Looking back at an eventful 2022 through stories told in UMSL Daily

by | Dec 25, 2022

The past 12 months have featured numerous stories of success, innovative teaching and research, and impactful community engagement done by students, faculty, staff and alumni.
2022 UMSL Daily photo collage

Some of the top stories from 2022 featured successes by (clockwise from top left) Esther Nwokoji, Steven Harris, Benjamin Ebert, UMSL’s partnership with the Saint Louis Zoo in the Galápagos Islands, the UMSL Addiction Science Team, Lauren Morgan, nearly 3,000 graduates and Tareq Nabhan. (Photos from the UMSL Daily archive)

The University of Missouri–St. Louis has done much to fulfill its mission of transforming lives over the past year, educating students from an array of backgrounds and interests and using its resources and expertise to engage with and benefit the broader region.

While there’s no perfect way to sum up 12 months into even a few dozen articles, what follows are some of the memorable and notable stories of success, innovative teaching and research, and impactful community engagement done by students, faculty, staff and alumni during an eventful 2022.


From the Navy to UMSL: Benjamin Ebert’s eclectic journey through higher education

Benjamin Ebert stands in the UMSL Veteran's Center

Benjamin Ebert joined the Navy right out of high school, never giving much thought to college.

“I did not like school at all,” he said. “I was a very active, energetic teen, and school bored me. I grew up in the ’80s, a time of the Cold War and G.I. Joe.”

Over 20 years spent traveling the globe, Ebert discovered a newfound passion for education, and he committed to going back to school once he retired in 2017. After starting at Jefferson College, Ebert transferred to UMSL and has been pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminology and criminal justice through the BS and MA Dual Degree Program.

At the time he was featured in UMSL Daily, he was working as an intern at the new Sainte Genevieve Museum Learning Center, where he gave tours and assisted with cataloging displays, as he also parented his son, Anthony. Read more

More top reads from January:



College of Optometry launches cutting-edge telehealth course

Until a handful of years ago, telehealth didn’t mean too much in optometry. If anything, it brought to mind dubious websites selling contacts or glasses without prescriptions or outdated ones, potentially endangering health for the sake of profit and convenience.

“But that’s not really telehealth,” said Tareq Nabhan, an assistant clinical professor of optometry. “Telehealth is truly keeping patients at the center of the experience, getting to patients using technology, in a thoughtful way.”

Advances in optometric technology have changed the scope of possibilities. Now optometrists can reach patients through advanced tele-optometry and tele-retinal services that didn’t exist even a decade ago. That’s opening doors for patients during the pandemic and those living in underserved areas of the U.S. and abroad.

Nabhan has been working to help the profession define its position on telehealth and educate the next generation of doctors. During the fall semester, he launched a new College of Optometry offering, “Introduction to Telehealth.” Read more

More top reads from February:



UMSL co-leading research and development for the new St. Louis Regional Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Center

Rendering of the planned St. Louis Regional Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Center

The St. Louis Regional Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Center, an organization created to establish a robust advanced manufacturing sector in the region, tapped UMSL and Saint Louis University to co-lead research and development for the venture.

“Having Saint Louis University and the University of Missouri–St. Louis as co-leads for R&D is absolutely ideal,” said John Hixson, a former vice president of Defense Initiatives at the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and a member of AMICSTL’s board. “Both universities have impactful research programs and active, mature innovation programs. Both universities, at their highest levels, agreed to take on this role enthusiastically.”

SLU and UMSL will coordinate with AMICSTL’s university and industry partners to manage the research and development agenda, including the selection process for R&D projects, dissemination of findings, and translation of research into commercial applications. The two universities will represent AMICSTL to the national and international advanced manufacturing R&D community. Read more

More top reads from March:



Doctoral candidate Lauren Morgan balances criminal justice research with training as elite water skier

Criminology and criminal justice doctoral candidate Lauren Morgan standing near a lake

Lauren Morgan is a doctoral candidate in criminology and criminal justice and is in the process of narrowing her dissertation research on so-called crossover youth – children and adolescents involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice system.

She has already found a lot of success in her burgeoning career, including a child welfare policy internship position at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., and a role as a research assistant for the National Institute of Justice.

But when she’s not engaged in research, Morgan is often found skimming across the top of some lake or launching herself off of a ramp at up to 65 miles per hour as she trains for her professional water skiing career. In October 2021, she won a bronze medal at the 37th IWWF World Waterski Championships in Groveland, Florida. (She went on to win a gold medal at the World Games this past July.)

“I’m in awe of her, really,” said Professor Beth Huebner, who is Morgan’s advisor. “We often talk quite early in the morning because after that she gets up and works, and she makes sure to have very clear goals every time we meet. I think that putting that structure into her life has only enhanced her research.” Read more

More top reads from April:



Richter Family Welcome and Alumni Center to cement late alumnus Kirk Richter’s legacy of connection, care

Kirk Richter and family and a rendering of the Richter Family Welcome and Alumni Center

Kirk Richter believed UMSL had no bigger asset than its 108,000 alumni, so many of whom are living, working and thriving across the St. Louis region.

To him, they served as an example to both current and prospective students of the power of higher education and could also be a bridge as those students embark on their careers and position themselves for future successes.

“UMSL alumni represent the past, present and future of what UMSL is all about,” he said in 2016.

That’s why Kirk, a 1968 accounting alumnus, and his wife, Maureen, a 1974 graduate of the College of Education, made an investment to help strengthen the connections among UMSL’s past, present and future students.

Shortly before Kirk’s death on Jan. 14 after a battle with cancer, the couple made the largest individual philanthropic gift to one project in the university’s history to establish the Richter Family Welcome and Alumni Center. It will encompass a large portion of the J.C. Penney Conference Center and face Alumni Circle on North Campus. Read more

More top reads from May:



St. Louis Public Radio marks golden anniversary

St. Louis Public Radio photos then and now

The public radio station KWMU began broadcasting over the frequency 90.7 FM from Clark Hall on the UMSL campus on June 2, 1972.

So much about the station – including its preferred name, now St. Louis Public Radio – has changed over the past 50 years. It has switched formats from a predominantly classical music station with news breaks, adding NPR programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered in the 1980s and switching to news-talk format with expanded local coverage in the 1990s. The station merged with the St. Louis Beacon nine years ago and today counts a professional staff of more than 70 employees. It left behind its basement studio in Lucas Hall and is now housed at UMSL at Grand Center, though its reach has grown to Quincy, Illinois, and Rolla, Missouri.

STLPR, which was featured in a cover story in the spring issue of UMSL Magazine, launched a website to commemorate its rich history.

The station got an early start celebrating its golden anniversary when it hosted 337 guests for its annual gala on May 20 at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown St. Louis. Read more

More top reads from June:



Missouri Sen. Brian Williams touts unprecedented investment in UMSL, north St. Louis County

Missouri Sen. Brian Williams at lectern in blue suit

Elected officials, including Missouri Sen. Brian Williams, and community members gathered at the Patient Care Center after the passage of the state’s 2023 budget in July. The event was meant to celebrate an unprecedented investment from the State of Missouri in north St. Louis County with $40 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act going to UMSL to help support a major campus redevelopment.

Williams said the funding will help create a “campus of the future” that will provide opportunities in a region that has not seen significant investment for decades.

“What began in 2021 as a Campus Master Plan that reimagines the University of Missouri–St. Louis as a metropolitan, public university for the future is today a shared vision and a living commitment to improve the quality of life and economic impact in north St. Louis County,” Sobolik said.

A feature in the fall issue of UMSL Magazine provided much more detail about how the plan came together and the changes that are in store over the next four years as the UMSL campus is transformed in ways that will enhance the student experience and also benefit the surrounding community. Read more

More top reads from July:



Alumnus Steven Harris promoted to managing partner at RubinBrown LLP

Steven Harris smiling in blue suit

Steven Harris realized pretty quickly while interning at accounting firm RubinBrown as an UMSL student that he was right where he wanted to be.

“It checked off all the boxes that I needed: great culture, great people, great learning environment and overall great experience,” Harris said. “It led me to believe, ‘I could make it here.’ I saw a lot of good people overall who wanted to see me be successful, and that was enough for me to really anchor in this organization.”

After graduating with a degree in accounting in 2000, Harris went to work for the Clayton-based firm and has steadily climbed the executive ladder and become a leader in the organization. In 2010, the firm named Harris a partner in Entrepreneurial and Assurance Services groups. Around 2016, he also became chairman of the board of the National Association of Black Accountants.

In May, RubinBrown promoted Harris to managing partner, only the fourth in the firm’s 70-year history. Read more

More top reads from August:



UMSL makes another big jump in US News ‘Best Colleges’ rankings, earning high marks for social mobility, value

A graduating student flashes a peace sign to the crowd during commencement

UMSL had already made one of the nation’s biggest improvements in the annual U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” rankings, jumping a combined 42 places over the previous two years. But it climbed 27 more spots when the latest rankings were released in September.

UMSL now ranks No. 212 among national research universities on the 2023 list out of more than 1,800 colleges and universities nationwide, and it improved 11 places to rank No. 107 on the list of top public universities.

“The University of Missouri–St. Louis is truly on the rise, and we are proud the U.S. News & World Report rankings are reflective of our progress,” Chancellor Kristin Sobolik said. “Our faculty and staff continue to work hard to ensure that students get the high-quality education they deserve and will need to be successful as they launch their careers. We celebrate more than 2,800 students who earned degrees in the past year, and we have more work to do as we pursue our goal to make UMSL the top metropolitan research university in the country.”

