Lon Chubiz, Katie Jochens and Tyrome Petty receive UMSL Hero Awards

by | Aug 28, 2023

The monthly awards recognize the exemplary efforts of staff and faculty members from across campus.
Lon Chubiz, white man, Katie Jochens, white woman, Tyrome Petty, Black man, smile

This month’s honorees are (from left) Lon Chubiz, an associate professor of biology; Katie Jochens, director of Business Services; and Tyrome Petty, senior associate registrar and manager of the Degree Audit Reporting System. (Photos by Derik Holtmann and August Jennewein)

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 Lon Chubiz, an associate professor of biology; Katie Jochens, director of Business Services; and Tyrome Petty, senior associate registrar and manager of the Degree Audit Reporting System.

Lon Chubiz

Chubiz began his academic path in engineering, earning a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree and a doctorate in chemical and biomolecular engineering from the University of Illinois. He went on to do a post-doctorate fellowship at Harvard University from 2010 to 2014.

However, as his career has progressed, Chubiz’s research interests have pushed him into biosciences and microbiology.

Since joining UMSL’s Department of Biology in 2014, his research has focused on how some bacteria make lipid monolayer membranes and how that aids them in adapting to different soil environments. Those efforts led the National Science Foundation to award him the organization’s prestigious CAREER award in 2021.

In addition to his work as a researcher, Chubiz has recently taken over the CLIMB program from Patricia Parker, UMSL’s former E. Desmond Lee Endowed Professor of Zoological Studies, after her retirement. He had previously served as a faculty mentor in the program.

CLIMB was created to try to reduce opportunity gaps by giving high-ability students from under-resourced school districts the chance to engage in scientific lab research in a university setting through a paid six-week internship program.

In his nomination, Teaching Professor Marc Spignola noted Chubiz’s work carrying on the program and making a difference in the lives of young people in the St. Louis region.

“Lon has successfully taken over the CLIMB program from retiring faculty and did an absolutely stellar job mentoring eight women from North County this summer,” Spignola wrote.

Chubiz said it was a bit overwhelming to step into the shoes of Parker, an outstanding educator, scientist and mentor. But he’s happy to carry the torch.

“I do find myself as a steward of this program, helping it maintain its excellence, maintain its trajectory and finding ways for the program to interface with our institution and community in some new and different ways,” he said.

While Chubiz’s many duties include researching, teaching and administrating the CLIMB program, his favorite part of the job is connecting with students.

“The things that excite me are helping people identify things that they’re excited about, especially in the space of biosciences and helping them feed and grow that interest and excitement about science,” he said. “Helping them make well-informed decisions about building their future careers. So, ultimately, it all boils down to mentorship.”

Katie Jochens

Jochens accepted her position as director of Business Services about seven years ago, but her history with UMSL runs much deeper.

She began her collegiate education in the ‘80s at a small university in Wisconsin. However, she soon realized it wasn’t right for her at that point in her life and returned home to St. Louis.

At first, Jochens’ next step eluded her, but she knew continuing her education was important. She had heard about UMSL and decided to enroll, assuming she would spend a semester at the university and then plan her next move. However, what she found at UMSL was far more than a just a step along the way.

“I ended up finding my people at UMSL,” Jochens said. “I ended up being assistant editor of the literary magazine. I got involved in theater. I found the English Department and all the great faculty in the English department and ended up getting my bachelor’s in English and a writing certificate. I did an internship with a publishing company my last semester and that turned into a job, where I worked for three years.”

After a stint in the publishing industry, Jochens decided to enter law school at Saint Louis University. Upon graduation, she worked for a judge at the court of appeals for about a year and then moved into private practice for the next 20 years of her career.

Jochens switched paths again when she accepted a job in the Joint Research Office for Contracts at Washington University in St. Louis, where she found a love for contracts. When she saw an opening at UMSL in Business Services that matched her skillset, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I got a chance to come back to UMSL, which is a place that gave me so many opportunities – the place where everything started for me,” she said.

Jochens said her work changes day to day depending on what other areas of the university need, but that’s part of the fun. A large portion of her work deals with professional service, facility use, and affiliation/collaboration agreements, as well as releases and waivers for various activities on campus.

“I love solving problems and helping people, and I get to do both of those every day for great colleagues,” Jochens said. “And people are genuinely grateful and very thankful, and that means a lot to me.”

Don V. Kelly, counsel in the University of Missouri System’s Office of General Counsel, commended Jochens’ dedication to that work.

“Katie is extremely helpful in terms of facilitating administration and review of contracts by the Office of the General Counsel,” Kelly wrote in his nomination. “There is no one at any other campus that undertakes the ‘start and finish’ responsibility and effort that Katie takes to get contracts processed timely.”

Jochens said she is “shocked, honored and humbled,” to count herself among UMSL’s Hero Award winners.

“It was something I really wasn’t expecting, because I’m kind of used to working in the background quietly helping people put contracts together,” she said. “So, it was quite an honor.”

Tyrome Petty

When Christy Hummel, the undergraduate recruitment coordinator in the College of Business Administration, told Petty that she had nominated him for the UMSL Hero Awards, he didn’t think much about it at the time.

“When I actually got the email, I was like, ‘What?’” Petty said. “I was shocked.”

Hummel has worked with Petty for more than a decade and nominated him for his tireless work that often goes on in the background.

“He is a quiet hero making sure things are all running smoothly behind the scenes, but we all know his name,” Hummel wrote, nominating Petty. “He manages the Degree Audit Reporting System that many members of our campus community rely on and use daily. He always has a fast turnaround for anything you may need his assistance with. I believe UMSL has one of the better transfer equivalency databases due to the work of Tyrome and his team. In times of high stress and pressure Tyrome always maintains a calm and cool attitude, which can go a long way with staff and students.”

Petty has a long history in information technology, having worked as an application programmer at a small insurance company in Illinois before making his way to UMSL.

“I was hired by Linda Silman, the acting registrar at that time,” Petty recalled. “She needed an assistant registrar to do some looking into databases. I got the job and helped develop a lot of reports and troubleshoot things, and really just used my background in IT to help student records.”

In his role, Petty and his team are responsible for auditing incoming students with transfer credits – a sizeable portion of the university’s student body. They evaluate what courses can go toward students’ degrees at UMSL and pull that information into the Degree Audit Reporting System. That work is crucial to keeping students on track to graduate.

Petty said he is passionate about ensuring students know where they stand as they pursue their degrees, and he does everything in his power to make sure they don’t need to retake courses.

“We really try to make sure that students do not take any additional courses, if they don’t need to – no matter where they’re coming from,” he said. “I remember in my undergraduate days, you strictly talked to an advisor who might write down your plan. You never really knew where you stood until the last minute. Six months after I graduated, I was still having dreams that my advisor told me we missed a class.”

Overall, Petty couldn’t be happier with his move from the private sector to university life.

“People really make the job pleasant, not as stressful as in a corporate setting,” Petty said. “It’s more like a little family.”

Burk Krohe

Burk Krohe