UMSL English professor awarded President’s Award for Leadership

UMSL's Mary Troy and Ron Yasbin

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Ron Yasbin surprises Professor Mary Troy at UMSL with the President’s Award for Leadership. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The University of Missouri System last week announced Mary Troy, professor of English and creative writing at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, as the recipient of the UM System President’s Award for Leadership.

Ron Yasbin, dean of UMSL’s College of Arts and Sciences, on behalf of the UM System, surprised Troy with the award during a faculty meeting. The leadership award, which includes a $5,000 prize, recognizes faculty who have provided exemplary leadership for one of the four University of Missouri campuses through commitment to excellence and integrity in their leadership roles. The award is one of 10 presidential faculty awards to be presented in 2015.

Troy received a bachelor of arts in English from UMSL and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. She joined the UMSL faculty in 1994 as a lecturer and, in 1998, became director of the school’s newly created MFA in Creative Writing Program – a program she led for 12 years.

Nominators wrote that Troy’s leadership of the new program was unique in that she took on the additional administrative role as a brand new assistant professor who was already teaching a full course load. Though new to the job, she worked tirelessly to build the program, first by securing opportunities for graduate teaching assistantships on campus and at partnering institutions to attract qualified applicants. She then focused on building program visibility through community and national outreach by hosting symposiums, establishing a visiting writer program, and through signature events such as Celebration of the Book.

“We’ve become a known program, especially when it comes to the rigor with which we teach fiction and poetry craft and for fostering a community of supportive writers,” wrote nominator John Dalton, former MFA program director. “All of this is the result of a decade and a half of integrity and hard work from Mary Troy.”

As the MFA program grew, Troy established the Writers in the Schools (WITS) program to place MFA students in high schools and community colleges to give lessons in creativity, to do writing exercises and to read literary works. The WITS program has reached nearly 2,000 area students since its inception in 2010. Troy has also nurtured UMSL’s nationally-distributed literary magazine Natural Bridge by securing funding through governmental and community arts organizations. She has served as the journal’s editor since 2008.

“She was the program’s stabilizing force, which was still developing and growing during a time of fiscal uncertainty within the English department. She was steadfast in finding funding for her students, encouraging enrollment, being attentive to the students’ needs, and remaining accessible to all of us,” wrote nominator and former student Michael Nye, managing editor of the Missouri Review.

Troy continues to provide leadership to the university and the MFA program. She teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses on fiction writing, contemporary literature, and literary journal editing.

The UM System President’s Awards are presented annually to faculty members across the four campuses of the UM System who have made exceptional contributions in advancing the mission of the university. Troy will be formally recognized by UM System President Tim Wolfe during an awards celebration to be held June 25.


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