Tara Cramer, Betsy Sampson and Dorian Hall receive UMSL Hero Awards

by | Nov 1, 2021

The award is presented to up to three staff or faculty members each month in recognition of their efforts to transform the lives of UMSL students and the wider community.


Tara Cramer, Betsy Sampson and Dorian Hall

The October 2021 honorees are (from left) Tara Cramer, manager of student support services for Disability Access Services; Betsy Sampson, senior program and project support coordinator for Academic Affairs; and Dorian Hall, director of the Millennium Student Center, Student Involvement and Event Services. (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 Tara Cramer, manager of student support services for Disability Access Services; Dorian Hall, director of the Millennium Student Center, Student Involvement and Event Services; and Betsy Sampson, senior program and project support coordinator for Academic Affairs.

Tara Cramer

Upon learning she’d been named an UMSL Hero, Tara Cramer’s first reaction was surprise.

“I’ve been with UMSL for a long time, and I guess I feel like I’m just doing my job,” she said. “So, it was very nice to have someone else recognize the hard work I put in for the students.”

Each school year, Cramer helps hundreds of UMSL students with disabilities access the resources and services they need to succeed. As manager of the Disability Access Services, she removes barriers so their needs are met and they can have the same opportunities as every other student on campus. It’s been rewarding to play a part in their success.

“I find that I learn a lot just by being with them, and they have become teachers to not only myself in our office but to the campus community as a whole,” she said.

LaTonya Johnson, program support coordinator with DAS, highlighted Cramer’s dedication and professionalism.

“Tara is the best manager I have ever worked with, and her compassion and ongoing service toward our students is top-notch,” Johnson wrote in nominating Cramer for the award.

She also pointed to Cramer’s work with Sunshine Miles, a recent nursing graduate who is deaf. Miles said Cramer was the reason she was able to graduate after so many others told her it would be impossible.

“It was really great to be a part of that journey for her,” Cramer said. “A lot of my students have that philosophy, ‘Don’t tell me I can’t do this. I’m going to prove to you that I can.’ It was just very rewarding to finally see all of that hard work and effort that she put into it, and it paid off for her.”

Cramer had a background in disability employment before coming to the university, but she’s relished the opportunity to touch the lives of so many students over the years.

“When I came to UMSL, I had had no experience working in the academic arena with disabilities,” she said. “I will honestly say that it has become the best job I’ve ever had, and I can’t imagine going on to anywhere else.”

Dorian Hall

Dorian Hall has worn many hats as an employee at UMSL.

He started working at the university as a student in the Welcome Center before moving to the Millennium Student Center. He also worked stints with the University Program Board and at summer orientations.

However, he considers the Millennium Student Center his home. In 2012, he became coordinator of the MSC and quickly worked his way up the ladder, serving as a supervisor, assistant director, associate director and director. Last year, he also began overseeing the Office of Student Involvement and Event Services.

Lynn Staley, teaching professor of English, applauded Hall’s ability to take on new responsibilities on the fly and his efforts to continue providing programming for various history and heritage months throughout the school year.

“Dorian worked along with Mindy Dilley over the past year to partner on keeping our LGBTQ+ and other history and heritage month programs going,” Staley wrote. “While seriously understaffed, Dorian took on new roles and ensured that multiple programs were able to thrive, coordinating with staff and faculty on committees and responding to multiple requests for assistance with marketing programs and getting calendar information out to the campus community. He took on duties he had never performed before but was so gracious and helpful and, along with Mindy, kept a lot of great programs running.”

Hall said he and Dilley leaned on their experience leading other initiatives and events to put together the programming. He added that he was thankful for the grace and understanding he received from staff and faculty members while he navigated the new task.

“We really wanted to make sure that students still had those opportunities – and really the campus, not just students – to celebrate Women’s History Month, Black History Month and LGBTQ+ History Month,” Hall said. “Those traditions are very important to our office, and we believe they’re instrumental in helping students, faculty and staff engage in ways and spaces that they may not have the opportunity to normally engage in the classroom.”

Hall’s schedule can get quite busy, but most of the time it feels more like fun than work.

“It has been one of the joys of my life working at this institution,” he said. “Now to be honored by that institution in such a way is truly, truly a blessing for me.”

Betsy Sampson

Betsy Sampson began her career at UMSL 21 years ago as a temp. Sampson came to campus to apply for a position in the Graduate School and also filled out an application for a temporary position just in case she didn’t get the job.

She temped in the Department of Chemistry for about three weeks before getting the good news – she got the job.

The Graduate School was her home for 12 years, and she spearheaded projects such as launching electronic theses and dissertations. With the encouragement of former Graduate School Dean Judith Walker de Felix, Sampson moved to Academic Affairs.

Cindy Dupureur, professor of chemistry, noted that Sampson has provided outstanding guidance and leadership while managing numerous technology platforms that impact curriculum and program proposals at UMSL. These platforms include Bulletin, Courseleaf, MyConnect, MyVITA and Starfish Analytics.

“This dizzying array of software systems can sometimes feel intimidating,” Dupureur wrote. “She has worked tirelessly to make theses platforms more user-friendly and impactful by providing excellent training and one-on-one support for end users. She consistently receives rave reviews from everyone.”

Sampson’s work includes a lot of moving parts, from troubleshooting evaluations on MyVITA to security issues, but providing the resources faculty members and students need to succeed makes it easy.

Her efforts were especially crucial last school year when many classes switched to blended and virtual formats due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sampson said UMSL worked to take advantage of all the tools available.

“In UMSL MyConnect specifically, being able to have a virtual kiosk, students can use a phone to check in and don’t have to swipe a card or could be at home for a Zoom appointment,” she said. “That’s very helpful.”

Sampson felt appreciative of the recognition.

“I think it’s kind of humbling,” she said. “It’s just nice to know that you’re appreciated by your colleagues.”

Burk Krohe

Burk Krohe