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Mary Chant (BSW 1994)

For St. Louis native Mary Chant, happiness comes from learning. Mary, who graduated from the University of Missouri–St. Louis in 1994 with a BSW, credits her father, who earned a bachelor’s degree and MBA from UMSL, with instilling in her the spirit of discovery.

Mary Chant

“My father was one of the most curious people I have ever known, and never stopped learning, whether it be banjo, meditation, other cultures, or a new coding/programming language,” Mary said. “Still today, I’m at my happiest when I am learning.”

Mary’s "happy place" ignited a career that has positively impacted the lives of children and families for nearly 30 years, working first with Missouri runaways and homeless youth before moving to Idaho in the 1990s to focus on economic security and asset development for low-income families. As director of Community Action Partnership of Idaho, Mary worked with state and national economic security organizations to develop and implement policies that helped people reach economic security and build assets. In 2012, she returned to Missouri to assume her current role as CEO of Missouri Coalition for Children, a statewide association of child and family organizations dedicated to improving lives through policy and practice that support child and family well-being and healthy communities.

"There were times earlier in my life where the love, support and concern of others were the difference between negative outcomes and the opportunities, education and well-being I enjoy today and have for decades," she said. "I’m acutely aware that these supports and resources were not and are not, available to so many youths and families, and more importantly, that we can change this. Through meaningful community engagement and thoughtful policy and investment, we can help children and families thrive in their communities."

As UMSL celebrates its 60th anniversary, Mary has a simple message for current and future students who will lead by transformation in the years to come.

"Say yes more," she said. "Looking back on my life, I regret the chances I did not take much more than the ones I did, even when the ones I took did not work out like I hoped they would."