UMSL Hero Awards

From left, Nora Hendren, Nick Kedzuch and Maya Scruggs-Hicks were named February’s recipients of the the UMSL Hero Award. Each will receive an UMSL Hero lapel pin in recognition of their contributions. (Hendren, Scruggs-Hicks photos by August Jennewein; Kedzuch photo courtesy of UMSL Athletics)

University of Missouri–St. Louis Chancellor Kristin Sobolik and her cabinet continue to recognize the exemplary efforts of staff and faculty members from across campus by bestowing the UMSL Hero Award on up to three individuals each month.

This month’s honorees are Nora Hendren, a senior business support specialist in the College of Arts and Sciences; Nicholas Kedzuch, the assistant director of athletics for special events, game operations and facilities; and Maya Scruggs-Hicks, the assistant director of student enrichment and achievement.

Nora Hendren, senior business support specialist in the College of Arts and Sciences

Hendren has worked as a business support specialist at UMSL since 2002, spending the majority of that assisting with business and fiscal operations in the Departments of Philosophy and Communication and Media. Last fall, she was promoted to work in the dean’s office in the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Nora Hendren always goes the extra mile and takes the initiative to identify and solve problems, whether or not they are her responsibility, and to be available to help anyone who needs it even after hours or during the weekend,” wrote Gualtiero Piccinini, a Curators’ Distinguished Professor in the Department of Philosophy, in nominating Hendren.

Jon McGinnis, a professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy, echoed those sentiments in his own nomination.

“What defines a hero?” McGinnis wrote. “In Nora’s case it is twofold. First, she simply is ALWAYS there. Whether it was a weekend, 7 a.m. in the morning or 11 p.m. in the evening, she was there to answer any and every question from the painfully simple to the painfully difficult. I always just knew she was there, and now as I speak with other chairs, I realize that I took Nora’s near on omnipresence just for granted.

“Second, she is the most innovative and creative individual that one will ever have the joy of meeting. Problems are never a problem for her; they are a challenge or puzzle to be solved.”

Hendren has a little less student interaction in her new role, but she’s enjoyed getting to tackle a broader set of issues.

“Now I’m working in a job that fits me like no job I’ve ever had before,” she said. “It’s all analyzing and numbers and helping in other ways. So, it’s just a different part of the team.”

Nick Kedzuch, assistant director of athletics for special events, game operations and facilities

Kedzuch began his professional career in athletics communications before transitioning to a position in marketing and game operations. He saw the opportunity to come to UMSL in 2017 as a chance to step further down that path.

“The opportunity to work in facilities and game operations and special events provided a new avenue and a new stepping stone to try to learn a little bit more about the realm of athletics,” said Kedzuch, who one day hopes to serve as an athletic director. “It’s definitely opened my eyes a little bit, and I’ve gotten quite a bit more experience in regards to working not only in athletics, but also with everyone else on campus.”

That’s been particularly true during the COVID-19 pandemic, because a lot of responsibility has fallen on Kedzuch to ensure the facilities stay as clean and safe as possible for student-athletes to continue training and competing.

“When COVID-19 descended upon our department in March, Nick showed innovation and trust in ensuring that the facilities maintained their level of excellence throughout the summer months, preparing each of them for the fall return,” Director of Athletics Lori Flanagan wrote in nominating Kedzuch. “As we returned in the fall, there are very strict protocols to follow. Nick needed to be engaged, trustworthy and accessible for our coaches and student-athletes. He has not waivered when asked to do more, even though the work was outside of his scope.”

Flanagan said Kedzuch has logged extra hours throughout the academic year making sure that all needs are met. He’s done so while also adjusting to parenthood as he and his wife welcomed their first child about 8½ months ago.

Maya Scruggs-Hicks, assistant director of student enrichment and achievement

Scruggs-Hicks, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UMSL and is currently working on her doctorate, has served as assistant director in the Office of Student Enrichment and Achievement since 2014. Her first job at UMSL was as a transfer specialist in 2007, and she transitioned to a job as a student development coordinator in what was then known as the Office of Student Success.

As assistant director, she assists the director with leading strategic planning to ensure the office is meeting its retention goals with students who are considered academically at risk with a GPA less than 2.5.

“There’s so much potential in them,” Scruggs-Hicks said. “I think sometimes, there’s an assumption that when students have had a lower GPA, maybe they’re not equipped to be pursuing a college degree. That’s really not true. Oftentimes, there’s not an issue with their intellect, but I think their life circumstances have presented challenges for them. Just having the support systems that we provide is critical.”

Success Coach Haley Dixon, who nominated Scruggs-Hicks, wrote that her leadership has been invaluable.

“Not only does she provide support and structure, but she leads with understanding, compassion and a desire to help others be the best they can be,” Dixon wrote. “Maya is always available to answer questions, walk through concerns or talk through new ideas on how to better serve students. She works hard to create processes to make our work more efficient and is always willing to try something new.

“Maya goes above and beyond in her work to make our work as coaches smoother and more effective. More than anything, Maya cares about the well-being of everyone in our office and the students we serve.”

To nominate staff or faculty for the UMSL Hero Award, visit https://www.umsl.edu/chancellor/heroes/index.html.

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Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik

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