6 Ways To Make Your University’s Social Media Channels Work Better

By: Brittney Hager with the contribution of TJ Sheffer, Gabrielle Sealey, Jordan DeMars, Daniel Klevorn, and Pablo Romero

Technology has evolved drastically and brought a rise in social media. Almost everyone has at least one form of it, and the number of global users is constantly expanding. Social media is also crucial for universities and colleges. Having social media accounts, like Facebook or Twitter, help universities target new and current students, alumni, and the community

You would think that because everyone is on social media that it would be easy for schools to gain followers, especially from students. However, some colleges struggle at gaining attention on their accounts. So how do you attain the interest of these large audiences? The secret may lie within the social media sites of two universities. Baylor University and the University of Wisconsin–Madison have accumulated numerous followers and put out quality content that is liked by thousands of people, even if the content has no relation to the universities. Using these two colleges as examples, here are some great tips on how to improve your university’s social media.

Note: This blog originally appeared on UMSL Digital Mindshare, visit the original blog to read the rest.

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Strasbourg, France IMBA Program Fall 2016

By: Hayley Alexander

Studying abroad in Strasbourg, France was an opportunity I had always dreamed of and it surpassed my expectations. I spent five months in the capital of Europe that bordered two countries; Switzerland and Germany. With only a 30-minute train ride into another country, it was easy to travel throughout Europe. The university I studied at was EM Strasbourg School of Business. Each class challenged me on an international level and I was able to gain real insight into each culture. My favorite part about studying abroad was the people. Working in groups with students from all over the world allowed me to learn how each culture operates in the business world.

Since classes at the university were irregular, it allowed international students studying abroad to travel. After marking friends with students from Spain, Argentina, Hungary, China, Hong Kong, and more, we all visited Paris, Frankfurt, London, Budapest, and Basel. Each city was beautiful in its own way; the Eiffel tower in Paris, the Rhine River in Frankfurt, Buckingham Palace in London, the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest, and the beautiful mountains in Basel. Each place was unique in its own way. What I loved most about Europe was the architecture. Unlike the states that has become extremely modern, the Europeans have kept the older, rich architecture that dates back to hundreds of years ago.

Experiencing culture diversity is an essential part in International Business. However, I can’t write this blog without mentioning the amazing food. Although I could hardly pronounce anything on each Menu, my French friends made me try every “French Dish” available. I now miss my fresh baguettes and cappuccino’s every morning.

I am extremely thankful for this opportunity that has taught me so much about international business and myself. The UMSL IMBA program allows you to connect and network with peers from around the world. I am confident that this experience will help my future career. If you have the opportunity to travel abroad, DO IT! Don’t wait! It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and will change your life forever.

         

         

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Why Digital Marketing Matters

By: Nicholas Sylvia

The way people use digital devices is rapidly changing. We live in a world where people are constantly connected and always consuming digital media. Whether it is Smartphones, Smart watches, TV’s, computers, or even virtual reality, consumers are attached to a mobile device 24/7. The average American looks at his or her phone 46 times per day; this works out to over 8 Billion looks per day in America alone¹. This means it is not only crucial to be online, but even more so to have a strong digital presence. The website cements a company’s message, and social networks let a brand develop their voice.  
Every business has to be active online. Potential customers are not looking up businesses in the yellow pages anymore; they are searching online. If you don’t have a web presence then consumers don’t know you exist. The power of search is substantial with 75% of consumers using search to research businesses and 4 out of 10 consumers rely on social media or review sites as their research platforms². A strong digital presence is essential in gaining authority and reliability.
Quality content is king in the digital world. Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach that focuses on creating and distributing relevant, valuable, and entertaining content to attract and retain a target audience. Content marketing has the capacity to resonate more meaningfully with consumers than traditional marketing channels. Content tells the story of a brand and encourages people to connect further. This is also a distinct way to show a brand’s personality and products without being expressly promotional.

The king of the content world is video, which is still evolving with 360° video, virtual reality, and augmented reality. Video tells a story that text and pictures simply cannot. The story is more immersive and more likely to capture the attention of an audience. On Facebook alone there are 100 million hours of video watch time per day and over 1 billion users. YouTube has almost reached 5 billion videos watched per day. This amount of video consumption means video is the number one outlet to focus content.

