Sherry Fantroy-Ross, Heather Floden and Andrew Kliethermes 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 Sherry Fantroy-Ross, the operations manager in the dean’s office in the College of Business Administration; Heather Floden, a senior human resources partner; and Andrew Kliethermes, UMSL Succeed Program assistant director for student support services, centers and grants.
When Fantroy-Ross first began working at UMSL 15 years ago, she wasn’t exactly sure what she wanted to do in her career. But she quickly fell in love with the College of Business Administration, working in several different roles within the college over the years, including business support specialist and dean’s assistant. Since then, she said, the time has flown by.
In her current role as operations manager in the dean’s office, Fantroy-Ross juggles a variety of responsibilities in order to keep the CoBA on task. That includes managing the office support assistants, who assist faculty across six different departments; coordinating the ELL program, scholarship awards, tenure and promotions; and maintaining the building itself.
“Sherry Fantroy-Ross is the quiet force behind smooth and effective operations in CoBA,” former Dean Joan Phillips wrote in her nomination. “Her quiet competence is easily overlooked as she manages the most challenging problems with professionalism and collegiality. Whether the issue is a student in need of emergency funding, a building roof leak or a crisis impacting a special event, the issue is resolved before most are aware of the problem. Her commitment to UMSL and our students is both humbling and inspiring. She is a role model to junior staff members and she actively mentors them and the student workers with humor and compassion and then celebrates their new achievements.”
Fantroy-Ross enjoys being able to see nearly every aspect of how the CoBA runs and assisting others to meet deadlines and complete their goals. Every day offers something new, which she said presents a wide variety of both challenges and rewards.
“In the College of Business I have had the pleasure of working with a real dynamic group of people and I just really enjoy it here,” she said. “I find the students within the college to be so amazing to watch. We have so many students that are both working or maybe have an internship and are maintaining their grades. Watching them get to graduation is probably the most rewarding part about the job.”
Fantroy-Ross also serves as an equity advisor for CoBA and was a member of the inaugural cohort of the UMSL Emerging Leaders Program. Last spring, she was selected to receive CoBA’s first dean’s staff service award.
“Sherry is truly a gem in CoBA,” Executive Assistant and Marketing and Communications Coordinator Eboni Valentine wrote. “I have the pleasure of working directly with her and the amount of knowledge that she holds about the policies and procedures is incredible. She extends herself to each department in the college and is always willing to help. Sherry has held several positions within the college and has excelled at each one, which is how she’s able to maintain the flow of operations in CoBA. She is always the go-to person for almost everything.”
Floden had to read the email twice before she fully grasped that she had been named a Hero Award recipient.
“I was like, ‘Oh, great, who am I gonna suggest? Oh, no, that’s me!’” she said with a laugh. “It’s quite an honor, honestly. My colleagues are a constant source of inspiration because of their hard work and their dedication to provide excellent service, and I’m honored to work alongside them. And I’m honored and humbled that what I do was recognized. I just do what I know how to do, which is try to help people to the best of my abilities.”
No two days are alike for Floden, a senior human resources partner for UMSL, but frequent responsibilities include advising on conflict resolution within different units and coming up with training plans. Although she acknowledges that many people have negative impressions of HR, she was initially drawn to the field because she sought a career she would find rewarding and that would enable her to have a positive impact on the lives of her fellow employees.
“For me, HR checked all those boxes,” she said, “because it’s a field that continues to evolve to adapt to changing workplace dynamics, laws and best practices. HR provides ongoing learning opportunities and the chance to stay updated on the latest trends and developments. I find this constant learning and growth to be very rewarding. I feel that HR plays a crucial role in shaping and maintaining the culture of an organization. And I think we, as HR professionals, can contribute to the development of a positive and productive work environment that promotes employee wellbeing.”
Before coming to UMSL, Floden had worked in HR in a variety of different environments, including retail companies, a large national bank and at the University of Tennessee, where she spent over a decade. She said UMSL has been a game-changer in her career because of its incredibly supportive campus community. Several members of that community jumped at the chance to recognize her work with a Hero Award nomination.
