Dr. Kristin Sobolik was inaugurated as the eighth chancellor in the University of Missouri–St. Louis’ history on Friday morning after being appointed to the position last April.
She used the livestreamed event to lay out her vision for expanding the university’s visibility and influence in the St. Louis region.
“My goal is to establish UMSL as the top urban, metropolitan research university in the nation,” Sobolik said during the virtual event attended by hundreds of faculty, staff, students, alumni and supporters. “While doing so, we will further strengthen and deepen the university’s roots and impact here in St. Louis.”
Sobolik announced a new initiative and direction for the university, called “Rise Up for St. Louis.” It is focused on elevating UMSL’s partnerships to help drive the region forward while modeling and embracing inclusive prosperity. The university also aims to work with partners to eliminate barriers in St. Louis that for too long have inhibited change.
UMSL, first and foremost, is doubling down on its role as a leader in workforce development across the St. Louis region by providing high-quality, affordable education.
The university has graduated more than 105,000 alumni since its founding in 1963. More than 75,000 of its graduates remain in the region to live, work and drive positive change, whether they’re working as community and business leaders, educators, nurses, scientists, accountants, social workers, engineers, optometrists and more.
UMSL serves students of all backgrounds, circumstances and abilities. Nearly half of UMSL students are Pell Grant eligible; thousands more are first-generation college students, parents and veterans; 78 percent receive financial aid; and a vast majority of students balance their studies with at least one job.
The university is recognized nationally as a leader in serving its particular student demographics. UMSL has the highest retention and graduation rates in the nation among its urban and metropolitan university peers, and U.S. News & World Report has included UMSL among its “Top Performers on Social Mobility,” which recognizes universities that do the best job graduating students with the highest financial need.
In Friday’s address, Sobolik announced that she, along with her husband, Scott Peterson, have established the Rise Up Scholarship at UMSL. The scholarship supports students who are just shy of qualifying for Pell Grant aid or merit-based scholarships – often because they work multiple jobs that push their income outside of Pell Grant qualifications or because they juggle career and family responsibilities alongside a full course load which keeps them from reaching the academic requirements necessary to receive merit scholarships.
“I am so grateful to our friends and supporters who serve on the UMSL Chancellor’s Council – and those who continue to advocate for, engage with and support our university – for joining us in financially supporting student scholarships in recognition of both my investiture as chancellor and to meet the very real needs of our students and community,” Sobolik said.
The “Rise Up for St. Louis” initiative also includes UMSL programs developed to address regional needs, such as the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Accelerator program, which garnered more than 400 applicants to compete for startup funding and gain access to mentorship for underrepresented entrepreneurs.
UMSL continues to collaborate with T-REX and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to grow the geospatial ecosystem in St. Louis as a partner for education, research and entrepreneurship while connecting its students to the thousands of forthcoming jobs.
“Rise Up for St. Louis” also encompasses the leadership role UMSL is playing alongside Edward Jones to build an Anchor Network with partners in Greater St. Louis, Inc. The network is bringing together other anchor institutions – including Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis University, BJC HealthCare, SSM Health, the Saint Louis Zoo and others – to set and meet targets for hiring, purchasing and investing locally. In so doing, the network will create jobs and expand inclusive economic growth.
“To elevate, invest in and build our region, we must collaborate and work together toward a shared set of common goals,” Sobolik said. “So today my ask of each of you is to bring UMSL to the table. Invite us to be the game-changing partner that we are. Believe, as I do, in our whole-hearted, comprehensive mission to transform lives through education. Trust that we have the expertise, resources and agile ability to be your steadfast partner in building, elevating and rising up St. Louis.”
Attendees of the inauguration also heard remarks from University of Missouri President Mun Choi; George Paz, the retired chairman and CEO of Express Scripts, president of the Chancellor’s Council and a 1982 graduate of UMSL’s College of Business Administration; and Chancellor Emerita Blanche M. Touhill, who served as UMSL’s chancellor from 1991-2002.
The event featured a video with testimonials from several prominent St. Louis business and education leaders, including Rick Stevens, the president of Christian Hospital; Sharonica Hardin-Bartley, the superintendent of The School District of University City and a 2014 PhD graduate; Evelyn Bailey Moore, Boeing’s F/A-18 and EA-18G chief engineer and a 2003 electrical engineering graduate; and Ken Cella, a principal at Edward Jones overseeing the Client Strategies Group and a 1993 BSBA graduate.
It culminated in an appearance by Golden Globe winner and Grammy and Academy Award-nominee Andra Day, who performed her hit song, “Rise Up” and shared a message of encouragement to the university community as it works to transform lives and build inclusive prosperity in the region and beyond.
To watch a replay of the event, click on the video below:
To donate to the Rise Up Scholarship, click here.
St. Louis Public Radio