Social media must be a part of your digital presence. There are over 400 million users on Instagram, 340 million users on Twitter, 100 million on Snapchat, and over 1 billion on Facebook. People are constantly on social media on a day-to-day basis. Most college students are on more than one social media platform and are typically much better users than older generations. This is why it is important for colleges to offer courses like Digital Strategies. These college students have knowledge about social media platforms that are useful in the professional business world.

How Digital Strategies Has Helped Me

3721: Digital Media Marketing Strategies has taught me more about the real world of marketing than any other class I have taken in my college career. We have gone in-depth on Web Design, Search Engine Optimization, Google Analytics and much more. I have been able to directly apply this knowledge to my current position as a web designer and my other position as a social media manager. The professor of this course, Perry Drake, cares so much about each of his students’ success. He encourages all of his students to join the Marketing Club and even convinced me to become the President for next semester. Perry also offers opportunities throughout the semester to use these skills he teaches in class for UMSL; for example, he gave me the opportunity to produce a Holiday video for the UMSL College of Business. This is an essential skill to have in the area of digital marketing.

Taking this class alongside 3731: The UMSL Digital Lab, which is a student run digital marketing agency with various clients throughout St. Louis, has propelled my marketing career forward faster than I could have ever predicted. I had the pleasure of working with TEDxGatewayArch, which is an independently organized TED non-profit, as my client with a team of two other UMSL students. I have expanded my network to some of the most well known marketers in St. Louis in a matter of months. I have found out that marketing is what I want to do for my career and that the environment of marketing is something I truly enjoy. This would not have been possible without the help of Perry and UMSL.

At TEDxGatewayArch my team worked throughout the semester on Twitter to promote their annual event, which was on December 10th. We then created a social media strategy across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the day of the event. I live streamed various speakers and performers throughout the day. I am now in the process of creating a recap video of the event. This is all using valuable information and skills that I have learned through these two classes.

The Importance of Digital Marketing Classes

Digital Marketing is the future of marketing. Traditional forms of marketing have their place for now, but for upcoming generations digital is the only medium that is effective. For students thinking about a career in marketing, sales, entrepreneurship, or any career, they will need some of these skills in your professional career. Whether you like it or not digital media is a huge part of the world that we live in today.

Digital Strategies is the first marketing class where I have actually discussed social media and trends that are currently happening in the digital world. This is very important for students to be up to date with what is going on in the world around them. It is essential for upcoming business students to get familiar with the environment of the digital world. There is no outdated curriculum or textbooks from 5 years ago not even mentioning social media. Digital Strategies is all about what is going on now and what new emerging trends will be.

I recommend that anyone attending UMSL take 3721: Digital Media Marketing Strategies. The curriculum of modern digital media and trends are vital in the fast developing business environment. Students already have a base knowledge of social media and this makes it an engaging, interactive class. I know many other universities do not offer these types of classes and that is a problem. How do you expect a student to be prepared for the digital environment of business? Most interactions nowadays are digital and these up and coming students trying to build a career need to have the knowledge taught in Digital Strategies classes.

I also recommend that anyone interested in going into the field of marketing take 3731: The UMSL Digital Lab. The Lab taught me many aspects of marketing, including; efficient teamwork, professional communication, and effective leadership. These skills develop over time and the more you are exposed to the environment that requires these skills, the more you will flourish. Students need experience before they are out of school and this is a great way to knock out a few credit hours as well as gain the experience needed to get ahead in their careers. #IChoseUMSL

 

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Technology conference sheds light on the future of cybersecurity

Student conference organizers (from left) Jestika Gajjar, Kerrine Nelson and Tracee Stewart joined industry leaders from across the country at the event, which focused on combating cyberattacks. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Student conference organizers (from left) Jestika Gajjar, Kerrine Nelson and Tracee Stewart joined industry leaders from across the country at the event, which focused on combating cyberattacks. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Keylogging software, phishing scams and remote access Trojans are just a few of the security threats consumers and corporations face each day.

