Fall semester opening at UMSL with 25 new faculty members

by | Aug 21, 2023

Keeta Holmes and Alice Hall helped new faculty members get acclimated to the UMSL community during orientation last Tuesday.
New faculty members stand together at orientation

UMSL’s newest faculty members took part in orientation last Tuesday at the Millennium Student Center. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

The University of Missouri–St. Louis is welcoming 25 new full-time faculty members for the start of the 2023-24 academic year – or, in some cases, welcoming them back in new roles.

Keeta Holmes, the assistant vice provost for academic innovation and director of UMSL’s Center for Teaching and Learning, guided the group through a daylong orientation with help from Alice Hall, associate provost for faculty affairs, last Tuesday in Century Room C of the Millennium Student Center.

Steven J. Berberich, UMSL’s vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost, was excited to greet all the new faculty members, 10 of whom hold degrees from UMSL.

“On behalf of the UMSL community I am excited to welcome these new faculty to an inclusive community that is transforming lives,” Berberich said. “UMSL is committed to supporting their efforts in shaping futures, fostering discovery and igniting minds.”

Find out more about each new faculty member below.

College of Arts and Sciences

Department of Biology

Michael Tobler, E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor in Zoological Studies

Tobler’s research centers on tropical fish and aims to increase understanding of patterns of and mechanisms underlying biological diversification. He comes to UMSL after nine years as a faculty member in the Department of Biology at Kansas State University and has also served as an assistant professor at Oklahoma State University and a postdoctoral fellow at Texas A&M University. Tobler earned his doctorate at the University of Zürich’s Institute of Zoology. He will also serve as a research scientist at the Saint Louis Zoo.

Department of Computer Science

Azim Ahmadzadeh, assistant professor

Ahmadzadeh earned his PhD in computer science at Georgia State University. His research primarily focuses on the effective use of artificial intelligence to advance interdisciplinary areas of science (specifically Space Weather research), and he uses high-dimensional data, integration and curation of data, novel similarity measures, and robust evaluation of models when data are imbalanced.

Sambriddhi Mainali, assistant teaching professor

Mainali earned a PhD in computer science at the University of Memphis and spent two years working as a data scientist at Bayer Crop Science. She joined the UMSL faculty as a part-time instructor in January and is moving into a full-time position. Mainali’s research interests include biomolecule-inspired data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Valerie Anderson, associate professor

Anderson joined the UMSL faculty in January after leaving the School of Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati. She is a community psychologist by training and conducts research on system responses to youth delinquency and victimization. Anderson has published in a variety of outlets across multiple fields, including criminology and criminal justice, psychology and public health.

Rebecca Lennox, assistant professor

Lennox earned a PhD in sociology at the University of Toronto. Her research interests include violence against women, fear of crime, femininities and social research methods. She uses ethnographic methods to investigate how women navigate and manage gendered risks in public places.

Department of English

Lauren Terbrock-Elmestad, assistant teaching professor

Terbrock-Elmestad earned a PhD in rhetoric and composition at Saint Louis University and is returning to UMSL after serving as a Writing Center consultant and graduate teaching assistant for first-year composition while pursuing her master’s degree in English and a graduate certificate in gender studies.

Department of Philosophy

Jill Delston, assistant professor

Delston, who holds a PhD in philosophy from Washington University, joined UMSL’s Department of Philosophy as a non-tenure track faculty member in 2012 but is shifting into a tenure-track position this semester. Her research on health inequities in bioethics includes supporting the University of Missouri System NextGen Precision Health Initiative, and she is the author of “Medical Sexism: Contraception Access, Reproductive Medicine, and Health Care,” published in 2019 by Lexington Books.

Department of Psychological Sciences

Tyson Holder, assistant teaching professor

Holder will be teaching applied psychology of child advocacy studies. He earned his EdD in educational practice with an emphasis in higher education and student services/school psychology at UMSL in 2016, has worked as a school psychologist and also taught at College of DuPage, Lewis and Clark Community College and New York University.

Emily Marler, assistant teaching professor

Marler received her PhD in cognitive neuroscience from Saint Louis University and spent last year as a lecturer in psychology at McKendree University. Marler has published research on the impact of COVID-19 on university students’ academic motivation, social connection and psychological well-being and how generational status relates to their academic success.

Department of Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy and Statistics

Mohi Saki, assistant teaching professor

Saki earned his doctorate at Missouri University of Science and Technology and went on to complete a postdoctoral fellowship at Auburn University. He’s returning to UMSL, where he earned a master’s degree in physics and served as a graduate research assistant with Professor Erika Gibb. His research focuses on small celestial bodies such as comets and asteroids.

College of Business Administration

Department of Finance and Legal Studies

Leonid Pugachev, assistant professor

Pugachev holds a PhD in finance from the University of Oklahoma and served as an assistant professor of finance and accounting at the Saunders College of Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology. His research examines the interaction between banking and regulation as well as corporate governance and fraud.

Department of Marketing and Entrepreneurship

Lei Xu, assistant professor

Xu earned a PhD in management at Texas Tech University and served as an assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. His research seeks to explore how socio-political and socio-cultural forces and their interactions with organizational agency drive entrepreneurship and innovation with particular interest in entrepreneurial ecosystem heterogeneity, entrepreneurial finance and social network analysis.

