UMSL preparing to celebrate 60th anniversary while recommitting to its mission of education, service

by | Aug 25, 2023

Chancellor Kristin Sobolik used her annual State of the University Address to highlight ways UMSL is adapting to meet the changing needs of the community.
Chancellor Kristin Sobolik delivers the State of the University Address in front of a large audience at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center
Chancellor Kristin Sobolik delivers her annual State of the University Address Friday morning in front of a large crowd at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center. She recommitted UMSL to its mission of service to the region and the state as it prepares to celebrate its 60th anniversary. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

Chancellor Kristin Sobolik used her annual State of the University Address to preview some of the many ways the University of Missouri–St. Louis community will be celebrating its 60th anniversary during the new academic year.

Speaking Friday morning at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center, Sobolik highlighted Red and Gold Day on Sept. 15 ­– when alumni, students, faculty and staff are encouraged to don their school colors to help commemorate the date of the university’s founding in 1963. She also encouraged community members to nominate successful alumni for recognition in the ongoing 60 for 60 Alumni series and to pitch in to help UMSL meet its goal of performing 60,000 hours of community service as part of the festivities.

But her address also served as an opportunity to recommit the university to the role it has played throughout its 60-year history.

Chancellor Kristin Sobolik delivering the State of the University Address while standing behind a lectern with a backdrop including the UMSL and 60th anniversary logos in the background

Chancellor Kristin Sobolik discussed the 60th anniversary celebration that will take place throughout this academic year while also highlighting the campus improvements that will help UMSL continue to thrive in the years ahead.

“Since our university’s founding 60 years ago, our mission has been to serve the St. Louis region, the state of Missouri and beyond by increasing educational access and opportunity while engaging in innovative research, driving economic growth and enhancing community development,” Sobolik said from the stage in the Anheuser-Busch Performance Hall. “UMSL’s mission is the same now as it was 60 years ago as we continue to align with the needs of the region and state to transform lives through higher education.”

Because those needs evolve, it’s critical for the university to adapt. Sobolik highlighted some of the changes underway as part of the $100 million Transform UMSL initiative that is positioning the university to serve the St. Louis region and state in the years ahead.

The university is taking steps to centralize its academic core and since last spring has kicked off renovations of the Thomas Jefferson and St. Louis Mercantile Libraries, broken ground on the new Richter Family Welcome and Alumni Center and opened the newly renovated second floor of the Patient Care Center, complete with cutting-edge teaching labs, study nooks and lounge spaces for students in the College of Optometry.

This semester, the university will open a Geospatial Advanced Technology Lab and a Virtual Reality Lab – made possible with more than $1 million in funding from the state’s MoExcels Workforce Initiative with matching funding from the university. These labs will help the university support and grow the geospatial workforce in the St. Louis region.

UMSL has also begun the demolition of several buildings on the South Campus, as it begins to clear space for development of the proposed North St. Louis County Business and Workforce District.

In addition to physical changes, the university is taking new steps to develop the future workforce of the St. Louis region and beyond. Under the leadership of Vice Chancellor Reggie Hill, it has launched the UMSL Advanced Workforce Center to provide diverse pathways to degree attainment that meet our current workforce demands.

“This newly established unit brings together credit, non-credit and certification programs that are seamlessly delivered to corporate partners,” Sobolik said. “Through newly signed agreements with prominent online program managers, we are expanding our workforce reach nationally to bring our high-quality programs to corporations and their employees.”

UMSL also serves the St. Louis region and beyond through the research expertise of its faculty. Last year, the university received a record of more than $50 million in research awards. That success continued a trend that has seen UMSL’s research awards increase by more than 170% since Fiscal Year 2017, and research expenditures have increased by more than 115% in the same period.

Much of that growth has been in sponsored research targeted toward addressing regional or statewide challenges, whether it’s battling the addiction crisis, advancing literacy in our region or promoting equity and economic prosperity through UMSL’s leadership of the St. Louis Anchor Action Network. The latter recently received a $2.4 million grant from the James S. McDonnell Foundation to expand its impact.

Other highlights from Sobolik’s presentation:

  • UMSL has welcomed one of the largest freshman classes in its history to campus this month with over 1,050 students, representing more than 20 states, enrolled for the fall semester. UMSL has also seen growth in its new transfer student population this semester and has brought in more than 125 international students from more than 15 countries.
  • UMSL is launching the Triton esports program this semester under the direction of Coach Bovey Zhang. It will feature a varsity roster of about 20 players, who will compete in highly organized, competitive, multiplayer video games. The program is making its home in the former Pilot House, which is being renovated into the Triton Esports Arena on the ground floor of the Millennium Student Center.
  • UMSL’s athletic programs had a banner year as the volleyball and men’s basketball teams each won regional championships, three student-athletes were named Great Lakes Conference Players of the Year in their chosen sports and the athletic department collectively posted a 3.45 GPA and saw a record 174 student-athletes earn academic all-conference recognition.
  • New dean Andrew Balkansky has taken over leadership of the College of Arts and Sciences, while interim dean Judith Lewis is overseeing the College of Nursing. UMSL will soon launch a nationwide search for a new dean of the College of Business Administration.
  • UMSL received more than $22 million in philanthropic support over the past year, including $13 million for campus transformation projects. That figure represents 40% of the fundraising goal for the Transform UMSL initiative. This philanthropic support is also expanding access to student scholarships. More than 1,350 students benefited from private scholarship support during the past academic year.
  • UMSL Marketing and Communications has undergone a branding process to refresh the look and messaging of the UMSL brand with a focus on supporting enrollment growth. It is built around the theme of “More is What Moves Us” – a foundation that showcases how the university brings more know-how, more innovation, more connection, more community, more knowledge and more success to the communities it serves.


Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik