Dustin Smith, Christy Hummel and Mitch Hess 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 Dustin Smith, an officer with the UMSL Police Department; Christy Hummel, a recruitment coordinator in the College of Business Administration; and Mitch Hess, the director of Student Financial Services.
Dustin Smith, an officer with the UMSL Police Department, can recount dozens of stories of times when former students have stopped him to say hi while he was grocery shopping or out to dinner with his wife and kids. Those connections, which often last well past a student’s time on campus, are exactly why he chose to join the police department at UMSL in 2015 after working at a nearby department.
“I fell in love with the community as soon as I started working here and I love being a part of this UMSL family,” he said. “I can tell you so many stories about running into somebody from my community who is excited to see me off-duty. It’s such a neat experience because when I leave here, I know I’m still going to be interacting with either former students or faculty or staff because UMSL really does spread throughout all of St. Louis. I’ve had students who graduated years ago who have stayed connected and are excited to tell me that they just became a doctor. What goes around comes around – you serve and you get connected to the community and those relationships stay past them being a student here.”
As the department’s crime prevention and community involvement officer, Smith seeks to build rapport with the community and establish trusting relationships. While his job offers a little something new every day, much of his work involves training and public speaking on crime prevention. He works with partners all across campus to not only reduce crime but to try and prevent it from happening through different trainings on topics such as active shooters, active threat and intervention, as well as basic safety courses.
Smith enjoys working closely with students, whether by providing tips for staying safe on campus during new student orientation or conducting more in-depth trainings to show student employees how to respond in different situations they may face. He also patrols campus to serve as a visible deterrent and be available for any call for service and helps to train new officers in the department. But no matter what a given day brings or where it might take him, Smith serves as a steady and consistent presence throughout the UMSL campus.
“Dustin is such a positive presence in our UMSL community,” Chancellor Kristin Sobolik said. “He is everywhere and with a smile and kind word for all. I greatly value his support and caring for our entire UMSL family!”
Walking through the UMSL campus on a given day, Christy Hummel enjoys being able to recognize so many other staff and faculty members from different departments. While that’s partly because Hummel, a recruitment coordinator in the College of Business Administration, has worked at the university for over a decade collectively, she really attributes that familiarity to a sense of camaraderie among the UMSL community.
“It’s so easy to come into work every day working with such an amazing group of people not only in the College of Business but campus-wide,” she said. “You always hear people refer to their UMSL family, and I really believe that and try to live that every day in my time here. I always feel a great sense of camaraderie with UMSL students and staff – we’re always collaborating with other departments or willing to jump in at any time to help. Everybody is willing to be there for each other and getting to know people on different areas of campus is really helpful for that.”
Hummel likes to say that she’s chosen UMSL a few times: She initially worked in the Office of Admissions for nine years, chose UMSL again for her master’s degree, left for two years to work at another institution and finally returned to UMSL two years ago in her current role. When a position opened in the College of Business Administration, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
“We have some advisors in this particular office, like Monica Farrell and Ken Rapsilber, who have been around forever, so I knew some of the people coming in,” she said. “And then when I interviewed, I was just welcomed with open arms. Everybody within the College of Business always talks about how much they love being a part of it, and I understand why. ‘Teamwork makes the dream work’ is one thing that’s always said around the office, and it’s kind of becoming our little motto because it’s true. Everybody works with each other to get the students to where they need to be.”
In her current role as a recruitment coordinator for undergraduate students, Hummel works with both first-time freshmen and transfer students all the way from the initial admissions process up through scheduling their academic advising appointment. No two days are alike – she might be out recruiting one day, making phone calls for eligible students the next or giving a tour of the COBA building on yet another day. She also teaches a First-Year Student Experience course to help new students get acclimated to campus, which allows her to maintain connections with the students she meets while out recruiting back in the classroom. Forming those bonds with students is one of the most impactful parts of her job – and students past and present have taken notice, too.
“Christy truly is an UMSL hero, and helped my family get connected here,” said COBA Internship Coordinator Layne Paubel, who was one of six people to nominate Hummel for the Hero Award. “She was a familiar face when I was a new student, and always had time to say hi to me. Now we work together as colleagues, and I’ve seen behind the scenes of how she cares for students and puts hard work into helping recruit students and get them connected from the get-go!”
“Christy Hummel is an outstanding representative for the university, exuding positivity and warmth as she greets and meets with prospective parents and students,” Senior Academic Advisor Antionette Sterling wrote in nominating Hummel for the award. “She seeks to create a sense of belonging with students before they arrive on campus. Christy is industrious as she goes above and beyond to ensure prospective students and parents are informed and welcomed as they visit the campus. She frequently attends recruitment fairs and visits other campuses building relationships with key constituents to ensure students have a successful transfer experience. On campus, she provides a personalized touch by being accessible, listening to concerns, answering questions, and maintaining a positive attitude. She rolls out the red carpet for students and parents, as they visit the campus. For example, she worked tirelessly, coordinating events for prospective business students during the UMSL Student for a Day Event. The program was highly successful and received rave reviews.
When Mitch Hess was a kid, he dreamed of becoming a farmer someday. And while he’s certainly not a farmer today, he said his role as director of Student Financial Services does allow him to see things develop, mature and grow, whether in terms of a project he’s managing or the students he works with.
Along with his team, Hess helps students navigate the financial aspects of their education. About two and a half years ago, the Cashier’s Office and Financial Aid offices combined under one umbrella to create what is now Student Financial Services, and Hess said the combined front end has allowed his team to provide better customer service. “No longer do we have to pass students back and forth between offices and hope they’re getting the same answers,” he said with a laugh. “It has helped our students a lot, which was the goal.”
Hess’ days on the job are typically filled with meetings, and much of his role includes data analysis for new projects and scholarships across campus. The new simplified tuition model, which goes into effect for the fall 2023 semester, in particular, has been a major project over the past few years.
“Mitch is a responsible steward of university resources,” Vice Chancellor for Strategic Enrollment Reggie Hill said. “He is a loyal and steadfast leader who is firmly committed to the university’s mission. Furthermore, Mitch is one of the foremost analytical thinkers on our team. He brings tremendous value to Enrollment Management and the university as a whole. For example, Mitch helped lead the financial aid strategy this past year, expanding our scholarship program to surrounding states. In addition, he created a process where we have expedited financial aid packaging and awarding. The impact is astounding. Mitch has a positive impact on the lives of our students every day through Student Financial Services. He is the epitome of an UMSL hero.”
Hess started at UMSL in the former Cashier’s Office over 20 years ago after his previous career in corporate America left him wanting to return to St. Louis. He said the people are what has kept him at UMSL so long, from the staff and faculty he works alongside to the students he assists, some of whom keep in touch long after their time at UMSL with wedding announcements and job updates.
“We’ve helped a lot of students over the years, and most of the time students show gratification when they realize that we’re helping them rather than just being the mean and evil collectors,” he said. “Especially wearing my cashier hat, a lot of people didn’t think that we helped people. We were the people that took everybody’s money. But we also worked with students in all kinds of capacities, developing new programs and new plans to help students find a way to pay for their education. At the end of the day, we’re still all about trying to find the right balance for students to make sure that they can have an affordable education.”
Short URL: https://blogs.umsl.edu/news/?p=98921