“Heather has gone above and beyond for her job,” Tiffany Brust, a student success coach for TRIO Student Support Services, wrote in her nomination. “She wakes up early and gets on Microsoft Teams before her shift even starts to help new employees learn how to dress professionally. She is so kind, understanding, compassionate and approachable. Her work is greatly appreciated.”
Blake Schliesser, senior business support specialist in the College of Education, said that Floden patiently and graciously provided invaluable support to him as he navigated complex HR issues over the past year.
“Heather has offered her time and assistance on days when she already had a full calendar, and she has approached even the most stressful topics with calm composure and a positive outlook,” Schliesser wrote in his nomination. “Heather has offered me insightful coaching feedback and constructive criticism, which has helped me improve my skills, as well as key words of encouragement and praise, which has helped me gain confidence. It is obvious that Heather takes her role as HR partner very seriously, honorably and compassionately. She is most deserving of recognition for these exemplary efforts.”
Christopher Worth, an adjunct faculty member in the College of Education who teaches for the UMSL Succeed Program, doesn’t mince words when talking about Kliethermes, Succeed’s assistant director, describing him “as a kind of pioneer.”
“What I mean by this is that through his work with Succeed and even his pursuit of his EdD, he has a sense that he is working to make the world not only more accepting of and accessible to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, but he is helping to craft a world where mass culture’s view of intellectual and developmental disabilities moves beyond acceptance,” Worth wrote in his nomination of Kliethermes for the Hero Award.
“He is working to move toward a world of true full inclusion. Full inclusion as demonstrated through Andrew’s actions is a place where people with disabilities can share their gifts and talents, not despite their disability, but at least in part, because of their disability. Andrew understands that we need to see a world where people with disabilities can make mistakes, can learn from them and can grow. Andrew works to grow that philosophy in the staff that he supports through his position.”
As assistant director of the Succeed program, which is celebrating 10 years on the UMSL campus, Kliethermes provides direct support to over 80 UMSL students with intellectual and developmental disabilities as they move into campus housing, select and enroll in classes, work in internships or on-campus jobs and build a social network. He also supports their families – many of whom never thought their children would be able to attend college – as well as a team of student support specialists who coach and advise those students through their journeys at UMSL and faculty members across campus looking to build more diverse classrooms.
Kliethermes came to UMSL a little over eight years ago after working at St. Louis Arc, where he supported high school students with disabilities in finding employment. One of the students he was working with at the time asked for a letter of recommendation for the Succeed program, and his family encouraged Kliethermes to apply for a position with the program. Following students like him along as they reach their goals through the Succeed program has been incredibly rewarding to Kliethermes in his work at UMSL.
“I’ve been blessed to watch every cohort graduate and participate in commencement,” he said. “It’s been rewarding watching students over four semesters really start to trust themselves and have confidence in themselves, being here on campus, living independently and building strong lifelong relationships with their peers. That confidence translates to students being ready to graduate and go out and be a contributing member to their community and having the confidence in pursuing careers and jobs that they are passionate about.”
Kliethermes is also energized by the growth of the Succeed program over the past decade and the increased scope of programming it now offers to students with developmental and intellectual disabilities. He said the close-knit, supportive nature of the Succeed team has been pivotal in building programming that is accessible to the community and can support such a large student body. Kliethermes’ colleagues are quick to acknowledge the role he’s played in this growth, too.
“Andrew Kliethermes consistently goes above and beyond his required job duties to ensure that students with intellectual disabilities are not just included but are thriving at UMSL,” Magen Rooney, assistant professor in the College of Education, wrote in her nomination. “Whenever a problem arises, Andrew is the first to suggest a solution and then follow up to ensure that the problem is resolved. As his co-worker, I am grateful to work alongside him; he makes me want to be a better colleague and team player. Andrew sees the best in everyone and finds ways to emphasis those strengths. This has a huge impact on students with disabilities who are often viewed more for their disadvantages than their strengths. He has a unique way of making people feel seen, heard and cared for. When describing what helped them be successful in the Succeed program, parents and students often describe the many ways Andrew supported them. Andrew is a true champion for the Succeed program and the UMSL community is lucky to have him.”
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