On Nov. 18, information technology professionals representing companies such as MasterCard, Ameren, Centene, Edward Jones and Express Scripts converged on the University of Missouri–St. Louis campus to discuss the best strategies for information defense at the MasterCard St. Louis Cybersecurity Conference 2016.

Click here to read the full article.

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Podcasting 101 with Vernon Ross

Podcasting 101.png

Have you ever heard of Serial? It’s an investigative podcast series hosted by Sarah Koenig that tells a true story over the course of a season.Think “Making a Murderer” in radio format. Serial really brought podcasting as a communications channel to the mainstream more than it had ever been before. Currently, 12% of the population is hooked on a podcast.

Vernon Ross, of Ross Public Relations, stopped by my Social Media Marketing class a few weeks ago to teach us about starting our own Podcast. In a few weeks, my students will be embarking on the creation of the first-ever UMSL Business Podcast series. We were so excited to welcome Vernon as he has had his own podcast, “The Social Strategy Podcast,” for over three years. Vernon is also teaching a new Podcasting course for the UMSL Digital Marketing Certificate program in Fall 2016. Thinking about starting your own podcast? Read the full blog here for Vernon’s 3 biggest takeaways from his Podcasting 101. 

 

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UMSL Alumnus Shares His Experience

We recently caught up with UMSL alumnus Spenser Schmitt (‘14) about his experience at UMSL. Spenser, like many UMSL students first attended community college before transferring. Find out what Spenser has to say about his experience with the university and why he would recommend UMSL!

  1. Why did you choose UMSL?

Initially, I looked into a couple of schools in the area and realized that UMSL had a great professors and faculty. I also felt that UMSL had a variety of hands-on experiences and was a great value. I felt this was a good choice for me to attend school in the St. Louis area.

  1. Why would you recommend UMSL?

I would highly recommend UMSL because the professors are really passionate and many have experience in the industries they are teaching in. UMSL also has a beautiful campus, which is a nice perk.

  1. What advice would you give to current or future UMSL students?

I would say to get involved with any extracurricular activities the school has to offer. Absorb the whole college experience and treat it as your job. I think this will really help you to take advantage of everything that UMSL has to offer. It will also help to you be more prepared once you graduate.

I would also recommend using your senior year to ramp up your career and grow your network. Be prepared to work in a team setting, especially on things like senior project. Learn your strengths and practice good teamwork, this will come in handy in your future career. Also, try to note business acumen, it’s important to know how to handle etiquette in the business world.

  1. What do you wish you had done during your time at UMSL that you did not?

I actually didn’t do any internships during college, UMSL can connect you with some good internships and I wish I had done a couple. I think this would have given me some invaluable experience and helped me to better know what I wanted to do after graduation.

I also wish I had gotten more involved. UMSL has a lot of clubs and organizations that you can learn from but I was working a lot and didn’t get as involved as I would have liked. I would have liked have learned more from an entrepreneurial standpoint. I currently work for a startup, so that could be useful.

spenser_schmittAbout Spenser: I currently head the marketing and sales for a small business and technology solutions provider called ProgresSum. I am most passionate about giving people the ability to achieve their goals, both in their professional and personal lives. UMSL was actually a big propionate in giving me the confidence and drive to do so.

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Why Marketers Need More Branding Because of RankBrain

What is RankBrain?

Courtesy of Searchengineland.com “RankBrain is Google’s name for a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that’s used to help process its search results, as was reported by Bloomberg and also confirmed to us by Google.”

Click here to learn more about RankBrain from TJ Salopek, Digital Marketing Manager, Charter Spectrum Reach & UMSL Marketing Advisory Board.

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PMBA Program Opens Up the World to UMSL Students

Hakuna Matata is said by people in Kenya to mean “no worries.” Pura Vida is a common phrase said by the people of Costa Rica and means “pure life” or “this is life.” It is things like these that PMBA students are able to learn first hand while visiting another country.

PMBA group in Cuba.

PMBA group in Cuba.

The PMBA program is a 21-month program where students with a professional background can get their degree in a time schedule that works for the student. Students are in the same class or cohort through the program. All students go on an international trip together in their second year to learn about international business and culture.

Jan Carrell, PMBA coordinator, described the difference between the UMSL Masters of Business program versus the PMBA program, “The Professional MBA program requires three years of professional work experience, so the students generally are more mature and focused. The PMBA is a lock-step, cohort program, so the same group of students are enrolled in the same classes throughout the 21-month experience. This structure fosters a sense of camaraderie that is difficult to replicate in the FlexMBA program.”

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PMBA group outside of VMWare.

The PMBA trips out of the country have only been around for three years. The first trip was to Germany and was organized by a University of Missouri- St. Louis professor Peter Falk. The second trip was to China, and the third to Costa Rica and Cuba. The next trip will be to Italy and take place in 2017. Students do not know where they will be going their second year when they first apply to the program.

For many students it was their first time out of the country. Traveling to Cuba was exceptionally unique since Cuba was not open to all travelers until March of this year, under President Barack Obama’s administration’s negotiations which started in December 2014. Previously there was a travel ban from the United States to Cuba unless for educational purposes. Jackie Schlarman, PMBA student, said, “Cuba is our neighbor and it had been closed off for so long. To have this opportunity to see this place before it opened to the rest of the United States was really special.”

Darryl Curry, PMBA student, said, “Not only was it fascinating to learn about Cuba from a cultural perspective, but I was also learning about Cuba from a business perspective. The whole point of this journey was to help us learn more about business and international business in particular.”

PMBA group in the forest.

PMBA group in the forest.

There were several places that the group visited while in Cuba and Costa Rica. From cemeteries to fortresses, to coffee plantations, the group was amazed at all they got to learn about. Timothy Burgess, PMBA student, said, “In Cuba we actually visited Ernest Hemingway’s mansion. It was originally preserved with everything that he left it in the 50s. It was really cool.”

If you are interested in learning more about the PMBA program at UMSL, check out mba.umsl.edu or email Jan Carrell at carrellj@umsl.edu for more information.

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UMSL Alum Dr. Patricia Kopetz Follows Her Passions; Lives the Dream

Educator, World-Traveler, Child and Diversity Advocate, World Domination –   It Must Be Women’s History Month

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by Elizabeth Snowden UMSL MBA 2016

Dr. Patricia Kopetz is a local teacher, and also globe-trotting trailblazer. Whether it be in arenas of feminism, diversity, or education – she has continually fought for progress in an industry plagued by traditional, antiquated programs, deterring budget squabbles, and lethargic bureaucracy.

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Dr. Patricia Kopetz

It is because of Dr. Kopetz’s passion and drive that she has been invited to speak at events all over the world, such as in: in California, China, Lesotho, and Greece, in order to promote her findings and challenge academia to provide more innovative methods to educate the world’s diverse population. During her day job, Dr. Kopetz designs and sponsors programs aimed at improving education for learning disabled children, while simultaneously empowering future UMSL educators with the latest and best academic techniques.

We asked her if she wouldn’t mind answering a few questions for us in honor of Women’s History Month, so we could learn what it is that inspires her ambition, how UMSL contributed to her career success, what Women’s History Month means to her, and her advice for the current generation of educators and business women.

(UMSL Business): Please give us a little background on where you are from, your family and your upbringing.

(Dr. Kopetz): I am a native St. Louisan, brought up in St. Louis County. My parents moved our family to St. Louis in 1958, and my next home was in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1983.

(UB): Please tell us about your job.

(DK): I hold an endowed professorship in the College of Education at UMSL, and am completing my eighth year here. My job entails teaching graduate education courses, primarily supporting pedagogy that provides current educators with knowledge about, and skills that help in, teaching students with learning differences (everything from low-incidence disabilities: like intellectual and developmental disabilities, multiple disabilities, and autism – to high-incidence disabilities: like ADD/ADHD, specific learning disabilities, high-functioning autism, and behavior disorders).

My business matters because we live in an inclusive, diverse world of people, personalities, backgrounds, cultures, attitudes, and abilities; and today’s classrooms of learners should, and most likely do, mirror that set of varying dynamics.

(UB): How many people in your immediate family have attended college and how do you feel about that?