Department of Information Systems and Technology

Gabriel Attoun, assistant teaching professor

Attoun received his DBA at Washington University in St. Louis with an emphasis in finance after previously earning a master’s degree in information systems at the University of Arkansas. He has served as an instructor of information systems over the past six years at Maryville University and has taught courses in digital foundations and database principles.

College of Education

Department of Education Sciences and Professional Programs

Kristy Brann-Warmbold, assistant professor

Brann-Warmbold earned her PhD in school psychology from the University of Missouri–Columbia and is returning to her hometown of St. Louis after serving as an assistant professor of school psychology at Miami University in Ohio. She is a nationally certified school psychologist, and her research focuses on the administration and usability of social-emotional screening and teacher mental health literacy.

Meredith Moore, assistant teaching professor

Moore holds a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling and a PhD in counselor education and supervision from the University of Arkansas, where she also served as the eating disorder treatment team coordinator. She specializes in college counseling, eating disorders and working with individuals who have experienced weight stigma.

Agata Freedle, assistant professor

Freedle earned her PhD in counselor education from UMSL and is returning to the university after three years as an assistant professor at Lindenwood University. Her research focuses on the area of grief, trauma and loss, and she is particularly interested in exploring the impact of reproductive trauma on families.

Katya Sussman-Dawson, assistant professor

Sussman-Dawson received her PhD in school psychology at the University of Missouri–Columbia after earning an EdS at UMSL. She spent the past two years as an early intervention school psychologist for the Special School District of St. Louis County while completing her doctorate. Her dissertation focused on the effect of learning centers on academic outcomes in virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

College of Nursing

Elizabeth Jaeger-Segura, assistant teaching professor

Jaeger-Segura received her DNP from UMSL in 2018 after completing her final project on “Aligning with Patient-Centered Medical Home Standards: Depression Screening in Primary Care.” She has been working as a primary care nurse practitioner at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, seeing patients for hypertension, diabetes, women’s health and obesity medicine.

Christina Castellano, assistant teaching professor

Castellano earned her PhD in nursing from UMSL this spring. She has a broad background in psychology with training and expertise in women’s health nursing and education. She spent much of her career as an educator on the gynecology oncology inpatient unit, then on labor and delivery. Her research interests include exploring the necessity of social and peer support and the role it plays in the transition to motherhood.

Fan Li, assistant professor

Li received her PhD in nursing from UMSL in 2022 and has spent the past year as an adjunct faculty member, teaching an undergraduate course on nutrition in health and assisting in the College of Nursing’s Office of Research. She’s now joining the faculty full-time and brings experience working with international medical scholars in both the U.S. and China, including on projects involving COVID-19 and Type 2 diabetes.

William DeClue, assistant teaching professor

DeClue holds a DNP from Grand Canyon University and has been working as a nurse practitioner in St. Charles County with specialties in cardiology, pediatrics and oncology. He has also served on the faculty at the Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

College of Optometry

Dr. Emily Gum, assistant clinical professor

Gum earned her Doctor of Optometry from UMSL in 2015 and is returning to the university after five years as an optometrist at Discover Vision Centers and more than 2½ years as a staff optometrist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. She completed a residency in ocular disease and low vision rehabilitation at the Kansas City VA Medical Center.

Pierre Laclede Honors College

Lesley Sieger-Walls, assistant teaching professor

Sieger-Walls earned her PhD in English from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and has teaching experience at Emporia State University, Greenville University, Maryville University and St. Charles Community College. She’s served as an adjunct faculty member in UMSL’s Honors College the past two years but is moving into a full-time role. Sieger-Walls is also a tour guide for the Missouri Historical Society and a published poet.

School of Social Work

Kellyn Holliday, visiting assistant professor

Holliday earned her BSW at UMSL in 2014 and holds an MSW from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. She served as the director of resident and community engagement for the St. Louis Housing Authority and is the owner and principal consultant for Holliday Evaluation and Consulting LLC. She also spent more than five years as an adjunct faculty member in UMSL’s School of Social Work.

UMSL Libraries

Andrew Stout, Librarian I

Stout is serving as the access services librarian in the Thomas Jefferson Library. He holds a master’s degree in information science and learning technologies with an emphasis in library science from the University of Missouri–Columbia. He spent nearly six years at the J. Oliver Buswell Jr. Library at Covenant Theological Seminary and before that was a library assistant at the Paul and Helen Schnare Library at St. Charles Community College.

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Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik

Eye on UMSL: The flavor of homecoming
Eye on UMSL: The flavor of homecoming

Senior business major Jalen Walker-Wright gets a cup of southwest chili from Vanessa Loyd and Erin Schaeffer during last Thursday’s homecoming Chili Feed.

Eye on UMSL: The flavor of homecoming

Senior business major Jalen Walker-Wright gets a cup of southwest chili from Vanessa Loyd and Erin Schaeffer during last Thursday’s homecoming Chili Feed.

Eye on UMSL: The flavor of homecoming

Senior business major Jalen Walker-Wright gets a cup of southwest chili from Vanessa Loyd and Erin Schaeffer during last Thursday’s homecoming Chili Feed.