The university continued to get high marks for helping students boost their economic future through a college degree and ranked first in the state and 75th nationally on the list of “Top Performers on Social Mobility.” Read more

More top reads from September:



UMSL community mourns the loss of longtime supporter and champion George Paz

George Paz speaks at a lectern with an UMSL backdrop behind him

The university community mourned the passing of distinguished alumnus George Paz, a 1982 graduate in business administration and accounting who went on to become chairman and CEO of Express Scripts. Paz, the former president of UMSL’s Chancellor’s Council earlier this year, died unexpectedly on Oct. 23. He was 67.

“George was a visionary leader, well respected throughout our region and far beyond for his business acumen, generosity and commitment to inclusivity, and his loss will be felt profoundly,” Chancellor Kristin Sobolik said. “He was so proud of the education he received at UMSL and credited it for preparing him for the success that followed in his career, most notably as CEO and chairman of Express Scripts. We are so grateful for all the ways he invested in the university and our students with his time, wisdom and financial support. We offer our deepest condolences to his family, particularly his wife, Melissa.”

UMSL Accelerate had honored Paz with a lifetime achievement award only a few days before his passing at the inaugural UMSL Accelerate Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. In accepting the award, Paz talked about some of the keys to his career success, growing up with modest financial resources as the grandson of Mexican immigrants and going on to lead a Fortune 100 company. He often expressed gratitude to UMSL and the College of Business Administration for helping him build the foundation for his professional accomplishments. Read more

More top reads from October:



Bahamian student Shakinah Clarke settling into college life, pursuing engineering at UMSL

Shakinah Clarke on the third floor of the Millennium Student Center

Shakinah Clarke didn’t waste any time being homesick during her first semester at UMSL. The Pierre Laclede Honors College student and engineering major, who hails from the island of New Providence in The Bahamas, made sure to actively engage in campus activities from the time she arrived in St. Louis for international student orientation in mid-August. She participated in Weeks of Welcome events such as Paint-A-Palooza and Stomp the Quad and was in attendance at the Brain Stew Pizza Party as she did her best to make friends around campus.

She’s quickly grown fond of working out or playing basketball with some of them at the Recreation and Wellness Center, has found a church group and last month took part in a volunteer project organized by Beyond Housing to help weed and pick up trash in a nearby neighborhood.

“I’ve been adjusting well,” Clarke said of her transition to school and living on her own. “The only thing I’ve found odd is the weather. I’m still getting used to it.”

Given the day-to-day fluctuations that happen in Missouri, that might never happen. But Clarke has found some stability as part of a cohort of 20 students from The Bahamas who have enrolled at UMSL through a partnership with the Ministry of Education. Read more

More top reads from November:



Addiction Science Team growing in numbers, impact with new funding from state opioid settlements

Members of the UMSL Addiction Science Team looking up from the stairs in the Science Learning Building

UMSL has been central to efforts to combat the opioid crisis in Missouri over the past five years with Associate Professor Rachel Winograd serving as the director of the Missouri Opioid State Targeted Response and Missouri State Opioid Response projects. She has been leading a group of researchers, social workers and other public health practitioners who provide administration, implementation, and evaluation activities for initiatives led by the Missouri Department of Mental Health. Much of their work is focused on harm reduction to prevent overdose.

The Addiction Science Team has been growing over the past several months while expanding its efforts thanks to more than $6 million in new funding directed to UMSL earlier this fall. The money came from a series of settlements that ultimately will bring nearly half a billion dollars to Missouri over the next 18 years for opioid treatment and other support systems.

“We have a great group of 10 new people from all different backgrounds,” Winograd said. “We have some people who have direct lived experience with substance use disorder and have been involved in the clinical treatment or recovery side of things. They’re coming to be more involved in the planning, programming, infrastructure and system change. We have people who came from other domains of social services – like working with the unhoused. We have someone who just left the military as a medic. We have someone who is an EMT.” Read more

More top stories from December:

  • The UMSL volleyball team capped a historic season by advancing to the NCAA Division II Championship semifinals. The Tritons, led by All-American outside hitter Charlotte Richards, knocked off No. 2 seed Barry in the quarterfinals before losing to eventual national champion West Texas A&M.
  • The Veterans Center celebrated 10 years serving military-connected students at UMSL and honored the role Associate Dean Jim Craig played in building the center.
  • UMSL ended the year by celebrating more than 900 new graduates during fall 2022 commencement ceremonies. UMSL Daily highlighted some of the new alumni launching their careers, including accounting graduate Aurion Farhadi at KPMG, women’s soccer player and economics graduate Imogen Bennett at Decipher Investigative Intelligence, foreign language graduate Aimee Pieper at Steady Rain, and economics graduate Joel Fecke at SAS.
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