(DK): My parents, born and raised during the Great Depression years, felt fortunate that education was important in their families when they were growing up. My mother was proud to have completed the 7th grade, which was the norm in rural West Virginia. During World War II, she took a job as a draftswoman/map maker, and designed aerial maps for U.S. Air Force fighter pilots. Meanwhile, my father, having completed high school in Lansing, Michigan, was post-high school immediately drafted to serve in the Army (Pacific Theatre) during World War II.

When the war was over, he took a position as Cartographer (map maker) at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., where he met my mother. While later raising the family with my mother in St. Louis, my father was successful in completing his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering (via remote access) from Michigan State University in Lansing, MI, the place where he was raised and schooled.

I was proud that my parents extended themselves, educationally, to the limits best possible during their era and in their geographic location.

(UB): What reasons made you decide to pursue a Master’s in Education at UMSL?

(DK): The M.Ed. from UMSL was pursued because, in teaching elementary youngsters, what I learned with my bachelor’s degree was just not enough. I needed to figure out ways to help the students who learned differently than the average student or the masses. I entered the UMSL M.Ed. program first to explore Special Education in countries of Western Europe and Scandinavia, searching to learn what methods used in those countries were met with success. Then, with the majority of remaining coursework taken on the UMSL campus, I learned a deeper philosophy of how learning occurs, and how to assess children for learning difficulties early in their lives, and I continued studying new techniques and interventions that improved my teaching in the elementary grades.

I later pursued my doctorate in Educational Leadership at SLU, a field I knew little about, but a field that my academic advisor strongly encouraged that I pursue. At the time, during the early 1980s, there were few women in the Educational Leadership doctoral degree at SLU. It was an odd experience, but was privileged to receive the keen, insightful mentorship of Dr. Theodore Kowalski, and he, along with Provost Father Stauder, kept pushing me to complete my degree requirements.

(UB): What did you enjoy about your education at UMSL

(DK): My experience at UMSL was no-nonsense. My classmates and our professors had like interests, so our passions kept us supportive of one another. Everyone was local, and the culture was….St. Louis. Not a lot of showy fanfare, no loud or rambunctious self-obsessed numnuts, but real professionals who entered the classroom very goal-minded.

We challenged each other to think differently and in greater depth. Our instructors were tough. They expected that we show up to class on time, prepared (having read the assigned pages in our texts), take notes, seek their scholarly guidance, and complete submitted assignments with clarity and writing accuracy. No “extra credit,” but earning scores deserved, period. I liked knowing what the expectations were and boundaries we could understand, count on, and respect.

(UB): In what particular ways do you feel UMSL prepared you to be a successful businessperson and educator?

(DK): I think of education as a business. It is a business much like sales. We must build relationships (with our students, fellow faculty, administration, parents, and community partners) in order to sell our goods (the learning content: reading, math, science, writing, etc.) to immediate consumers (students in the class) and others that help us in that effort (i.e., fellow faculty, administration, parents, community partners). UMSL funneled my interests and learning efforts in the direction of improved “selling” techniques, a focus on acquiring contemporary intervention models that, when applied in the classroom and in relationships, created lasting positive impacts for the students whom I taught.

(UB): What made you want to pursue your current industry, what do you like about your job, and of what personal career accomplishments are you particularly proud?

(DK): Growing up in the 1950s, career opportunities for women were not so varied. Because I enjoyed being a student, and loved “playing school,” pursuing a career in education was my future. What I like about my job is creating relationships with future teachers and current educators that gain their trust, so they realize and appreciate the needs in today’s classrooms of students, and feel confident that they can make measurable differences in the lives of today’s students, who are tomorrow’s leaders. My greatest accomplishment was the endowed professorship for which I was fortunate to gain $1M in funding in 1996. That result was the culmination of building a relationship, over ten years, with a local dessert manufacturer whose international company held tight access requirements.

(UB): Who were the people you looked up to growing up, and why did you admire/respect them?

(DK): My hero was, is, and always will be my mother. Of all her children, and despite debilitating medical issues that plagued her lifelong, she sacrificed the most for me. She was always in my corner, especially during tremendously challenging times in my life. That I admired and respected her is the least I can describe about my feelings for her.

