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Message from the Office of the Chancellor

October 17, 2019 - Retirement of Deborah Burris

Dear Colleagues,

Deborah Burris, director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and chief diversity officer at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, will retire on November 1 after more than 36 years of service to UMSL and the University of Missouri System.

Deborah has the unique distinction of serving in several capacities on each of the University of Missouri’s four campuses in addition to her time as a manager and coordinator for UM System administration. Her career has included leadership roles in student admissions and financial aid, human resources, affirmative action, Title IX, diversity, equity and inclusive excellence.

Since joining UMSL in 1991 as assistant director of the Office of Equal Opportunity, Deborah has developed and implemented successful processes and programs to ensure this campus meets or exceeds all compliance requirements. Most important, Deborah has helped us create a culture that encourages civil and constructive discourse, reasoned thought and sustained dialogue in an environment of respect and appreciation. Her efforts have included initiating the first comprehensive campus climate study, engaging UMSL in the national Check Your Blindspot bias awareness initiative and establishing the UMSL Diversity 101 training program. The university’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. observance expanded to include the awarding of student scholarships and a children’s program under her leadership. This event has become a signature event for the community and the campus in which attendees pack the Touhill Performing Arts Center. 

During her tenure, UMSL also established the Chancellor’s Cultural Diversity Council to provide the chancellor and others counsel on diversity and equity issues involving students, employees, alumni and the greater community. UMSL is a three-time recipient of the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from INSIGHTS into Diversity magazine – the oldest publication specializing in this area – due in large part to Deborah’s collaborative work with campus units.

We will be hosting a retirement celebration for Deborah the afternoon of November 15 at the Touhill with event details coming soon. Until then, please join me in thanking Deborah for her exceptional service and wishing her well in the next chapter of her life.

Best regards, 

Kristin Sobolik
Interim Chancellor and Provost