New graduate Rachel Goldmeier applying lessons from MPPA program to work at Community Innovation and Action Center

by | Dec 21, 2023

Goldmeier, who also earned her MSW at UMSL in 2015, joined CIAC as a graduate research assistant before being hired full-time as an outreach coordinator.
New graduate Rachel Goldmeier applying lessons from MPPA program to work at Community Innovation and Action Center

by | Dec 21, 2023

Goldmeier, who also earned her MSW at UMSL in 2015, joined CIAC as a graduate research assistant before being hired full-time as an outreach coordinator.
Rachel Goldmeier

Rachel Goldmeier earned her MPPA this fall and is working as an outreach coordinator at UMSL’s Community Innovation and Action Center. (Photos by Derik Holtmann)

Rachel Goldmeier thought she’d found her career when she completed her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Missouri–St. Louis in 2015.

She promptly landed a full-time position at Northside Youth and Senior Service Center. She served as a program assistant with the D.R.E.A.M.S. – Dedicated, Responsible, Energetic, and Motivated Students – Program, working at Sumner High School and managing a case load of 20 students whom she helped prepare for their futures after high school graduation.

Goldmeier continued to do one-on-one social work over the next five years, with a stint at the St. Louis Jewish Community Center – where she’d worked as a practicum student – and more than two years as a student support specialist with the UMSL Succeed Program. In the latter role, Goldmeier served as a social coach for post-secondary students with intellectual and developmental disabilities and helped create curriculum for courses in study skills, issues in independent living and Succeed’s senior capstone.

Rachel Goldmeier accepts degree

Rachel Goldmeier shakes hands with Chancellor Kristin Sobolik as she walks across the stage on Saturday during a commencement ceremony for graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences.

As rewarding as Goldmeier found all those experiences, she couldn’t shake the feeling that she wanted to make a broader impact.

“I saw these issues where it was like running up against a wall,” Goldmeier said. “You would try and support somebody through a system that wasn’t always designed or developed to help them to achieve their goals.

“One-on-one work is great, and I got to connect with people and get to know people, and I did like that element. But I always felt like a lot of these issues are systemic, and a lot of these issues are going to continue until there’s some kind of readdress of the system.”

That led her to explore a career shift into the realm of public policy. She ultimately decided to pursue a Master of Public Policy Administration from UMSL, and she earned her degree this month.

Walking across the commencement stage for the second time to receive a master’s degree filled her with a great deal of pride because school didn’t always come easily to Goldmeier, who had to learn how to deal with lingering complications from a stroke suffered as a child. It often left her feeling like she didn’t measure up to other kids – a feeling that continued into college even as she earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology from the University of Missouri–Columbia.

“I would say in the master’s programs is where I really thrived academically,” Goldmeier said. “I think it was just through learning myself and learning what worked for me and what did not work for me and the things that I had to do to get good grades. There are certain areas where I do have to work a little harder, and I do have to commit myself.”

Goldmeier has already been putting the knowledge and skills she gained in the MPPA program to use as an outreach coordinator at UMSL’s Community Innovation and Action Center. In her work with CIAC, she has contributed to a project exploring the home repair needs of older adults in the St. Louis region; worked with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri on a neighborhood vacancy initiative; helped connect daycare providers with training and coaching as part of the Missouri Supporting Early Childhood Administrators, or MO-SECA, Project; studied the broadband needs of underserved communities; and done some public speaking in partnership with the Saint Louis Zoo to help engage community members in its new WildCare Park, under construction in north St. Louis County.

“When I was a social worker, I really got a lot of that one-on-one connection, which I loved,” Goldmeier said. “But I had other passions and things I wanted to explore. I wanted to be able to write more, I wanted to be able to do research, I wanted to be able to do public speaking and have a variety of projects. CIAC has been amazing at allowing me to do a bunch of different things at once and use all those different skills that are important to me.”

Goldmeier began working as a graduate research assistant at CIAC, not long after she started the MPPA program in 2022, and she made a positive impression right away.

“She has a strong commitment to community voice and St. Louis,” said Kiley Bednar, co-director of the Community Innovation and Action Center, who has been a mentor for Goldmeier. “She just has a desire to really center communities that haven’t historically had a voice in policymaking as much as they should. One way that she dove right into that was through the home repair study under Dr. Todd Swanstrom in leading up qualitative efforts and ensuring that older homeowners in St. Louis were having a voice in ways to address home repair needs in St. Louis.”

Goldmeier remained with CIAC as a graduate research assistant beyond her first semester and eventually applied for and landed her current role as an outreach coordinator.

Juggling the demands of a full-time job with her coursework hasn’t always been easy over the past year.

“With social work, I was mostly working part-time and then going to school, and there was also a period of time where I was just going to school and that was it,” she said. “That was definitely easier, but I do I find this very rewarding. This has been the toughest semester because it’s the last one. I’ve loved this program, and it’s bittersweet. I’m really going to miss it.”

She’s built a rapport with many of her classmates over the past two years.

“We were going through the same classes, and we were able to support each other,” she said. “That sense of community is something that UMSL particularly is very strong in and thrives in because we’re a nontraditional campus. We have people from all different backgrounds. We’re all able to connect. I really wanted to listen and learn from them. That was huge for me.”

A few people expressed surprise, given her background, when they learned Goldmeier chose to pursue the MPPA program’s local government track, rather than nonprofit management and leadership. But she felt it presented the best opportunity to add new skills.

She also believes effective policy change requires engaging with local government, whether from inside or out.

Playing a future role in local government is something she won’t rule out, but for now, Goldmeier’s content to remain on the outside and excited to continue her work at CIAC.

“I know whatever I’m going to be doing, I want to make an impact,” she said. “I want to help the community. I’m very passionate about St. Louis, so I do hope to stay here long-term and be able to assist the St. Louis community in different ways.”

Steve Walentik

Steve Walentik