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 Emily Baize, campus space planner with Facilities Management; Ericka Webb, executive assistant in the Office of Human Resources; and Anthony Harper, a forensic interviewer with Children’s Advocacy Services of Greater St. Louis.
Emily Baize, campus space planner
Baize has been with Facilities Management since 2016 and has primarily worked on space planning and space consolidation. Baize said she thinks of her work as “space stewardship” because it’s something that’s important not only to the various departments on campus, but also to students, staff and faculty.
Her efforts have been particularly important during the past year. The COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a reexamination of public spaces on campus and classroom capacities. Baize worked closely with university leadership to meet St. Louis County COVID-19 mandates and CDC guidelines, ensuring safe classroom environments.
“Last summer, there was a need to look at our classrooms and what our capacities were,” Baize said. “We worked closely with the registrar’s office, ITS and our facilities team to develop a plan. It was definitely a group effort to determine, ‘How do we safely have students in class?’ Arriving at the capacities involved being in the classrooms, measuring and looking at the style of seating.”
She added that the hardest part was getting started, but after a plan was in place, things ran smoothly. Daryl Ives, executive director of Facilities Management, commended her work under extraordinary circumstances.
“Anyone who knows Emily will say that she is an amazing person and easy to work with who provides fresh, out-of-the box ideas, helping transform the space across campus to better suit the needs of our faculty, staff and most importantly our students,” Ives wrote in nominating Baize.
She was honored to receive the recognition.
“It’s humbling; I’m grateful,” she said. “There’s such a great community here at UMSL – so many people that go the extra mile.”
Ericka Webb, executive assistant
Webb began her professional career as an administrative assistant in local school districts before coming to UMSL in 2019 to serve as executive assistant for the Office of Human Resources. Her experience working in K-12 schools was valuable when she took on additional responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve often had to adapt to being the only admin assistant in the school,” Webb said. “It’s hard work – a lot of work – but it can be done.”
During the past year, Webb has supported Vice Chancellor Tanisha Stevens in the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Betty Van Uum, assistant to the chancellor for public affairs and economic development, in addition to James Hertel, executive director of Office of Human Resources.
“Since that time, Ericka continues to go above and beyond, ensuring that our offices function smoothly, which is not an easy task,” Stevens wrote. “Ericka is a calming voice in what sometimes feels like a storm of information, meetings, tasks, etc. What I appreciate the most about Ericka is her ability to take a task head-on: Research what is needed, communicate effectively to those who will need to be involved and execute that task to completion.”
Two such examples were the 2021 Trailblazers Awards and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Observance. A self-described people person, Webb enjoyed working on those events because she had the opportunity to interact with students, faculty and community members she wouldn’t have crossed paths with otherwise.
She communicated closely with the students who won the UMSL Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship and read their winning essays for the Holiday Observance.
“I went up to the Touhill,” Webb said. “I scheduled them to come and read their essays, and we did a recording. I wanted to be there to greet them, to meet them in person, congratulate them. It’s something about when you exchange that kind of energy. It’s very good energy to interact with the students, and I wanted them to know that I was proud of them.”
Anthony Harper, a forensic interviewer
For the last eight years, Harper has done the difficult, but necessary, job of conducting forensic interviews with children in the St. Louis area who have been the victims of alleged abuse or other traumas.
Maren Mellem, manager of forensic operations at Children’s Advocacy Services, noted in her nomination that Harper’s work has been critical during the past year.
“He works tirelessly to serve the children and families that walk through our doors,” Mellem wrote. “At no time has Anthony’s dedication been more evident than during the pandemic. Despite the risks, Anthony and our forensic team continue to conduct in-person forensic interviews of alleged child victims of abuse without missing a beat. He and the team recognized that child abuse investigations must continue despite the pandemic and that their interviews play a pivotal role in those investigations.”
The onset of the pandemic brought layoffs, stay-at-home orders and remote work and school, increasing the potential for intimate partner violence and child abuse in homes. Harper said there has been a marked uptick in the need for forensic interviews.
“I’ve seen more interviews this past year than I had in my last five years,” he said. “Each month we get more and more kids coming to the center for interviews.”
Despite the increased workload under difficult conditions, Harper has continued to provide trauma-sensitive care when he’s called upon. In one instance, he received an emergency call one night about a child at a hospital who allegedly had been sexually abused. As he arranged an interview, he received another call about a child who had witnessed a shooting. He successfully coordinated both interviews on the fly.
Harper was humbled to receive the award but also credited his colleagues.
“I’m just fortunate to work with such a great team here at our agency and with the team members that we work with in law enforcement and the court in child protection services,” he said. “We have a great resource here in St. Louis, and all those team members are very dedicated, so I feel like this is not just my award, but it should be shared with all those people who have worked so hard during the pandemic as well.”
To nominate staff or faculty for the UMSL Hero Award, visit https://www.umsl.edu/chancellor/heroes/index.html.