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UMSL's New Chancellor Kristin Sobolik Shares Her Plans To 'Lean In' To Community Needs

Kristin Sobolik was appointed chancellor April 9.
University of Missouri-St. Louis

About a week ago, the University of Missouri-St. Louis announced it had a new chancellor: Kristin Sobolik. Her selection followed a national search that ultimately led right back to campus. Sobolik has been part of the UMSL leadership team since 2017 — first as provost and most recently as interim chancellor.

On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Sobolik joined host Sarah Fenske to share how she plans to lead the university in the uniquely challenging months ahead.

“This is an important time for leadership, and it’s an important time for institutions such as UMSL that are so engaged in the community,” Sobolik said, “that we really lean in to what the community needs and wants and values. So we want to continue that trajectory and continue that connection and collaboration with St. Louis. Because we are St. Louis, and the growth and development of St. Louis is really going to rest on institutions like UMSL.”

The current pandemic has had a dramatic impact on in-person activity on college and university campuses, and the chancellor said that a decision has yet to be made as far as what the fall semester will look like. 

“We are planning for both [scenarios] — we are absolutely hopeful that we are here on campus, face to face and online,” Sobolik explained.

And in spite of COVID-19 and new cuts to higher education at the state level, Sobolik expressed hope for the state of the university.

“We are moving pretty quickly,” she said. “We are very nimble and adaptable at UMSL, and we will continue to be.”

A campuswide note earlier this week made it clear that Sobolik and others do see some hurdles ahead.

“Although the severity of the economic challenge and duration of the public health crisis are not fully known at this time,” wrote Chief Financial Officer Tanika Busch, “we have quickly adopted systemwide measures to offset short-term costs and must now prepare to mitigate the long-term financial impact of COVID-19.”

UMSL’s announcement last week about Sobolik’s appointment described her as having an “outsized impact” on making positive change and achieving growth at the university.

“My driving passion to serve our students started three years ago when I fell in love with UMSL on my very first visit,” Sobolik said in the release. “With each passing day, my commitment has grown to help these students succeed to graduation and design a better life for themselves and their families. I am so honored to lead this wonderful, dynamic institution that plays a crucial role in the St. Louis region.”

Before joining UMSL, Sobolik was dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. Her academic background is in anthropology.

Producer’s note: The University of Missouri Board of Curators, which also governs UMSL, holds the license to St. Louis Public Radio. The station is editorially independent.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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Evie was a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.