing who we are. We're also welcoming people from different backgrounds—that also changes who we are. Those are huge challenges for us, and I do think we're up to it. It is the opportunity also for us to really be the leaders in looking forward. What does research look like? What does the 21st century College of Engineering look like? What does education and faculty look like and how do we all work together?
CoE: Is there an accomplishment or an accolade that you're most proud of?
Kleit: I think I was most proud to become the section head of city planning. I’m also proud of being in this position. Strangely enough, I was asked recently what my what most important paper is. And I actually think that it's a chapter in a book on the skills on how to teach the socially just city. And I think for me that's one of the most important accomplishments; how do you teach that and teaching other people to do that. Because that's a course I've taught several times.
CoE: What makes you passionate about your research and the work you do?
Kleit: My research focuses on the role of affordable housing in improving the lives of people who live in poverty. When I look around the world, and I see that there are people who are working so amazingly hard to get by and that our economic and social structures are not set up to actually help people be successful, that's what motivates my work. Between the economy and the way we've structured the housing market, historically, I have always felt like it's one of my jobs to fix things. I’m Jewish and one of the things that motivates me is the idea of tikkun olam, which is an idea that we have a responsibility to repair what is wrong with the world. There's a quote from Proverbs which basically says it's not your job to finish the work, but neither can you desist from doing it.
The other part of my motivation is Move to Prosper, a program I helped create which provides opportunities for affordable housing in areas that might not otherwise have it. It’s now in its fourth year and so many amazingly wonderful things have happened for these families—it isn't only housing, it also includes coaching so that people can learn to set goals for what they want in their lives, and what they want for their families.
CoE: Is there a favorite mentor or someone that you've looked up to during the course of your career?
Kleit: I have three mentors. Rachel Bratt, who was my master's thesis advisor at Tufts University, has been a mentor for a very long time, and then there's Bill Rohe, who was my dissertation advisor when I went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for my PhD. And then George Galster, who is a professor emeritus at Wayne State. He's an urban economist who's also been a wonderful mentor for me.
CoE: And what about favorite hobbies or interests outside of work?
Kleit: All right, well okay, I have a dollhouse. I made it when I was 16 and I have carried it with me everywhere I've lived. I stopped doing it for a while because doll house miniatures can be a very expensive hobby, but I started refurbishing the doll house during the pandemic. I’ve added new windows, I redid the roof, I made a chimney for it, and I’m going to electrify it, too. I also I work out three times a week and I love to travel, but that's not happening too much lately. I also sew. In college, I worked in a costume shop of the theater at Brandeis University. My work study job for two years was being a stitcher. And I did some work in summer stock and backstage for one of the theaters in Boston in my first couple years of being an undergrad.
by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications | firstname.lastname@example.org