Purnell Roccia

UMSL staff members Andrea Purnell (left), director of communications and the arts for the Missouri Institute of Mental Health, and Miriam Roccia, assistant dean of students, were named among NCI’s 30 Leaders in Their Thirties. (Photos by Daniel Musgrave)

Authenticity. Dedication. Drive. Passion. Purpose.

Those are some the words that come to mind for Miriam Roccia and Andrea Purnell when they think about strong leadership and what it requires. But the two University of Missouri–St. Louis employees don’t just think about it – they demonstrate leadership on a daily basis.

Purnell and Roccia were among a selection of people recently recognized by North County Incorporated for having a positive impact on their professions and on the north St. Louis County community. In partnership with Community News and the Gateway Television News Network, the regional development association saluted this year’s 30 Leaders in Their Thirties at a special event Sept. 26.

Andrea Purnell

Purnell is director of communications and the arts for UMSL’s Missouri Institute of Mental Health, where she brings her theater background to bear on outreach and education efforts surrounding mental health. An actress, writer, director and stage manager, she is especially passionate about using the arts to help people suffering from mental illness.

“Andrea is uniquely qualified to do this work because of her mental health awareness training,” said Jermine Alberty, MIMH’s mental health first aid director. “Even while in the arts universe, she has mental health education. To be an artist and have that understanding is powerful.”

Prior to joining MIMH, Purnell pursued a theater career in Los Angeles. She moved back to her native St. Louis in 2008 and first got involved in the mental health field through Provident Counseling. At MIMH she finds ways to merge scientific methodology and artistic creativity in keeping with the institute’s mission to improve and transform mental health outcomes.

Roccia, assistant dean of students at UMSL, oversees numerous Campus Life offices and services as she seeks to foster a vibrant campus environment. From the Millennium Student Center, to Residential Life & Housing, to the Recreation & Wellness Center currently under construction and more, her efforts make a difference for students, faculty, staff, contractors and administrators.

Roccia 2014

Miriam Roccia

“Miriam is always looking for a way to improve the students’ experience at UMSL,” said junior communication major Kristin Wyninegar, who helps lead Students of Service and also works in the Office of Student Life. “Whenever I have a problem she sits down with me and helps me look at every side … she is humble and never afraid to take on a project.”

Before becoming an assistant dean of students in 2011, Roccia served as UMSL’s director of student life. Her career in student development and student affairs began at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and she also spent four years at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls working with first-year students. Roccia and her spouse, Chris Roccia, have a young son, Jackson, and have lived in St. Louis for seven years.

Several UMSL alumni were also among NCI’s 2014 honorees. These include:

—Jessica Bitting, MEd 2009, Ferguson-Florissant School District
—Annamarie Davis, MEd 2011, St. Ferdinand School
—Nathan Sykes, BSEd 2012, US Bank

The UMSL Experience

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Evie Hemphill

Evie Hemphill

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.