UMSL Hero Award recipients

From left, Sam Wheeler, Danielle Faucett and Lauren Obermark were named the March recipients of the the UMSL Hero Award. Each will receive an UMSL Hero lapel pin in recognition of their contributions. (Wheeler photo submitted; Faucett and Obermark photos by August Jennewein)

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 Assistant Registrar Danielle Faucett; Lauren Obermark, an associate professor in the English Department; and Sam Wheeler, an office support assistant in the Office of Admissions.

Danielle Faucett, assistant registrar

Faucett started working at UMSL while still a student in 2006, and she’s held various positions over the past 15 years, including in UMSL’s Charter Schools Office and with Children’s Advocacy Services, while also completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication and a MEd in adult education.

Faucett moved to the Office of the Registrar in 2015 and after three years was promoted to assistant registrar, a position that has her working primarily with curriculum and scheduling. She has been nationally recognized for her work with UMSL’s scheduling platform and has been invited to present on the innovative ways the university has implemented scheduling software.

Her work has been especially critical over the past year with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing a change in the way classes have been held in colleges and departments across campus – in some cases with restrictions on the physical spaces suitable to maintain social distancing during in-person instruction.

“It has probably been the most challenging thing I’ve ever experienced,” Faucett said. “But it’s also been very rewarding. I’ve learned a lot of new things. I have a really awesome team of people working with me, and we’ve been able to pivot in ways I didn’t know were possible.”

Faucett’s colleagues have appreciated her leadership and strategic thinking.

“Without Danielle and her colleagues we could never had made it through the tumultuous transitions that took place with our schedule during late spring, summer and fall of 2020,” Vice Provost for Student Success and Innovation Beth Eckelkamp wrote in nominating Faucett. “Her endless patience, professionalism, diplomacy and above all her amazing creativity truly carried us through that very challenging time.”

Lauren Obermark, associate professor of English

There have been times over the past year when Obermark has found herself just trying to get by. She’s been juggling the responsibilities of her job as an associate professor in the Department of English with her service commitments across campus and parenting small children being schooled at home. Occasionally, she’s felt overwhelmed by it all.

So she was so honored to receive the Hero Award.

“To learn that I was doing something that warranted any kind of additional recognition felt really good,” Obermark said. “To feel like I was seen out there by someone, trying my best, even though I don’t feel exactly at my best professionally right now.”

Associate Teaching Professor Jeanne Allison nominated Obermark for the award and praised her for remaining focused on supporting students.

“Throughout the pandemic, Dr. Obermark has been a leader among faculty in how best to accommodate students who are struggling because of the isolation that a society living with Covid experiences,” Allison wrote. “With diplomacy and grace, Dr. Obermark gently suggests strategies to colleagues meant to help us handle the struggles that students face in the virtual classroom.”

Last spring, after the decision to postpone commencement ceremonies, Obermark took it upon herself to write profiles of each student graduating with a degree in English and shared them on the department’s Facebook page as a way of celebrating their achievements.

“This year, I’ve taught first-year freshmen up to our master’s students, and I’d say with everyone, you notice that in some way they’re carrying an extra load – whether it’s childcare or their own work or their own workload,” Obermark said. “I’ve had lots of students talk about getting sick themselves or having family members get sick. There’s a mental and emotional load. It’s been important to find ways to individually work through things with students and help them feel supported and also that they’re still finding community and a challenge in their education because they still they want that too.”

Sam Wheeler, office support assistant in the Office of Admissions

Wheeler transferred to UMSL to study history in 2016 and joined the Office of Admissions as a student worker. He moved into his current position after completing his degree in 2018 and is responsible for processing applications and transcripts that come to the university.

His work managing the data – linking transcripts, ACT scores and personal statements – is invaluable to the work the Admissions staff does, and three of his colleagues nominated him for the award.

“He really is an unseen hero,” Business Analyst Austin Culbertson said. “Sam is part of our file room team, so when he is not working from home, he is located inside of our records room, quite literally unseen by anyone who doesn’t go out of their way to go talk to him.

“From this out-of-sight position Sam makes everything admissions does possible. He creates, combines and manages student records, laying the foundation for all future Tritons’ admission to UMSL.”

CRM Manager Mark Curry also commended Wheeler for taking on more responsibility this fall after the sudden death of longtime admissions staff member Jerry Hoffman.

“Jerry’s departure was so sudden there was little time to pass on the knowledge of the admissions processes and the intricate filing systems,” Curry said. “Sam immediately stepped in to create manuals, attended meetings and maintained excellent business continuity. The loss of Jerry was a tremendous strain on our department, but because of Sam’s leadership, that strain was mitigated.

“He is also one of the nicest people I have met in my 12 years here.”

Wheeler was humbled to be recognized.

“It’s really good to have your work acknowledged and just do something I’m good at – what I’m particularly good at I think is my attention to detail – and have that be useful to the university,” Wheeler said. “I feel very satisfied with that.”

Each recipient of the Hero Award will receive a lapel pin in recognition of their contributions. To nominate staff or faculty members for the UMSL Hero Award, visit

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik