Fall semester opening with 33 new faculty members

by | Aug 21, 2020

Chancellor Kristin Sobolik welcomed the new faculty members during a virtual reception last Tuesday evening.
Millennium Student Center

There are 33 new additions to UMSL’s faculty as the fall semester begins. Chancellor Kristin Sobolik welcomed them to the university community during a virtual reception last Tuesday. (Photo by August Jennewein)

The annual Chancellor’s Reception for new faculty at the University of Missouri–St. Louis had to be moved to a virtual format this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

But that did not dampen the excitement Chancellor Kristin Sobolik felt as she greeted 33 new faculty members and welcomed them to the UMSL community on Tuesday evening.

“Usually, we’re kind of mingling around, and we have our dainty snacks in one hand and our drink in the other, but this will be almost as good,” Sobolik said. “We’re looking forward to seeing you in person sometime soon.”

She went on to remind them of the impact they can make in their new positions.

“UMSL has many great attributes that help our students create a pathway to a better life, but the foundation is and always will be our faculty,” Sobolik said. “You are the ones who will guide, inspire and mentor our students. You are the ones who they will appreciate and remember for decades.”

During the remainder of the hour-long event, the deans of each college took turns introducing each new faculty member and shared details about their backgrounds and research interests.

Find out more about each new faculty member:


Dean’s office

Robert James Ubbelohde, associate research professor
Ubbelohde will serve as the director of the National Security and Community Policy Collaborative, which will level partnerships in the growing St. Louis area geospatial ecosystem. Ubbelohde spent 32 years at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency as a cartographer, geospatial analyst and a manager and leader. He did graduate work at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Kelsey Cundiff, assistant professor
Cundiff received her PhD in criminology at Pennsylvania State University, and her research interests include crime trends, spatial analysis of crime and adolescent delinquency.

Samantha Simon, assistant professor
Simon received her PhD in sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, and she uses ethnographic and qualitative methods while focusing her research on violence, gender, race and organizational inequity.

Department of Economics

Eiji Goto, assistant professor
Goto, a native of Tokyo, Japan, received his PhD in economics at the George Washington University. His research focuses on monetary policy and macroeconomics using quantitative methods.

Department of English

Omotola Abraham, assistant professor
Abraham is a native of Lagos, Nigeria, and is a writer of both fiction and nonfiction. She received an MFA from the University of Iowa’s Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her novel, Black Sunday, was selected by the Midwestern Booksellers Association as the February 2020 Book of the Month.

Department of Political Science

Stephen Bagwell, assistant professor
Bagwell received his PhD in political science from the University of Georgia, and his research interest lies in the relationship between political economy and political violence.

Sapna Varkey, assistant professor
Varkey received her PhD in public administration at North Carolina State University, and her research focuses on organizational performance and the institutional pressures and the organizational structures and practices that influence outcomes.

Department of Psychological Sciences

Devin Banks, assistant professor
Banks received her PhD in clinical psychology from Indiana University-Purdue University. Her research aims to improve behavioral health equity among underserved racial and ethnic groups through risk reduction and resiliency building during adolescence and young adulthood.

Amanda Bequette, assistant teaching professor
Bequette received her PhD in social psychology from Saint Louis University and served as a research faculty member at the Missouri Institute of Mental Health, where she conducted multiple evaluation projects for various for state and local grant-funded programs.

Ryan Carpenter, assistant professor
Carpenter received his PhD from the University of Missouri–Columbia and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University. His research uses technology and momentary sampling to better understand and address alcohol, opioid and other substance abuse.

Hannah White, assistant professor
White received her PhD from the University of Kentucky. She researches individual differences in social and cognitive development from infancy to adulthood with a focus on contextual factors such as socioeconomic status, chaos in the home environment and parenting.

Chelsey Wilks, assistant professor
Wilks received her PhD in clinical psychology in 2018 from the University of Washington and did postdoctoral training at Harvard University. Her research focuses on the implementation of technology to prevent and intervene with individuals at risk for suicide.

Department of Sociology

Robert Cote, assistant teaching professor
Cote is serving as the coordinator for the undergraduate BA in organizational leadership. He has more than 25 years of experience in management and leadership roles in various industries. He received his PhD in organizational management from Capella University.

Elaina Johns-Wolfe, assistant professor
Johns-Wolfe received her PhD in sociology from the University of Cincinnati. She researches how racial stratification shapes housing and health inequities in urban communities.


Department of Accounting

James Hesford, assistant professor
Hesford received his PhD in accounting from the University of Southern California. He has served on the faculty at Washington University in St. Louis; Cornell University; the University of Akron, Ecole Hôtelière in Lucerne, Switzerland; and the University of Lethbridge. He is an expert in management accounting in the hospitality industry.

