Trina Perry, Dinesh Mirchandani and Audri Adams 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 Trina Perry, a mail carrier in UMSL Mail Services; Dinesh Mirchandani, professor and chair of the Department of Information and Systems Technology; and Audri Adams, academic advisor in the Pierre Laclede Honors College.
Ask Perry about virtually anyone on campus, and she will probably know what department and building they work in. As a 20-year veteran employee in Mail Services at UMSL, she’s practically a real-life campus directory.
Initially, Perry’s role in Mail Services was temporary. She’d been hired through a now-defunct UMSL “temp pool” program. She worked alternate weeks for a year before getting hired full-time.
Her role entailed going to Columbia every morning at 5 a.m., rain or shine, to get the mail and bring it back to the UMSL campus. Then she helped sort it. Eventually, the trip was cut to three times a week, and now she travels every other week.
Though it was a long and early trek, Perry didn’t mind as she enjoyed the autonomy. She’s also liked connecting with so many people along the way, which has been a big part of why she’s remained at UMSL for two decades.
“I started getting to know people,” she said. “I started learning the routine and getting really good. I just kind of fell into this role, and I liked it. So I just kept doing it. I started doing new jobs. I started training people who were in the mailroom, and it was a really good experience to meet different people.”
Perry’s love of meeting people and helping them has been a primary motivation in her role over the years.
“You want to get stuff in the mail and you don’t know what to do with it,” she said, recounting typical work scenarios. “Sometimes I will have the answer to help them. That brings me the most joy – helping people.”
One of the most interesting and funny parts of Perry’s job has been delivering animals to the biology department. Though she doesn’t do it anymore and can even look back and laugh, it was at times, a harrowing experience.
“They had little chickens we had to deliver,” Perry said, laughing. “Oh my God, there was live stuff. There were crabs. Yeah, I was scared.”
Through long drives, early mornings and unusual deliveries, Perry has maintained a bright attitude that shines through her work. That’s a big part of the reason she was nominated for an UMSL Hero Award.
“I have known Trina Perry since I started at UMSL almost six years ago,” said Katie Jochens, senior manager of Business Services. “Trina does more than deliver the mail. She puts thought and effort into where pieces of mail should be delivered when it is unclear. She is conscientious and hardworking. But what makes Trina special is that she always has a smile on her face and a bounce in her step – it brings joy to my day when I see her. She truly exemplifies customer service by not just doing her job, but going the extra mile to be the best she can be.”
Perry has enjoyed her role for 20 years with gratitude and never expected public recognition. But after all this time, it makes her feel even more valued at UMSL.
“I was honored,” she said. “I was really appreciative. I was like, ‘Oh, my God, this is great.’ I just thought it was really, really nice that somebody would nominate me for the Hero Award. I’m really excited.”
Mirchandani is in his 20th year at UMSL. He’s enjoyed his years teaching, assisting with student organizations, interacting with students and working to optimize the UMSL experience for them.
“It’s been the best years of my life,” he said. “I’ve grown personally, and I’ve been able to do the things that I enjoy – working with students, doing research, interacting with colleagues and hopefully making an impact.”
Mirchandani started his career at UMSL as an assistant professor of information systems and technology and became a student organization faculty advisor in 2003. That role was the first step in becoming the department chair and afforded him the opportunity to engage students beyond coursework, something he believes is a vital part of the college experience.
“That’s where interactions with the students really began and when I was able to understand the value of extracurricular engagement for students,” he said. “The ability to learn outside the classroom as much as inside by interacting with alumni, industry professionals, thought leaders and experts and having student club meetings that included panel discussions and networking events, is where the students could really begin to develop outside the classroom.”
In addition to helping students grow as people and professionals, Mirchandani has been giving that same energy and commitment to his college, supporting and mentoring colleagues.
His supportive nature stands out as a reason Mirchandani received the UMSL Hero Award.
“Professor Dinesh Mirchandani is a generous colleague who supports faculty across the departments in the college,” said Nasser Arshadi, professor and chair of the Department of Finance & Legal Studies. “He strongly supports new initiatives in other fields and never considers them in competition with his own department. He is a visionary, and under his leadership, the Department of Information Systems and Technology has initiated multiple new master’s programs. What is most heartwarming about Dinesh is that throughout all his efforts in managing a complicated portfolio, he remains a true gentleman.”
Part of Mirchandani’s responsibility in leadership is remaining up-to-date in the industry and implementing changes that he feels will be most beneficial for students.
“One of the aspects that I really believe in is creating meaningful educational experiences for students,” he said. “That’s where my academic research helps me understand ‘What are trends? What are best practices?’ Working with my advisory board, who are industry leaders in technology management, I understand the technology trends that are important for students to be exposed to. That input helps to improve our department’s curriculum through adding new courses, refining existing courses and creating new curriculum such as the bachelor’s and master’s degrees in cybersecurity.”
Mirchandani’s dedication to students and the department comes naturally as he believes his role is one of support.
“I’m so humbled and grateful for the opportunity as department chair to make an impact in the educational experiences of students and in transforming their lives,” he said.
As Mirchandani looks ahead, he’s working to mentor his colleagues and helping his department continue to adapt to changes in higher education. He has no doubt the future is bright.
“All colleagues in my department strongly believe in UMSL’s philosophy of transforming lives,” Mirchandani said. “So together, we try to do that in little ways, in our classrooms, in our student activities and in our day-to-day interactions where we truly value every student. And that’s the culture that we want to create and maintain.”
One of the first noticeable things in Adams’ office, along with a small library of books, is a box of tissues. It’s a small comfort Adams keeps for her Honors College students who may have a challenging moment when checking in with her about college and life.
But it doesn’t stop with tissues. Adams is highly dedicated to serving her students.
Adams, who came to UMSL as undergraduate student in 2015 and landed her first job at the university working in the computer lab, is happy to provide support any way she can. From planning and executing success workshops, providing on-demand success coaching, co-supervising a peer mentor program and advising a new student organization, Adams fully demonstrates her commitment to ensuring her students have the resources to achieve.
While pursuing her master’s degree in history and transitioning to a full-time administrative role at the college, she became intentional about being an advisor. Fortunately, the experience, even with the challenges, has lived up to her expectation.
“I love getting to meet with students every day,” Adams said. “It is a challenge trying to make sure that I’m being the best advisor I can be and giving them as much time as they need.”
Though Adams has been shining in the role, with just a year into the position, she is still learning how to be the resource for her students that the college has been for her. According to Daniel Gerth, director of Student Services and Alumni Relations at the college, she has been a quick study.
“I don’t know of anyone who has touched more student lives since the semester began than Audri,” Gerth said in nominating Adams for the Hero Award. “She has personal relationships with more students than literally anyone else who works in our unit (including our administrators and most popular faculty members), and this is because of her heroic dedication to making all students feel connected to UMSL. She even takes on more responsibilities that are not student-facing in order to help others be as successful as possible in their student-facing responsibilities. She is the most impressive person I have the pleasure of working with.”
Though Adams stays focused on the center of her work – the students – the glowing feedback is appreciated.
“I was very excited but also very humbled to know that someone in the Honors College thought to nominate me for the award, and that I was chosen for it,” she said. “I truly love UMSL and having that recognition – to know that people appreciate you and to know that what you’re doing is helping people – definitely means a lot.”
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