Mosaic Stories

    Misha Yefremenko

    With only two thousand dollars in his pocket, seventeen-year-old Mihail (Misha) Yefremenko left his Russian family and home near Ashkabat, Turkmenistan in 2003 and arrived in the United States to pursue his college education. While looking into college options, he received an invitation to attend Moberly Area Community College, about an hour outside of the St. Louis area. At the time he was about to leave his country, he actually had received an offer to play professional soccer for the Turkmenistan national team, but he decided to pick education over soccer, a decision which he does not regret whatsoever.

    As soon as he arrived at Moberly, Misha felt the inclusiveness and welcoming environment that Missouri had to offer. The $2000 he had in his pocket was just enough to pay for a single semester of coursework, so his advisor, the dean of international students at the college, immediately took Misha under his wing and helped him with his basic needs. He organized a dormitory arrangement where Misha could stay for free in exchange for supervision of the building, and he took him grocery shopping for essentials to sustain him for the first several weeks. Misha is forever grateful for his advisor’s assistance. “He helped me with everything,” he emphasizes. “When I graduated [from Moberly] he gave me a list of colleges broken down with the top scholarships for me to apply to. He was one of the nicest people ever, and he was like a father to me.”

    Misha graduated from Moberly with an associate degree, and then transferred to Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Missouri after receiving an offer to play on their soccer team. However, he only attended Missouri Valley College for one year before transferring again after receiving a better scholarship to attend Harris-Stowe State University, forty-five miles away in St. Louis.

    Misha has been on a sure path to success ever since he moved to St. Louis. Even though after one year at Harris-Stowe he was no longer eligible to play soccer for the school team since he had reached the five year collegiate level cap, he says valued his education the most, so he immediately applied for - and was awarded - numerous scholarships to sustain his tuition. Notably, he participated in the Regional Business Council’s mentoring program and received their scholarship to cover a portion of his tuition payments each semester. He also received a presidential waiver granting him the opportunity to pursue additional credit hours without additional fees. “Everyone was amazed that I managed to get five or six different scholarships,” he says. This support was crucial for him, as he cities that finances posed the biggest challenges for himself as an international student working not only to pay his tuition, but figuring out how to prolong his F-1 visa to stay as a student in the United States. His academic drive and intellect to complete his education prevailed, and with his hard work, he succeeded and graduated from Harris-Stowe with his bachelor's degree in management and business administration in December 2009. In 2011, he won the green card lottery and was officially permitted to remain the United States.

    Before landing his current job at Monsanto, Misha began developing his professional skill set by working in various career settings. Given his degree in business administration and management, he took his first job at 84 lumber, a management trainee program at which he worked to sell appliances for building remodeling. After realizing it was not actually the field he was interested in pursuing as a long term career, he took a new job at Kozeny & McCubbin, a law firm working with foreclosures. He started as an accountant, and within a year and a half, he had already received three promotions. He is grateful for the valuable mentorship and career experience, but after reaching the staff accountant position, Misha felt that there was not any more room left for him to grow within the company. At the time, he was working towards earning his MBA from Lindenwood University, and he knew that after receiving this master’s degree, he wanted to keep growing his career.

    Misha soon received an offer from Monsanto, and he has been working as an International Accountant for the company since May 2015. Given that Monsanto works with over 68 countries, Misha is confident that there are plenty of opportunities for him to grow within the company. Furthermore, this international diversity shapes the company culture in general, something which Misha truly values. “[Monsanto] is great with international employees, and it is an incredibly diverse workplace. There is every possible culture here,” he says. As a foreign-born employee himself, Misha also brings a huge benefit to the table: his language skills. By speaking Russian, Turkmen, Uzbek, Ukrainian, and English, Misha is an asset to the multicultural company scene. “My language skills help a lot,” he explains. “I am able to talk with more people in a variety of situations.”

    In addition to Misha’s personal testimony, the reputation of Monsanto as an inclusive and internationally welcoming company is evident to the greater St. Louis community. The St. Louis Mosaic Project, the regional initiative working to increase regional prosperity through immigration and innovation, recently named Monsanto as the first Mosaic Ambassador Company. Monsanto joins the Mosaic Ambassador Company Program as a Gold Member, which means the company hires international students and experienced global talent, encourages associates to become Mosaic Ambassadors, and shares Mosaic’s welcome materials with newly arriving international employees. Thus, Monsanto plays a vital role in the Mosaic Project’s mission to make the St. Louis region more economically and culturally successful.

    Misha first heard about the St. Louis Mosaic Project while on the soccer field. While he could no longer play soccer at the collegiate level, Misha pursued the sport on his own, and joined St. Louis pickup soccer a few years ago. He became friends with Vin Ko, Program Manager of the Mosaic Project, who told him about the work of the initiative and its importance to the St. Louis region. “The project is tremendous in helping and recognizing international students,” he says. “I now realize how many opportunities there are here in St. Louis.”

    Soccer in itself has proved to be integral in connecting and immersing Misha within the St. Louis community. Aside from the fact that the sport helped him to enroll in great colleges in the state and led him to receive one of the most competitive scholarship to continue his education as an international student, Misha feels that “the most important aspect in soccer is that it is very diverse.”  He truly believes in the power of the sport as an international language to unite people across cultures. “Soccer brings all people around the world close together, allowing them to develop networks in the future,” he explains. “The main reason I got to know so many great people in St. Louis was through friendly pickup games - soccer made this possible.”

    Misha has come to love the St. Louis community and all of the opportunities that the city has to offer. “Networking with people in St. Louis is amazing,” he says. “I see and meet so many people that are very important, and St. Louis brings these people together.” Furthermore, he raves about the opportunities for international students graduating from universities. “Schools here are very recognized, and there are a lot of opportunities for networking and scholarships.”

    In the future, Misha aspires to become a financial analyst. “It’s what I’m passionate about,” he explains. “I see accounting as the micro view and finance as the macro view, so I am learning accounting in the business world before I move into finance later on.”

    All in all, Misha feels that St. Louis is a great place to live, as it is a growing city that is a great place to not only establish connections, but to start a family and become part of the community. In fact, he met his wife here, a fellow international student attending Harris-Stowe and also a participant in the Regional Business Council’s mentoring program. “I want to remain in St. Louis because there is so much growth, and there are so many opportunities here,” he says. “It’s a really good city to be in.”