Robin Kimberlin, who earned her master’s degree in social work from UMSL last month, is ready to assist students as the new UMSL social worker. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The prolonged gloomy economy has forced many Americans to cope with turned-off utilities, eviction notices and wondering where their next meal will come from. College students are not immune.

“After hearing multiple stories of students facing issues of homelessness or chronic financial problems, the Division of Student Affairs knew we needed to offer University of Missouri–St. Louis students quality assistance,” said D’Andre Braddix, assistant dean of students at UMSL.

Robin Kimberlin, who earned her master’s degree in social work from UMSL last month, will offer that assistance to students as the new UMSL social worker. The part-time position started as a graduate assistant job last year. Kimberlin, who held the position as a student, worked with Braddix and Patricia Welch Saleeby, assistant professor of social work at UMSL, to develop the guidelines and resources.

“Our initial expectations were only for Robin to meet with students and offer them quality referrals to off-campus resources,” Braddix said. “However, she challenged herself and morphed the position into one of not only quality resource referral, but also crisis assistance, student advocacy and drug and alcohol prevention. Now when a student identifies a social need, we can just pick up the phone and call Robin – we know that the student is in good hands.”

In just one semester as a GA, she helped connect more than 70 students to a variety of social-based services both on and off campus. These services include obtaining food assistance, securing temporary housing and applying for public assistance. She also assisted with domestic and relationship violence, substance abuse and suicide prevention.

Kimberlin, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2002 from UMSL, postponed entering the work force to take on the job of motherhood. She then decided she wanted to help people and found a fit in the master’s degree program in social work at UMSL.

She heard student affairs was looking for a graduate assistant to work with students. Kimberlin wasn’t sure what to expect, but knew she wanted to help others. And she was up for the challenge.

So far, she’s been able to do just that. Whether it’s assisting a student who is sleeping in a car or finding a hot meal for one who’s been without for days, she’s finding resources and partnerships both on campus and off.

“It’s mostly the most basic needs that students don’t have,” she said. “Those are the things I’m assisting with the most, the tangible things: housing, utilities, food.”

Saleeby, who supervised Kimberlin’s practicum as a GA, said having the position of a social worker at UMSL will be a tremendous assets to students.

“Robin has been able to address those non-academic needs that many of our students experience through creative critical thinking and connecting students to necessary resources like housing, food security, transportation and child care,” she said. “As a result, these students are able to continue their academic studies at UMSL without these life stresses. Robin is an excellent example of how UMSL social work students are adequately prepared to solve real-life problems in our community.”

Kimberlin said she’s excited about taking on this position and is amazed at how supportive everyone has been.

“It sounds cliché, but if you don’t have housing and if you don’t have food, how are you going to be a student, take tests and be successful,” she said.

Kimberlin’s office is located next to Health, Wellness, Counseling and Disability Access Services in 144 Millennium Student Center. Students in need can contact her at 314-516-6369 or by email at socialworkga@umsl.edu.

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Jen Hatton

Jen Hatton

Eye on UMSL: A day in the life
Eye on UMSL: A day in the life

Students from UMSL’s College of Optometry and College of Nursing participated in a simulation designed to expose them to the complexities of poverty.

Eye on UMSL: A day in the life

Students from UMSL’s College of Optometry and College of Nursing participated in a simulation designed to expose them to the complexities of poverty.

Eye on UMSL: A day in the life

Students from UMSL’s College of Optometry and College of Nursing participated in a simulation designed to expose them to the complexities of poverty.