Gephardt News

Civic Journey: From St. Louis Fellow to Gephardt engagement specialist

Sophie Devincenti ’22 (right), a St. Louis Fellows alumnus who joined the Gephardt Institute staff after graduation, helps a student navigate last year’s Civic and Community Engagement Fair—an event that Devincenti was primarily responsible for organizing. 

One St. Louis Fellow’s journey brought her even closer to the Gephardt Institute last year.  

Since last June , Sophie Devincenti has served as Gephardt’s Student Engagement Specialist. Hailing from Mill Valley, Calif., Sophie graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from WashU in the Class of 2022, majoring in Educational Studies and Studio Art and minoring in Writing. She was also a Howard Nemerov Writing Scholar, a T.R.U.T.H. facilitator, and an avid printmaker. 

Though she officially joined Gephardt’s professional staff after graduation, Devincenti already had a close relationship with the institute as a St. Louis Fellow in the Arts as Civic Engagement  cohort. While completing her St. Louis Fellows internship at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA), Devincenti was involved with projects related to the new Berges Theatre and its mission to make it a true “house of the people.”  

There, Devincenti helped research and assisted in planning for a youth workforce development program pilot. She also engaged with COCA students to design a teen council aimed at developing and training the next generation of theatre artists, technicians, and designers. 

During her time as a St. Louis Fellow, Devincenti formed a deep appreciation and passion building systems that she wished she had. While working on casting, she learned more about the importance of creating safe spaces, as well as providing actors the tools they need to assert their own boundaries and needs. This awareness followed her through her behind-the-scenes work engaging with audiences.  

Devincenti’s time at COCA expanded her perception of what her future will look like and cemented a passion for working with and helping other young people. It culminated in her being selected to join the Gephardt team following a competitive search process, and led her to begin her professional career in higher education. 

She admitted that the transition from student to employee at WashU was difficult—at first.  

“I initially had fears about the professional world and not knowing what it was going to look like, and I had some less-than-healthy work environments in the past,” Devincenti said. Her worries were soon put to rest, however, as she became more familiar with the institute’s space and especially with fellow staff, whom Devincenti lauds for creating an inclusive and supportive work culture.  

Since starting, Devincenti has had the opportunity to be creative and pull from her prior experiences as she develops new systems and means to help students engage and learn with the Gephardt Institute. She continually uses art, creativity and inclusion to drive her work, including planning the first summer social to bring together students in St. Louis over the summer; “Art as Activism,” and a Civic Action week live screen-printing event. She also re-envisioned the Civic and Community Engagement Fair to have a market style vibe, and was instrumental in organizing Party at the Polls, bringing in student musicians and student groups to enhance the atmosphere of excitement around voting.  

This month, she is working with Laura Weil ‘24 to curate the Gephardt Institute’s first-ever art exhibition, “The Little Things,” which will feature 30 student installations that incorporate socially-engaged and creative expression.  

Devincenti also holds a soft spot for St. Louis, which she fondly calls a “city of hidden gems; wonderfully weird and beautifully horizontal.” She has observed amazing engagement across students and community members alike since coming to the city, and she is both excited and hopeful for continuing to foster this type of work through her time at Gephardt.