2022 Trailblazers Awards honor women focused on healing and empowerment
The fires of change, empowerment and healing burned strong during the Trailblazers Award Ceremony at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.
“That fire, sometimes it’s hot,” said Melissa Douglass, an alumna of the School of Social Work and founder and clinical director of Goal Driven Counseling. “There’s a lot of isolation and a lot of internal motivation that has to come from being the one to have your footsteps create the path.”
Her statement was met with claps and affirmation from an audience that filled one of the Century Rooms in the Millennium Student Center such that the organizers had to set up additional rows of chairs. That palpable enthusiasm for the accomplishments and aspirations of the five 2022 Trailblazers honored during Wednesday’s ceremony came as the event returned in-person after two years of digital programs.
For more than two decades, the UMSL Trailblazers Award has honored, celebrated and uplifted the achievements of exceptional women who have paved the way for others on campus and beyond.
The annual awards are part of the university’s Women’s History Month programming, and this year’s theme was “Womyn’s Lives: Paths to Healing, Hope, and Empowerment.” In the event program, Vice Chancellor and Chief Diversity Officer Tanisha Stevens wrote that UMSL’s theme “aligned with the national theme that serves as a tribute to the ceaseless work of caregivers and frontline workers during this ongoing pandemic, and also a recognition of the thousands of ways that women of all cultures have provided both healing and hope throughout history.”
This year’s recipients are Douglass, undergraduate student Malea Bradley, Assistant Professor of Computer Science Sharlee Climer, Dean’s Fellow for Community Engagement and Assistant Professor Sheila Grigsby and UMSL Sustainable Energy and Environmental Coordinator Katy Mike Smaistrla Lampe.
They all spent some time after receiving their award to thank those who had supported them and to speak to those causes that they are most passionate about: removing barriers for women in medicine, creating pathways for women in computer science, social work and metal health, sustainability and community health care.
“As a servant leader, I’ve had the privilege to take nursing students into communities that need and deserve quality health care services,” Grigsby said. “By taking my students into these communities, my hope has been to instill in them that the knowledge you have been gifted is not to be held tightly but has been given to you to share broadly with others to make their lives and communities a better place to live, work and thrive.”
St. Louis Public Radio’s Sara Fenske served as host for the event, UMSL Chancellor Kristin Sobolik spoke via a video address and owner and creator of PRT Coaching Services Shaquan A. Grove – better known as Coach Shaquan – gave the guest address.
Read more below about the remarkable 2022 class of Trailblazers:
Malea Bradley is a senior majoring in biology on the pre-med track with a minor in psychology and working toward a Pierre Laclede Honors College certificate. Originally from Sussex, Wisconsin, she is a pitcher for the UMSL softball team. She will be taking the MCAT this summer to pursue her goal of getting into medical school to become a doctor. As of now, her top three fields of interest are family medicine, pediatrics and OB/gynecology.
Sharlee Climer is an assistant professor of computer science. She holds six degrees in mathematics, physics and computer science, including a PhD from Washington University in St. Louis; is the recipient of an Olin Fellowship and a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship; and worked as an NIH Postdoctoral Scholar at Washington University’s School of Medicine for three years. Her research interests lie at the intersection of artificial intelligence and operations research, and include algorithm development for the identification of patterns in genetic data, with special attention to Alzheimer’s disease and COVID-19 vulnerability. Climer designed a search algorithm that was featured in Boris Goldengorin’s plenary lecture at the 2010 American Conference on Applied Mathematics and has been shown to outperform IBM’s Cplex in more than a dozen publications. She also designed a correlation measure for genetic data that is the first scientific computation to be computed at exascale speed, leading to the award of ACM’s 2018 Gordon Bell Prize. She is a faculty member of the Center for Neurodynamics and the Hope Center for Neurological Disorders, and she is the founding faculty mentor for WomenCAN, a club dedicated to increasing the retention of computer science students who identify as women.
Melissa Douglass is a trailblazing social entrepreneur who is known in professional spaces as “The Virtual Clinician.” She is a licensed clinical social worker and the founder/clinical director of Goal Driven Counseling, one of the first Black-owned, virtual mental health counseling practices in the U.S. Her work and passion meet at the intersection of modern tech utilization and trauma-informed wellness strategies, and she serves as a professional development trainer and consultant on mental health literacy topics and trauma-informed systems of care. Douglass values impactful change and enjoys partnering with organizations to guide actionable, solution-focused strategies that center equitable approaches through a person-centered lens. She is equally invested in the development of future social workers as an adjunct professor and has shared mental health and tech-related knowledge on nationwide platforms such as National Public Radio, Blackdoctor.org, KPLR News Channel 11, the National Association of Social Workers Conference as the Plenary speaker, and at conferences, organizations and universities. Douglass asserts her most rewarding roles are lovingly that of wife and mom of three incredible individuals.
Sheila Grigsby received her doctorate from the University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Nursing. In addition to working on her degree and teaching, she has spent much of the last year focusing on a project funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. This study, in collaboration with organizations, seeks to reduce health disparities in the St. Louis region by engaging community members through focus groups and other activities to address asthma and other issues among youth. A longtime member of the UMSL teaching faculty, Dr. Grigsby has worked extensively in the St. Louis region as a community organizer and health coalition builder. She is interested in teen pregnancy prevention, sexual and reproductive health and preventing chronic disease in the African American community using participatory research methods.
Katy Mike Smaistrla Lampe serves as the UMSL sustainable energy and environmental coordinator, putting into practice her technical expertise and theoretical background in circular economies, climate science, communication strategies and community building. She has experience implementing a wide variety of environmental projects, having worked at the Missouri Botanical Garden before coming to UMSL in 2012 as the school’s first sustainability personnel. While working at the university, she received her doctorate in 2019 with research in the field of education for sustainability, specifically on meaning-making and change-making processes. In addition to her work as a sustainability professional and environmental educator, she identifies as a mindful creative, businesswoman, dog mom and chronic civically engaged volunteer.
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