Dorothy M. Bowersox

Dr. Kopetz’s Mother, Dorothy M. Bowersox, 1948 and 1997; 7th Grade Graduate, Cartographer, Feminist Pioneer, General Badass

Today, my other hero is my daughter, Betsy. She is bright and adventurous, and seems to be following her passion to follow a career path that makes good things happen. I wish I could’ve been sharp like her, gain lasting relationships, and made decisions with experiential wisdom. She’s tops.

Se. Claire McCaskil

Sen. Claire McCaskil

 

(UB): Who do you currently admire as a female leader in the education (or related) community and why?

(DK): I greatly admire Claire McCaskill, State Representative in Missouri. While I don’t usually align myself with her political views, she seems responsive to the needs of fellow Missourians, and has made her place on the international news stage. Good for her!

 

 

(UB): Have you personally experienced any sexist stereotypes during your career? If so, can you tell us a little about it? How can men and women confront/eliminate this stereotype(s)?

(DK): During my professional career that was hosted in the Deep South, men dominated in meetings and decision-making. One time, that I knew about, our graduate education department of all men and two women conducted a meeting to discuss departmental issues without inviting the two of us (women). How weird was that? In 1998. Really?! Men are coming around to respect women colleagues, but the change is taking at least a generation (20 years) to show slight progress.

(UB): What do you think when you hear “Women’s History Month,” and what does Women’s History Month mean to you, personally?

(DK): It is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of women. For example, the Bible rarely, rarely gives any credit to, or discussion of, women and their leadership or their strife as valued citizens. My mother, whose mother fought for the right to vote (women suffrage) in 1920, made me promise to always vote. She was adamant about that until the day she passed from this Earth.

(UB): What advice can you offer women in St. Louis or UMSL who want to pursue successful careers in education?

(DK): I say follow your passion. Follow your brain, too, and select a career that can truly showcase your intelligence, poise, communication skills, and desire to make things happen. The best careers in education are in administration, where it’s fun, never boring, and leads you to where you desire most to land.

Thank you so much for your time and contribution!!!

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Catching up with UMSL Business Alum, Orvin Kimbrough

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by: Elizabeth Snowden,
MBA Candidate 2016

Orvin Kimbrough is a hot St. Louis success story. One of our own – whose passion and ambition forged a path from humble beginnings to President and CEO of the United Way of Greater St. Louis. Under Orvin’s leadership, the United Way of Greater St. Louis continues to positively impact the local community through individual and educational initiatives, and a network of partnerships.

Orvin KimbroughOrvin Kimbrough

Last month for Black History Month, we reached out to Orvin to get to know him a little better, explore how his MBA from UMSL played a role in his business success, get a feeling for who inspires him, and gain some insight as to what black history means to this hometown leader.

(UMSL Business): Please give us a little background on where you are from, your family and your upbringing.

(Orvin Kimbrough): I was born in East St. Louis. I spent my formative years in North St. Louis. My wife and I have been married for nearly 17 years; we have two children and currently live in St. Louis County (Wildwood).

UB: Please tell us about your job and why it matters.

OK: I work for United Way of Greater St. Louis. I have worked for the organization since January of 2007, and I have been President and CEO since July of 2013. My job entails working with partners to create the conditions for people to live better lives. What this means is focusing on ensuring that we have a systematic and strategic approach to generating resources, managing resources and investing resources. My business matters because it is about helping people who have a philanthropic inclination [to] focus their efforts to help people who need support to realize their full potential.

UB: From which university did you receive your undergraduate degree, and what degree was it?

OK: I attended the University of Missouri — Columbia for undergraduate and my first graduate degree. I earned a Bachelor and Masters of Social Work. I earned a Master of Business Administration from University of Missouri — St. Louis, and I earned a Master of Arts in Theology from Aquinas Institute in St. Louis.

UB: How many people in your immediate family have attended college and how do you feel about that?

OK: Both my wife and I have earned advanced degrees and it’s an awesome thing…because we both grew up poor. We are one example of the power of education to change the course of life.

