Ken Rapsilber, Dena Jenkins and Megan Gregory receive UMSL Hero Awards
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 Ken Rapsilber, academic advisor in Undergraduate Business Programs; Megan Gregory, assistant director of Multicultural Student Services; and Dena Jenkins, custodian in Facilities Management.
Rapsilber has been connected to UMSL for over 30 years, starting out as a student who graduated with a degree in economics and then beginning his career at the university. His professional journey at UMSL began as an administrative assistant in the evening college. His interpersonal talents eventually landed him in the role of advisor, where he has been assisting students in their educational pursuits for 15 years.
While working at the evening college, he often communicated with students. His ease and ability to build a rapport with them caught the attention of then-Dean David R. Ganz, who suggested Rapsilber consider becoming an advisor. He thought it was a good idea and initially began a dual role as an administrator and advisor.
Eventually, prompted by Michael Elliott, associate dean of undergraduate programs in the College of Business Administration, he moved into the advisor position full-time and has been assisting students with their academics ever since.
Rapsilber, though a self-described introvert who keeps his own company, highly enjoys engaging with students.
“I don’t do a lot of socializing,” he said. “I like gardening and stuff like that, but my social time is my school advising time.”
The delight Rapsilber takes in his role as an advisor is evident to those who work with him, including Nasser Arshadi, professor of finance, who appreciates the effort he makes to be of service.
“He is friendly and helpful to students,” Arshadi said. “He is timely and precise in his work. He genuinely cares about students.”
Coupled with the delight of helping students, there are occasional challenges. It can be frustrating when students don’t take advantage of the resources Rapsilber points them to, but he continues to assist them and stays in their corner.
“I don’t give up on my end,” Rapsilber said. “I keep mentioning resources and try to drive the point home. I don’t give up on the student.”
Nearly four years ago, Gregory began her career at UMSL as a coach in Multicultural Student Services, part of the Student Academic Support Services unit. She was eventually promoted to assistant director, providing wraparound services to students. Though she now has less interaction with students, she still enjoys helping them reach their full potential via departmental support that includes referrals to campus resources.
Gregory has the opportunity to work with students throughout their entire journey at UMSL and observe their progress, a perk she enjoys.
“We really get to watch them grow from freshman year, obviously, to senior year,” Gregory said. “Really watching them sort of find themselves and find their passions and hone in on that. Helping them transition into the workforce. And then getting that thumbs up email down the line about their job placements and that sort of thing. I feel like that’s really why we’re here.”
Gregory, who has an undergraduate degree in education and psychology and a master’s in research and evaluation methodology, knew for a long time that she wanted to be in education. After thinking about what area of education she wanted to work, ultimately, she knew she wanted to connect with students. Becoming part of MSS was a great fit for her. Gregory’s dedication to her role and the well-being of her students naturally shines through.
Her colleagues have noticed and appreciated her commitment to providing students with a high level of holistic support.
“Megan is always stepping up and helping the Division of Student Academic Support Services as we are continually trying to keep our students engaged,” said Britne Bacca-Haupt, assistant director and early alert coordinator of student enrichment and achievement. “She stepped into the assistant director role during the pandemic and I began working more with her at that time. Every time I work with her on projects within our division, her passion for helping students is evident.”
Many hope to meld their passion and training with a career, and Gregory is grateful that things came together for her at UMSL.
“I think I really found my home with the Office of Multicultural Student Services,” Gregory said. “And I’m just really excited to stick around and watch MSS grow and continue to be a part of the SASS family.”
Dena Jenkins joined Facilities Management at UMSL at the end of 2020. Her sister, Shanice Burton, and brother, Dwayne Jenkins both work at the university and helped her apply. Prior to joining UMSL, she was a caretaker and later held a job doing security. Taking care of things and making certain they’re in order are inherent traits of Jenkins. She takes pride in her work, and it shows.
Francesca Ferrari, the administrative director of the DBA program and the director of graduate business programs told Jenkins she received the UMSL Hero Award. Surprise wasn’t enough to describe her reaction.
“I was just really shocked because I don’t really look for that,” Jenkins said. “I’m the kind of person who is always giving. I have a giving heart but never look for anything to come back.”
Her giving nature is apparent in how she maintains facilities, paying attention to detail and ensuring the environment is cleaned thoroughly. While many would consider this hard work, Jenkins enjoys creating clean spaces, knowing the impact it has on the UMSL community.
“Cleaning is my thing,” Jenkins said. “I just love for things to smell clean.”
Jenkins dreams to one day to have her own cleaning company or restaurant as she also enjoys cooking. Barbecue is her specialty.
Jenkins’ positive attitude and enthusiasm to do her job well has been appreciated by her colleagues in the College of Business Administration. She’s had a wonderful experience there.
“It’s awesome,” Jenkins said. “Everyone just opened the doors to me and showed me love.”
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