Department of Finance and Legal Studies

Timothy Dombrowski, assistant professor
Dombrowski received his PhD in finance at Louisiana State University. His research interests include various topics in finance, real estate and financial technology. He will advise the UMSL finance club and arrange the annual finance career conference.

Hainan Sheng, assistant professor
Sheng received her PhD in finance from Texas Tech University and served as an assistant professor at the University of Northern Iowa. She is a chartered financial analyst, and she researches option trading volume and real estate investment trusts.

Department of Global Management and Leadership

Stephanie Merritt, professor
Merritt served as faculty member in the Department of Psychological Sciences at UMSL since 2007, but she now joins the College of Business Administration as a professor of management. She received her PhD in organizational psychology at Michigan State University, and her research focuses on diversity and inclusion in organization and trust in automated technology.

Department of Marketing and Entrepreneurship

Tessa Garcia-Collart, assistant professor
Garcia-Collart received her PhD in marketing from Texas International University. Her research interests include consumer health and wellbeing and brand communication in digital media.

Daniel Grossman, assistant professor
Grossman received his PhD from the University of Cincinnati. His research stream lies at the crossroads of death and consumer behavior by exploring the process of bequeathing possessed objects through generations. He focuses on the type of sentimental associations that lead an object to be passed down as an heirloom.

Michael Kehoe, assistant teaching professor
Kehoe will teach entrepreneurship and serve as the director of UMSL Accelerate. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois-Champaign and Stanford University. He’s a professional licensed civil engineer, full-stack web developer and award-winning social entrepreneur.

Department of Supply Chain and Analytics

Shakiba Enayati, assistant professor
Enayati received her PhD in operations research from North Carolina State University and previously served on the faculty at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. Her research focuses on analytical modeling and optimization of stochastic and complex systems with applications in service and health care supply chains.

Trilce Encarnacion, assistant professor
Encarnacion, a native of the Dominican Republic, received her PhD in transportation engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Her research focuses on the application of econometrics and analytics for decision-making in humanitarian logistics and disaster relief.


Department of Education Sciences and Professional Programs

Karen Boleska, assistant teaching professor
Boleska received her PhD in organizational leadership with a specialty in sport management from the University of the Incarnate Word in Texas and also has a background in kinesiology. Boleska will teach sport management and has experience in athletics at NCAA Divisions I, II and III.

So Rin Kim, assistant professor of clinical mental health
Kim received her PhD in counselor education from Pennsylvania State University and previously spent eight years as a clinical mental health counselor and career counselor in the United States and her native South Korea. Her primary research interest is resilience in underrepresented populations.


Debra D’Arcy, assistant teaching professor
D’Arcy has degrees from Purdue University, the University of Missouri–Columbia and American Sentinel University and specializes in educational leadership. She brings expertise in community health.

Anne Thatcher, assistant teaching professor
Thatcher received her DNP from UMSL and previously has been an adjunct professor in the College of Nursing. She is also a psychiatric mental health practitioner. Her research interests include psychiatric and behavioral health care.

Jennifer Vines, assistant teaching professor
Vines is set to receive her DNP from Chamberlain University in October and has extensive teaching experience. She will be teaching in UMSL’s simulation lab.

Kimberly Werner, associate professor and associate dean of research
Werner received her PhD from UMSL’s Department of Psychological Sciences in 2013 and joined the College of Nursing in May after serving at the Missouri Institute of Mental Health from 2017 to 2020. Werner’s research interests include trauma exposure and related psychopathology, intimate partner violence, substance and addiction disorders, biopsychological outcomes and gender and racial disparities.


Carl Kramer, assistant clinical professor
Kramer received a Doctor of Optometry degree from the University of Houston and is making a return to St. Louis after previously training in UMSL’s residency program in cornea and contact lenses. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry.


Rob Wilson, assistant teaching professor
Wilson received a PhD in American Studies from Saint Louis University and has worked part time in the Honors College at UMSL since 2005. He received a Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Part-time Faculty in 2018 and will serve as the coordinator of community engagement in his new full-time role with the Honors College.


Sara Hodge, curator
Hodge, who received her MA in museum studies from the University of San Francisco, will serve as the curator of the Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways Library. She previously worked at the First Missouri State Capitol State Historic Site.

Alyssa Marie Persson, librarian
Persson received a Master of Library and Information Science from Simmons University and is beginning the Aubash Collection Fellowship Program for emerging library professionals.

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik