UMSL honors exemplary faculty, staff with Chancellor’s Awards at annual State of the University Address

by | Aug 28, 2023

Chancellor Kristin Sobolik presented awards to more than 20 faculty and staff members Friday.
Chancellor Kristin Sobolik (at left) presented Chancellor’s Awards

Chancellor Kristin Sobolik (at left) presented Chancellor’s Awards and four teaching awards to faculty and staff members including Jennifer Fisher, Kate Votaw, Alina Slapac, Magen Rooney-Kron, Lindsay Athamanah, Monica Farrell, Wen Zeng, Jonathan Lidgus, Martille Elias, Johnna Murray, Marti Baricevic, Kara Moskowitz, April Regester, Andrew Kliethermes, Danielle Faucett, Sarah Butler, Brian Munoz, Amy Banken, Yolanda Weathersby Marshal, Blake Schliesser, Channon Peoples, Beverly Sporleder and Chris Worth. Karen Boleska, who is not pictured, was also honored. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

Chancellor Kristin Sobolik highlighted contributions of University of Missouri–St. Louis faculty and staff Friday morning during the annual State of the University Address.

Overall, 20 faculty and staff members received Chancellor’s Awards. Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Steven J. Berberich shared details of each one’s accomplishments as Sobolik presented each of the winners with their awards at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center.

The faculty honorees

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Collaborative Research and Creativity

Assistant Professor Lindsay Athamanah, Department Chair and Associate Professor April Regester, Assistant Professor Magen Rooney-Kron, Grant and Research Coordinator Wen Zeng, Director of the Succeed Program Jonathan Lidgus, Assistant Director of the Succeed Program Andrew Kliethermes and Graduate Research Associate Chris Worth.

The collaborative team leading the UMSL Succeed Program – a postsecondary education program for students with developmental and intellectual disabilities – has expanded the program and its research dramatically during the past decade. The team has put an emphasis on inclusivity, employment, transition supports and socialization.

Many of these recent efforts were supported by a 2020 Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities grant from the U.S. Department of Education, which provided $2.1 million in federal funding to augment the program.

In the process of expanding the program, it has built a more inclusive campus for students with and without intellectual disabilities. Beyond campus, the team is providing vital information to local school districts, collaborating with St. Louis ARC to provide virtual vocational and self-advocacy coaching and creating a video modeling library to improve students’ independent living and employment skills.

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research and Creativity

Professor Lee Slocum

Slocum’s research is at the forefront of the criminology and criminal justice field, focusing on important topics such as the mobilization of law and police, data trends related to criminal justice issues and willingness of victims to report crimes. Her research has produced numerous published papers and reports for many community partners, and she has become an indispensable resource for connecting criminology and criminal justice research to crucial public policy questions.

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching to a Tenured or Tenure Track Faculty Member

Associate Professor Kara Moskowitz

Moskowitz, a member of the Department of History, has developed a sterling reputation at the university as an educator and scholar with enthusiasm for both teaching and research. One of her strengths as an educator is connecting with the students in her courses. Moskowitz has consistently shown the ability to improve her students’ writing and critical thinking skills, as well as meeting every student at their individual skill level. Her innovative teaching materials and approach keep students curious and learning how to connect complex ideas about political economy, international development and colonial and postcolonial Africa to both the past and present.

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching to a Non-Tenure Track Faculty Member

Assistant Teaching Professor Martille Elias

Elias is a valued leader, innovator and educator in the Department of Educator Preparation and Leadership. Much of Elias’ teaching occurs in UMSL’s Literacy Clinic sites, where in-service teachers, teacher candidates, K-12 students and families come to learn literacy in a supportive setting. Elias makes literacy joyful for her students, and her work in the Literacy Clinic has become a hallmark of the College of Education’s approach to preparing educators. Through her tireless work, she demonstrates the science and art of teaching reading and challenges teachers to create an atmosphere that builds on their students’ cultural values and beliefs to engage and empower them.

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Online Teaching

Director of Sports Management Karen Boleska

Boleska continuously adds new activities – from numerous professional guest speakers to opportunities to travel, network and work at sporting events such as the Super Bowl – to her courses to enhance the student experience and creates interactive ways for her students to gain knowledge and skills in the field of sport management. Boleska is passionate about her students’ success, emphasizing professional development, networking and practical, on-the-job experiences. Her joy in seeing her students succeed is evident, and contagious, at every graduation.

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence to a Part-Time Faculty Member

Adjunct Assistant Professor Marti Baricevic

Baricevic, a member of the Department of Education Science and Professional Programs, has been instrumental in adapting the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Practicum course over the years to reflect current topics in the field of counseling and to improve practices, both in her teaching and in the way that students are prepared for clinical practice. Additionally, she expertly understands and addresses the needs of her students and grounds her teaching in empathy.

Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Service

Assistant Teaching Professor Johnna Murray

Murray is a member of the Department of Accounting and has been an early adopter of new technologies and teaching developments and has worked tirelessly with colleagues across campus to help implement these solutions. Because of the knowledge she has amassed related to learning pedagogy, she has been a leader in the College of Business Administration’s assessment of learning programs. In recent years, she has served the Physical Facilities Committee, the Academic Advisory Committee, Assessment of Educational Outcomes Committee and the Assurance of Learning Committee, among others.

The staff honorees

Chancellor’s Award for Inclusive Excellence-Celebrating Diversity Award

Executive Director Channon Peoples

Peoples, the executive director in the Office of Precollegiate Student Services for the Bridge Program, consistently and positively contributes to institutional and educational excellence and is known as a beacon of light within the UMSL community. Peoples offers her time and talent to unite young women through the Women’s Empowerment Network and to engage with members of the community through outreach efforts to attract new students.

Chancellor’s Awards for Staff Excellence-Trailblazer

Project Manager Amy Banken and Associate Registrar Danielle Faucett

Banken, a program manager with Graduate School Student Services, is committed to creating and streamlining processes to ease the burden of necessary paperwork on students, faculty and staff. Banken has worked closely with Information Technology Services to create an online graduate portal, which has increased accuracy, tracking and accessibility while making forms available beyond traditional office hours and significantly reducing processing time.

Faucett, as an associate registrar, is known across campus for consummate professionalism. She has been instrumental in helping to implement CourseLeaf Section Scheduler to improve and streamline the scheduling process, driving UMSL to be the first in the University of Missouri System to have successful implementation of the platform. This system reduced errors and increased transparency between departments while offering opportunities to allocate resources more strategically.

Chancellor’s Awards for Staff Excellence-Creator

Teaching Center Coordinator Sarah Butler and St. Louis Public Radio Staff Photojournalist and Multimedia Reporter Brian Munoz

As testing center coordinator at the Center for Teaching and Learning, Butler oversees the administration of over 15,000 exams annually. She has expanded options for students and implemented scheduling systems that integrate with UMSL’s database for student accommodations. During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, she worked diligently during the shift to remote instruction, helping to troubleshoot web-based proctoring systems, producing an UMSL faculty guide, writing sample syllabus statements and creating sample exams students could try in the AI testing environment.

Every day, Munoz goes out of his way to support the work of his colleagues, stepping up on weekends and evenings to cover breaking news and driving to the furthest reaches of the region to take excellent photos. He is dedicated to creating an inclusive, equitable community in every aspect of his work. This commitment includes creating a pipeline of diverse future journalists, finding partnerships to reduce barriers to entry for students with a passion for photography or journalism and advocating for the availability of content in Spanish.

Chancellor’s Awards for Staff Excellence-Positive Influencer

Senior Business Support Specialist Blake Schliesser and Senior Program Coordinator and Academic Advisor Monica Farrell

In the College of Education, Schliesser has earned a reputation as a problem-solver, whether it involves dealing with maintenance problems, coordinating classroom changes, resolving payroll concerns or rearranging office spaces. As a mentor, he is dedicated to professional growth, often presenting trainings and developing ideas aimed at assisting colleagues in reaching their career aspirations. Beyond his own team, Schliesser extends his mentorship to student workers by seeking ways to cultivate their skills and prepare them for life after graduation.

As a part of the Department of Undergraduate Business Advising, Farrell goes out of her way to get to know students, faculty and staff and works to make sure everyone feels included, heard and respected. She also took the initiative to establish the Terri Furlow Scholarship in memory of a beloved academic advisor and created Canvas pages for department student organizations, which has positively impacted student engagement.

Faculty Retiree of the Year

Professor Emerita Beverly Sporleder

Sporleder retired from the School of Social Work in 2012 but has remained active at UMSL and within the St. Louis community. As a first-generation college student, she was deeply connected to UMSL students and appreciated the financial struggles many experienced. In response, she established the Beverly Sporleder Jubilee Endowed Scholarship, through which she helps students in need pursue their academic dreams.

Staff Retiree of the Year

Retired Director of Student Support Services Yolanda Weathersby Marshall

After 30 years of service, Marshall retired in 2017. During her time at UMSL, she was instrumental in creating programs that increased recruitment and retention of underrepresented students while collaborating with every department on campus. Since retiring, she has continued transforming lives while working as an enrollment services coordinator at St. Louis Community College–Forest Park, as a teaching assistant at Parkway Early Childhood Center and as an admissions reading specialist at Washington University.

During the ceremony, Berberich also recognized four faculty members who earned teaching awards: Associate Teaching Professor Jennifer Fisher won the Emerson Excellence in Teaching Award, Rooney-Kron also won the Gerald and Deane Gitner Excellence in Teaching Award, Associate Professor Alina Slapac won the 2022 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and Associate Teaching Professor Kate Votaw won the 2023 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

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