Natissia Small

The St. Louis Business Journal honored Natissia Small as a 2021 Champions for Diversity & Inclusion Award recipient. Small serves as the vice provost for access, academic support and workforce integration. (Photo by Michael Thomas/STL Made)

Natissia Small has spent her career working to expand access to higher education and create opportunities for students, regardless of background, to strengthen their futures by earning  degrees.

Since coming to the University of Missouri–St. Louis in 1995, she’s worked as a coordinator for student financial aid, was a counselor and then the director of the UMSL Bridge Program, has led the Student Academic Support Services unit and, earlier this year, accepted an expanded role as the vice provost for access, academic support and workforce integration.

She believes strongly in the importance of education to help create a more equitable society by eliminating barriers that have denied some people the chance to fulfill their dreams.

“We all play a critical role in championing for equitable access to quality education, health care, employment opportunities, and more,” Small said. “If we desire to change the landscape of society as we see it today, we have to think differently at every level. There are many rich opportunities available in St Louis and beyond, but all stakeholders have to commit to meeting people where they are and creating a space for them to succeed.”

The St. Louis Business Journal has recognized Small’s contributions and named her one of its 2021 Champions for Diversity & Inclusion. The award is intended to “showcase individuals who, through their work, are truly championing the cause of making St. Louis a more inclusive place to live and work.”

Small and the other 15 awardees were featured on the St. Louis Business Journal website and honored at a luncheon Thursday at the Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta.

Small was surprised to find out she was among the honorees when they were revealed early last month.

“It was humbling and allowed me to reflect upon the work and sacrifices that I have made for many years to serve students and families throughout the campus and community,” she said. “It reminded me to reflect upon the barriers that have been removed while acknowledging that we have much more to do to ensure the equitable access that everyone deserves. I am grateful to have been a part of a group of leaders recognized for this award.”

Small still doesn’t think of herself as a sole champion.

“I chose to work in higher education for a reason, and I don’t take my commitment to creating pathways that would lead others to lifelong success lightly,” she said. “This work is a collective effort with an amazing leadership team and staff who demonstrate tremendous dedication to supporting all students. That is what has led to the accomplishments achieved thus far. I think of myself as someone who believes in identifying and removing barriers to provide opportunities for people to fulfill their lifelong goals.”

Read more about Small by visiting the St. Louis Business Journal website.

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Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik

Eye on UMSL: Tending the gardens
Eye on UMSL: Tending the gardens

Biology student James Ott and Sustainable Energy & Environmental Coordinator Katy Mike Smaistrla pull weeds last week in the native gardens north of the Recreation Wellness Center.

Eye on UMSL: Tending the gardens

Biology student James Ott and Sustainable Energy & Environmental Coordinator Katy Mike Smaistrla pull weeds last week in the native gardens north of the Recreation Wellness Center.

Eye on UMSL: Tending the gardens

Biology student James Ott and Sustainable Energy & Environmental Coordinator Katy Mike Smaistrla pull weeds last week in the native gardens north of the Recreation Wellness Center.