UB: What reasons made you decide to pursue an MBA at UMSL?

OK:

  • I love public education. I am the product of public high school.
  • The University of Missouri — St. Louis was value priced and had a reputation for quality. It was appropriately challenging and if I could make it through UMSL’s program, I could make it anywhere.

UB: What did you enjoy about your education at UMSL?

OK: Most people don’t know that I actually started my college experience at UMSL during the summer of 1994. I had to take a math and English class to qualify for admittance into Mizzou. That summer, I learned what it was like to be a college student. I spent a lot of time on campus studying with other students. Years later, going back to the university for graduate school was a treat. I enjoyed engaging with the other MBA students through team-based projects. You really got a real world feel for how you get things done in business.

UB: In what particular ways do you feel UMSL prepared you to be a successful businessman?

OK: The fact that I earned a Master of Business Administration from an accredited business school qualified me in an intensively competitive environment. The rigor of UMSL helped to shape me into a well rounded leader, who can think about strategy, management, leadership, people, results and finance in a measured way.

UB: What made you want to pursue your current industry, what do you like about your job, and of what personal career accomplishments are you particularly proud?

OK: I think my industry chose me. I had a challenged life growing up, and I think that narrative was partially to prepare me to lead in the nonprofit sector. I love that I get to see the best of people in my job — whether it is people who have a desire to help others, or people who are trying to change their lives by taking advantage of opportunities to improve.

I am probably most proud that my former boss, Gary Dollar, championed my potential, and that the board of United Way took a chance and offered me the top job in one of the most successful organizations on the planet when I was 38 years old. I am proud of the fact that I didn’t squander the opportunity, and I have been encouraged by my many mentors to stretch my leadership, and not be content with just getting by. I am super proud of how this region consistently responds when we are challenged…I am grateful that I get to champion the best of our region.

UB: Who were the people you looked up to growing up, and why did you admire/respect them?

OK: I admired the Program Director at the Monsanto YMCA, Mr. Robinson. The Monsanto Y is located in North St. Louis. Mr. Robinson at one point served as a supervisor at a group home in which I lived. He always encouraged us youngsters, and he allowed us to enter the Y free of charge.

I admired Mr. Trice who had a deadly three point shot – he too was a house parent at one of my residential facilities. I respected them both more than anything because they were real…and wanted the best for us kids.

I admired Louise Reeves and Lawson Calhoun – because they took a chance on me and helped me secure $600 that I needed to take remediation during the summer at UMSL. I admire all of the giants of the Civil Rights era, and the giants pushing for better educational conditions for our young people today.

UB: Who do you currently admire as a leader in the African American community and why?

OK: There are so many, I can’t do this justice. I admire Larry Thomas, Michael Holmes and Dave Steward because they look at the world through the lens of their faith and are focused on being excellent in everything they do. I admire Charmaine Chapman –because of her endurance and legend.

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From left: Larry Thomas, Partner at Edward Jones; Michael Holmes, President at Rx Outreach; David Steward, Chairman and Co-Founder of World Wide Technology, Inc.; and Charmaine Chapman, former President and CEO of the United Way of Greater St. Louis.

I spend more time with Booker T and W.E.B. because I believe they each possessed some truth about what it would take for African Americans to be successful in America.

UB: Have you personally experienced any racial stereotypes during your career?   How can African Americans and non-African Americans confront/eliminate these stereotypes?

OK: Yes, I believe that bias exists, but that is no excuse to stop pushing. I believe in the course of my life, I’ve experienced bias because of my age — meaning, people have discounted my contribution because I have generally been younger in all of my circles.

I also believe that it is harder to take instruction from an African American male because it is so uncommon that black men are in positions of leadership. I think the only way to confront it is to keep showing up and keep being excellent.

UB: What do you think when you hear “Black History Month,” and what does Black History Month mean to you, personally?

OK: Every day is black history for me.

UB: What advice can you offer African Americans in St. Louis or UMSL who want to pursue successful careers in business?

OK: Be passionate about helping people solve problems. If you are focused on solving problems you will never be unemployed.

Thank you so much for your time and contribution!!!

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