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 James Campbell, a professor of supply chain and analytics in the College of Business Administration; Melody Freeman, the director of business administration at St. Louis Public Radio; and Layne Paubel, internship coordinator for the College of Business Administration.
When James Campbell took over as chair of the Supply Chain & Analytics Department in the College of Business Administration in 2014, he knew the time was ripe for some big changes. All of the department’s senior faculty members had seized the opportunity to retire and become Founders Professors, leaving Campbell and fellow Professor Haitao Li with an important question: “What do we do now?”
For starters, the department, formerly known as the Logistics and Operations Management Department, rebranded to its current name. Campbell instituted a new Supply Chain & Analytics Advisory Board – the department had been the only one in the college without one – made up of leaders from local businesses and organizations, from small businesses to major corporations. Over the years, the board has helped revamp the department’s curriculum and launch a new master’s program in supply chain analytics, connected students with area businesses, hired many of the department’s graduates and funded applied research projects and valuable financial support.
Eventually, the department was able to replace those faculty members who had retired, which Campbell says offered a unique opportunity to hire diverse candidates who could help shape a new future for the department. And as the father of a daughter, he’s especially proud that the Supply Chain & Analytics faculty is now 50% female.
“It’s a really dynamic department now,” he said. “When I joined the department 35 years ago, I was the young guy. Now, I’m the old guy. But I’m really excited because the faculty we’ve hired have a vision for where they want to take the department.”
Campbell also aspired to drive student engagement, adding that Assistant Professor Andrea Hupman played a pivotal role in creating a student-centered culture within the department. They started a student club, the Supply Chain & Transportation Club, which quickly garnered over 100 members. In partnership with both the Advisory Board and Alumni Board, the club offers unique opportunities for students for networking, panel events and facility tours.
“I think we’ve opened the students’ eyes to what they can achieve and for me as a professor, that’s what we want to see,” he said. “We don’t want to help them just get a degree; we want to help throughout their career. Students have trouble grasping that it’s not just your grades in the classroom; it’s those connections you can make. Through our student engagement events, through our club, through connecting to alumni and the companies on our Advisory Board, we’ve really added this student-centered idea that we never used to have.”
Assistant Teaching Professor Mitch Millstein, who earned his Ph.D. in logistics and supply chain management from UMSL and helped Campbell build the department’s Advisory Board, said Campbell had an “outsized impact” on the department and CoBA as a whole during his time as chair.
“He took a department that was last in student enrollment in the college and inwardly-focused and used the strategy of business and community engagement to change the direction to a department focused on student enrollment and engagement, getting students jobs and doing research that is impactful to businesses and industry in the region,” Millstein said. “The board that James envisioned has altered the trajectory of the Supply Chain & Analytics faculty, set an example for other departments on how to engage with the region’s businesses and, most importantly, impacted students who graduate from UMSL with a supply chain degree.”
Freeman joined the staff at St. Louis Public Radio in 2018 after two decades working on campus in different roles with continuing education and international studies and programs, now known as UMSL Global.
She felt fortunate when the opportunity arose.
“As I tell people often around here, it was, for me, sort of like a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too situation,” Freeman said. “I had always been a fan of the station. I enjoyed the programs that I was hearing and the work that they put out here, so getting the opportunity to work here was just great. Then, also, the fact that I did not have to leave the university to do it. It was just perfect for me.”
Freeman started as a finance and accounting consultant at St. Louis Public Radio, processing donations from members, paying the bills that keep the station running, and assisting with the proper stewardship of STLPR assets.
In April 2021, she joined the station’s leadership team when she was promoted to director of business administration. She now oversees all fiscal operations for the station, including budget management, gift receipts, accounting and supervision of STLPR finance and administration staff.
“Melody is a longtime UMSL employee and has been a fantastic support and leader in many areas across campus, including at UMSL Global and now at St. Louis Public Radio,” Chancellor Kristin Sobolik said in selecting her for the Hero Award. “Wherever Melody is, her positivity is contagious.”
Freeman was surprised by the recognition, particularly as she works at St. Louis Public Radio’s headquarters at UMSL at Grand Center. But she has maintained strong connections with colleagues across UMSL’s main campus that have served her and the station well.
“One of the things that I’m very proud of is the fact that I’ve been able to help bridge some of the gap that sometimes happens when you’re on campus as opposed to when you’re here at the station with policies and procedures,” Freeman said. “Sometimes, some of the things that we’re doing, we’re not sure how it fits into campus procedures. Being able to marry those two and help people on campus understand what we need and then we also understand policies and procedures as it relates to the campus – I think that’s important. I’m not going to say it’s perfect, but I have been able to help with that.”
Freeman earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting from UMSL, her experience mirroring so many other alumni who earned their degrees as nontraditional students.
“I was going to school part-time while finishing up my accounting degree,” she said. “It’s a big part of who we are. I am proud to say I am an alum, and I work here. It’s a great place.”
Ekin Pellegrini, associate dean for Graduate Business Programs in the College of Business Administration, thinks UMSL needs more Layne Paubels on campus.
Paubel has worn a couple different hats in her various roles within CoBA. On July 1, she was promoted to internship coordinator in the undergraduate office, having previously worked as an academic advisor in the college’s graduate business office. Although her role as an advisor started off on a somewhat tumultuous note – she started the position on March 23, 2020, the day the department went remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic – she was quickly sold on the advising process and the role she could play in helping students thrive at UMSL.
Whether she was speaking with potential students at a recruitment event, mapping out their schedules or helping them get their hoods ready as they crossed the stage at graduation, she enjoyed assisting students throughout all stages of their academic careers during her time as an advisor.
“All throughout the day, Layne served students with a smile and welcomed everyone to our campus,” said Pellegrini, who was just one of three people to nominate Paubel for the Hero Award while she was an advisor. “She took the time to stop and talk to all students she sees on campus. She’s an UMSL alumna and so are her parents, and her pride of being an UMSL alumna and employee inspires us all. Her students had the option to receive remote advising, yet they chose to come to campus to see her. She made them all feel welcome and taken care of. Her passion and dedication [while working in the graduate business office] directly helped us with retention. Graduate Business Programs have been increasingly doing an incredible job with retention because of constantly upbeat advisors like Layne.”
In her new role as internship coordinator, Paubel continues to support students and set them up for success both on and off campus. She assists students in building their resume, practicing for interviews or looking up jobs on LinkedIn or Handshake, and she feels her background has given her a wide range of knowledge and skills that uniquely prepare her to help students succeed. She’s always been drawn to public speaking, for instance, and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication from the UMSL Department of Communication & Media. Even her experience participating in pageants comes into play when she’s helping students prepare for mock interviews.
“These students are moving from one stage to another – they’re moving into the workforce and maybe it’s the first time they’re helping their family move into a different socioeconomic status,” she said. “I can partner with people to identify their goals and figure out how can we get there. That idea of mentorship is really huge for me. St. Louis is a very unique town in that networking isn’t cut-throat – it’s very much, ‘How can I help you?’ I can take the way people have helped me in my career and turn around and help people in theirs.”
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