Food for thought: ‘Breakfast with the Deans’ changed UMSL senior’s life forever

by | Nov 14, 2016

Kathryn Loucks, president of the Student Government Association, shared her experiences with high school students during this year's event before UMSL Day.
UMSL student Kathryn Loucks looks out over a crowd of people while standing at a lectern on stage and speaking into a microphone.

Kathryn Loucks, the president of the UMSL Student Government Association, addresses a room full of high school students and many of their parents on hand for the annual “Breakfast with the Deans” event on Saturday morning. It preceded the official start of UMSL Day. (Photos by August Jennewein)

Kathryn Loucks fumbled with her smartphone for a few seconds, apologized at least three times, found her remarks and then wowed the dozens of high school students and parents attending Saturday’s “Breakfast with the Deans” event at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

“In typical college fashion,” the UMSL senior biology major said, “ I didn’t write these remarks until this morning because I was working on a 12-page paper last night. I didn’t even have time to print them.”

A diverse group of people sitting around round tables in a crowded room applauds.

A diverse crowd applauds senior biology major Kathryn Loucks during her remarks at the annual “Breakfast with the Deans” event on Saturday.

Nonetheless, reading from that smartphone, the former Advanced Credit Program student and current president of the UMSL Student Government Association nailed it.

Loucks was a junior at St. Pius X High School whose only connection to UMSL was through her ACP courses when she received the invitation to this breakfast as a prospective student four years ago. “I simply thought, ‘Hey, free food. I’m in,’” she said.

Little did Loucks or her parents know when driving to UMSL from Festus, Missouri, that the breakfast would change her life.

“After just one hour or so with these amazing people sitting among you, I was sold on this university,” she said. “When I finally graduated high school with my 85 classmates and moved into Oak Hall, I was nervous that I would get lost at this public university and, as a result, not be as engaged as I would have hoped.

“Fortunately, I met people who pushed me to join one of the ensembles on campus, to study abroad in Costa Rica, to complete the Emerging Leaders Program, to find a job with Residential Life and, finally, to run for President of the Student Government Association,” Loucks said. “UMSL fosters an environment that ensures the success of its students, and this is due in large part to the level of concern the people sitting among you already have for you.”

Loucks enrolled at UMSL with 32 college credits. She plans to enter UMSL’s secondary education graduate program – with an eye toward teaching high school biology – after earning her bachelor’s degree in December of 2017.

A parent and a young women sit near each other at opposite tables and appear captivated by a speech.

Kathryn Loucks had crowd members captivated as she talked about her own experience attending “Breakfast with the Deans” as a high school student and the impact choosing UMSL has had on her. She now serves as the president of the Student Government Association.

ACP is a dual credit program operated by UMSL in cooperation with numerous St. Louis-area high schools. This program offers qualifying, high-caliber high school students the opportunity to earn college credits and become familiar with the college experience while still in a high school setting. College credits earned through the ACP are accepted at all of Missouri’s public colleges and universities and many other institutions across the country. More than 5,000 are participating in ACP courses this fall.

“Breakfast with the Deans” was created by Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Ron Yasbin to give high school students in UMSL’s ACP early access to the campus’ top academic leaders and faculty. It’s held a few hours prior to the beginning of UMSL Day – the campus open house for potential freshmen and transfer students held once each in the fall and spring.

More than 800 students registered for UMSL Day Saturday. Together with parents and friends, a crowd of nearly 1,500 people roamed through the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center to talk with faculty and current UMSL students about their programs and experiences. The day’s activities included information on scholarships and guided tours of the campus.

Find Kathryn Loucks’ full remarks here.

The UMSL Experience

Bob Samples

Bob Samples

Bob Samples is associate vice chancellor for university communications at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.