Chancellor Kristin Sobolik taps experienced strategist, communicator Adella Jones to serve as chief of staff

by | Jan 11, 2022

Jones has spent the past nine years at the Centene Corporation and previously worked in community and government affairs at the Bi-State Development Agency.
Adella Jones

Adella Jones has been chosen to serve as UMSL’s chief of staff after spending the past nine years at the Centene Corporation. She’ll begin her new position on Jan. 18. (Photo courtesy of Adella Jones)

Chancellor Kristin Sobolik has a bold vision for the University of Missouri–St. Louis and the role it will play helping shape the future of the St. Louis region as a leader in workforce development and champion for inclusive prosperity.

Sobolik is turning to a veteran strategist and communicator with experience working with public officials and members of the corporate community to help her and the entire UMSL team bring that vision to life.

Adella Jones has been chosen to serve as Sobolik’s chief of staff after spending the past nine years at the Centene Corporation, most recently as its senior director of messaging. She previously served as the vice president of community and government affairs at the Bi-State Development Agency and Metro Transit and was the St. Louis press secretary for former Congressman Richard Gephardt as well as the public information officer for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.

Jones is replacing retired Chief of Staff Bob Samples and will begin her new position on Jan. 18.

“I am impressed with the diversity and breadth of Adella’s background and in her commitment to the St. Louis community,” Sobolik said. “Adella has exceptional skills in communication, media strategy and relationship building from her diverse and expanding leadership experiences. She has the broad-based background and strategic mindset to help us continue to advance UMSL and our community, and I am excited to work closely with her as we continue to seek to strengthen our region and beyond.”

Jones was raised in the St. Louis area and received a bachelor’s degree in radio and television communications from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

She’s interacted with UMSL professionally during her career, including helping lead a series of journalism workshops for high school students in the Bridge Program through her involvement with the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists and in her work with Metro Transit, which has two stops on the UMSL campus.

Jones said her interactions with the university were always positive, but she said her research into the chief of staff position and her conversations with Sobolik gave her an even greater appreciation of the important role UMSL can play in the future of the region.

“What I’ve learned from nine, nearly 10 years, of working for one of the region’s leading corporations is that workforce readiness is central to St. Louis’ success,” Jones said. “It’s a very real challenge. Investments have been made over time, and we need to see the fruit of those investments. I believe that the University of Missouri–St. Louis is a solution for those challenges.”

She pointed to the diverse makeup of UMSL students – many of whom are first-generation college students, who followed an untraditional path into higher education, are older and are working as they pursue their degrees.

Jones found herself drawn to the university’s core values, particularly its emphasis on inclusion and providing access to quality education for students of every socioeconomic background.

“What’s going to change the trajectory of our region and all of our neighborhoods in St. Louis is how well we can position education as a viable option for people when they’re at a younger age,” Jones said. “How can we highlight options for kids, and families, showing them where education is obtainable, and it is not out of reach? We have to capture the interest of young people before fear and distractions get in the way.

“I think that the University of Missouri–St. Louis is the vehicle. It’s part of the solution because it is accessible. You can get to a bright future using this university as a guide.”

Jones brings experience working with elected officials at both the state and local level, as well as with business and nonprofit partners, winning their support for important initiatives.

She’s impressed by some of UMSL’s existing relationships, including with Greater St. Louis, Inc. and its leadership of the St. Louis Anchor Action Network.

“We don’t march alone,” Jones said. “We march with the region. That’s what I like about what’s happening with Greater St. Louis, Inc. We’re part of the regional agenda. We’re part of what’s right with our region, and we walk with our partners to bring that united voice with no sunlight between us.”

One project Jones could help push forward is the proposed redevelopment of a portion of South Campus near Natural Bridge Road and the UMSL South MetroLink station into mixed-use development that would benefit not only the university but the surrounding community in north St. Louis County. The vision for the redevelopment is outlined in UMSL’s newest Campus Master Plan.

Jones expects there to be a period of adjustment as she gets acclimated to working in academia, but she’s excited to tap into the enthusiasm that is in abundance at a university.

“There’s an energy on a campus that I’ve always loved,” Jones said. “I think it signals hope. Especially with this campus. These are people who are invested in changing the trajectory of their lives in some way. These are people who are making a conscientious decision to stretch themselves, to elevate themselves – professionally and personally. Being around that type of energy is going to energize me.”

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik