Chancellor Kristin Sobolik’s advice for other women is powerful in its simplicity:
Take the opportunities in front of you. Even if you don’t feel completely prepared.
The good results of that advice are apparent in Sobolik’s career – rising to chancellor of the University of Missouri–St. Louis this spring, overseeing the single largest donation in UMSL’s history during a record-setting fundraising year, leading the development of strategic plan and the Higher Learning Commission reaccreditation process.
In recognition of these accomplishments and more, the St. Louis Business Journal named Sobolik to its 2020 list “Most Influential Business Women.” She’s in good company; the list also includes two UMSL alumnae: Shawntelle Fisher, founder and CEO of SoulFisher Ministries, and Cathleen Arshadi, senior vice president and director of financial management at Commerce Trust Company.
Since its establishment in 1999, the annual awards recognize a class of 25 of the region’s female business leaders for their significant accomplishments in their industries, through various nonprofits and in the community. The women are profiled in the Business Journal’s Aug. 14 issue, and the awards were announced during a virtual event on Aug. 12.
When discussing everything from mentorship – from Chancellor Emeritus Blanche M. Touhill – to challenges overcome to how she’s handled the pandemic, Sobolik’s answers evoked her commitment and ties to the university.
“Influence is all about the people that gravitate to you and that support the same ideals and goals you have,” Sobolik said. “I am privileged to have a fantastic team whose goals are the same as mine – to transform our students’ lives – a goal that ends up transforming ourselves and our institution in the process.”
The Business Journal isn’t the only institution recognizing Sobolik’s leadership prowess of late. In July, Sobolik did an interview for the Higher Education Resource Services as a part of the Next Stages Next Steps to support women leaders. In it, she discussed her current role and the hiring to her position, her path to executive leadership, how her values align with her career aspirations and more.
The alignment of career and personal values are also in harmony for Fisher, who founded her nonprofit SoulFisher Ministries in 2014 while earning her bachelor’s degree in education and media studies as well as a Pierre Laclede Honors College certificate. SoulFisher Ministries’s mission – to help youth with incarcerated parents and promote restorative justice – was inspired by Fisher’s background.
“The biggest challenge that I’ve overcome is no secret,” Fisher told the Business Journal. “It would definitely be overcoming being stuck in the cycle of recidivism for over 20 years of my life. However, through my biggest challenge, I found my ‘it!’ Without my involvement in the criminal justice system, I wouldn’t know what currently and formerly incarcerated women need to be successful. Without my involvement with the criminal justice system, I wouldn’t be able to empower women to embrace who they are, where they are while they become who they were created be.”
She credits mentors such as UMSL Assistant Teaching Professor Ann Torrusio and her UMSL Neighborhood Leadership Academy cohort as well as figures from St. Louis Community College and Washington University in St. Louis for helping her achieve her goals.
The Business Journal recognized Arshadi, who earned her BSBA at UMSL in 1992, for her many responsibilities and achievements at Commerce, which include her part in profit growth, human resources, incentive compensation, strategic planning and more. During her career, she’s overseen Commerce’s 11-fold growth and managed its $57 billion assets in administration and $34.4 billion assets under management.
When looking back on her success and challenges, Arshadi spoke about valuing balance, embracing adaptability and change and developing others. Her advice for other women echoes those values as well as Sobolik’s perspective.
“Embrace opportunities that come your way even if they don’t seem like a perfect fit at the time,” Arshadi said. “It’s those opportunities and challenges that will help you develop to ensure, and signal to others, that you are ready for the next challenge. Being the best at something, no matter the size or perceived importance, is how you get recognized and ultimately promoted into something bigger. Share what you’ve learned and help others develop. And by all means, support women.”