This is Chris Sullivan: The clinical director for UMSL Health, Counseling and Disability Access Services and campus health officer talks shop

Chris Sullivan first came to UMSL 25 years ago. Since then, he’s held roles as student, faculty, staff and now, as campus health officer, helps oversee health and safety on campus during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by August Jennewein)

25 years at UMSL as a student, faculty and staff member: UMSL has always been such a good fit. I’ve identified closely with the challenges and the difficulties of those here – working professionals, people with families, with complicated life situations, trying to take big steps forward for themselves and the people they care about. We all come from very different backgrounds. It’s felt like the right place to be. 

Bringing the Health, Counseling and Disability Access Services together under one umbrella: 

Being a place where students can get assistance on being physically and psychologically well goes together because the body and mind are not separate. Then, with Disability Access Services, we have this incredible opportunity to assist people that have identified, diagnosed disabilities. There are a lot of different concerns that we work with in HCDAS, but they’re all pointed in the same direction. 

Applying his specialty of multicultural counseling: I’ve always been interested in the mosaic of cultural backgrounds and identities. Although difficulties can arise from our life experiences, they can be a tremendous source of strategies to thrive, be successful and move forward. That’s my core vision of how I see people. I’d like to think that it’s also reflected in the way we provide services by working closely with every student who comes to us and knowing that each will have different needs. Our job is to help find out how we can be of the most assistance. 

Overseeing UMSL health and safety as campus health officer during the pandemic: 

I stopped looking at it as treating a specific client or patient but as the entire campus that’s made up of all these individuals. What do I need to do to support the entire campus? How can I listen to what’s happening and attempt to provide assistance or some kind of approach to treating the campus as a whole? 

The evolution: With the availability of the COVID vaccines, our entire situation is dramatically different than where we were a year ago. We’ve learned so much about the virus. We’ve developed a lot of strategies and approaches for campus, but at the same time, COVID is not done with us yet. This year will present new and different challenges, so it will be important for us to continue to be flexible and adaptable. 

What’s worked: This has been such a campus effort. We’ve worked so closely together. There were so many people involved and that’s a testament to what UMSL is really about. We look out for each other. There’s a real willingness to engage, support and assist. 

Missing home-state Wisconsin flavors: Fresh cheese curds, like so fresh they are still warm. I probably have somewhat of a reputation for only eating “healthy,” but I have a hard time turning down fried cheese curds. The pandemic would have been a bit easier on me if I’d been able to find a steady supply. 

This story was originally published in the fall 2021 issue of UMSL Magazine. If you have a story idea for UMSL Magazine, email


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