Go-to person at UMSL’s student center recognized with 2017 Young Leader Award
Dorian Hall pauses for a moment when asked just how many events he and his team oversee through the course of a single year at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. After some quick mental math, he offers a rough – but telling – estimate.
“We receive thousands and thousands of bookings a year,” says Hall, the assistant director of event services in UMSL’s Millennium Student Center. “Some of them may be repeat bookings, and some may be small meetings, but overall we see tens of thousands.”
Appropriately, back in 2010 when Hall’s identity on campus was still more student than employee, one of those many events was his own wedding celebration with a fellow UMSL graduate.
“We actually met here as students,” Hall remembers with a grin. “And we got married here in the chapel and had a reception upstairs.”
Perched on one of the oval-shaped swivel chairs near the MSC’s central escalator, Hall is unassuming and casual. One might not guess that a total of 27 student employees now report to him, together managing countless reservations for internal and external clients at both the MSC and the J.C. Penney Conference center just across the North Campus ponds.
Eleven years ago, Hall wouldn’t have guessed it either – nor the fact that The St. Louis American Foundation would choose to honor him with a 2017 Young Leader Award, which he’ll formally receive at a reception later this month.
“When I came here to this campus in 2005, I was fairly quiet and very shy,” Hall says, looking back to his freshman year at UMSL. “But I started making different connections and meeting different people, and this place has had a tremendous impact on me.”
It started with Multicultural Student Services and his adviser, Bridgette Jenkins, who has since retired.
“I met friends in MSS who are still friends to this day,” says Hall, who earned his BSBA from UMSL in 2010 and then an MBA in 2013. “Then I connected with the Welcome Center and started working there in August of 2006.”
As Hall attempts to summarize “the amazing people” and many different ways UMSL has been important to him and to his wife, Candace, the list grows long.
Yolanda Weathersby. Darryl Wea. Jessica Long-Pease. D’Andre Braddix. Benard Diggs. Miriam Roccia. Too many UMSL people to name, he says, have made the difference for him. But those who have mentored him and seen his potential particularly stand out.
“I got the opportunity to really grow,” Hall says. “And my bosses have really pushed me to get out of my comfort zone. I mean, I would never speak in public – and now I’m a pastor. And as part of that I have to speak every Sunday. That’s something I never would have done before I came here.”
In that additional role at Church of God Community Worship Center in East St. Louis, Hall serves people in another place dear to his heart.
His grandmother was the founder and first pastor of the church, which has now been there for 19 years.
“I’m originally from Jennings, Missouri, but my mother’s side is from East St. Louis, and so East St. Louis has very much been a second home for me,” he says. “I spent a lot of my formative years with my grandmother. I call her my greatest human inspiration.”
These days, Hall’s continuing that tradition of inspiration and care for everyone around him, from his three children – Edwyn, 5, Bailey, 3, and Avery, 1 – to those he interacts with on a regular basis in the MSC and all across the UMSL campus.
He seeks to pass along some of the same lessons he’s benefitted from over the years.
“That’s probably one of my favorite things about my job – that I get to do that with my student staff,” he says. “I get to have those conversations, those interactions that help them grow in ways that you might not always grow in the classroom.”
Assistant Dean of Students Miriam Roccia remembers being impressed with Hall right away. In her first year at UMSL – 2007 – then-teenage Hall was already busy with the University Program Board and the Student Government Association, and he was constantly moving from here to there in the MSC.
“Dorian was always literally running around the building, taking the escalator three steps at a time,” Roccia says. “Now when he takes the escalator three steps at a time, it’s to help his students finish a setup in the building or meet a student organization member or client to help determine how he can make their event magical.”
She’s enjoyed watching Hall develop from student leader and student employee to assistant director of event services.
“This is what you hope happens for your students,” Roccia adds, “that they develop skills in their leadership and employment experiences at UMSL that will prepare them for success in their future careers. UMSL got the best of both worlds with Dorian – an amazing alumnus and employee who loves this university deeply.”
When Hall heard in January that The St. Louis American Foundation was deeming him one of the “brightest rising stars” in the region, he was surprised and delighted.
But he’s not one to let it go to his head, either. He keeps bringing the conversation back to other people and to what matters most to him.
“It starts with my faith,” he says. “I know that I would not be anywhere I am today without God in my life. I would say then it extends to my family, my mother who has been one of my biggest supporters and even to this day is always there for me, and my wife. They keep me energized and keep me going.”
So do the students he works with every day at UMSL.
“It’s really the people,” Hall says. “As I walk in this building and wave and say hi to the folks in this office or the folks in U.S. Bank or the bookstore or Student Involvement – and just across the campus, walking around and seeing familiar faces and new faces – it’s knowing that we’re working together for the good of the next generation of people that are coming through this university.”
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