2022-23 FOCUS Officers and New Board Members Announced

Becky RasmussenNews

FOCUS St. Louis is pleased to announce the incoming officers for the 2022-23 fiscal year, as well as four new board members. Board members are community leaders who demonstrate interest and commitment to FOCUS’ mission to educate leaders, connect leaders and facilitate important conversations in the St. Louis region.

Board Officers for July 1, 2022-June 30, 2023 are:

  • Board Chair – Amy Shaw, President & CEO, Nine PBS (Leadership St. Louis 2013)
  • Executive Vice Chair – Jason Carter, Founder and CEO, UNCOMN (Leadership St. Louis 2023)
  • Vice Chair – Leann Chilton, Vice President, Government Relations, BJC HealthCare (Leadership St. Louis 2001 / Impact Fellows 2016)
  • Treasurer – Maria Briggs, Vice President, UBS Financial Services – The Omega Group (Leadership St. Louis 2009)
  • Secretary – Dr. Karen Hall, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership, Saint Louis University, and CEO, RISE Coaching & Consulting (Leadership St. Louis 2013 / Diversity Leadership Fellowship 2015)

New board members are:

  • Susan Barrett, President and Owner, Barrett Barrera Projects (Leadership St. Louis 2008)
  • Ginny Burns, Executive Director, Knowledge Finance, MOHELA (Women In Leadership 2010)
  • Irasa Downing, Principal, Organizational Consulting, Edward Jones
  • Dr. Barnali Gupta, Edward Jones Dean, Chaifetz School of Business, Saint Louis University
  • Ana Hernández Kent, Senior Researcher, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (Emerging Leaders 2020)
  • Stephen Lee, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Ameren Corporation (Leadership St. Louis 2023)
  • Dr. Ronda Sauget, President and CEO, Validus Business Strategies LLC

In addition, FOCUS St. Louis® welcomes to the board two youth members who are 2021 graduates of FOCUS’ Youth Leadership St. Louis program:

  • Jie Cruesoe, Grand Center Arts Academy
  • Maya Fuller, Crossroads College Preparatory School

Executive Committee

Amy Shaw

Amy Shaw became the President and CEO of the Nine PBS in February 2020. She is the first woman to lead Nine in its 67-year history. Shaw is recognized as a national leader and innovator in community engagement and public media. She leads a talented team in groundbreaking work that leverages on-air, online and community engagement for measurable impact around important and complex issues in the St. Louis region.

Shaw led numerous national content initiatives that created durable change in local communities, including national/local Facing the Mortgage Crisis, public media’s response to the national financial crisis and the American Graduate initiative to rally communities to improve outcomes for youth. Shaw created the Nine PBS Media Model for Engagement designed to guide the work of public media organizations in deepening their commitment as essential community institutions. Shaw is deeply committed to the power of public media as a means for strengthening communities.

Shaw currently serves on the national board of PBS, the Public Television Major Market Group, and serves on the Grand Center, Inc. board. She is a member of the St. Louis Forum, the International Women’s Forum, and is a graduate of the 2012-13 class of Leadership St. Louis. She was inducted into the St. Louis Media Hall of Fame in 2022. In 2021, Shaw was named by the St. Louis Business Journal as one of 25 Most Influential Business Women in the St. Louis region. Under her leadership, Nine PBS was recognized in 2020 and 2021 by the Women’s Foundation of Greater St. Louis as one of the region’s best places to work for women. She was an inaugural Eisenhower Zhi-Xing Fellow in 2015, spending a month in China studying Chinese media and how communities address complex issues. Shaw is a proud alumna of Bradley University and holds a master’s degree in telecommunications from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Jason Carter

Since 2010, Jason Carter has overseen UNCOMN’s growth from a one-man consulting firm to the region’s “#1 Fastest Growing Company” in 2017 and a national “Best Places to Work” as rated by Glassdoor in 2021. He graduated from the University of Missouri-Rolla with a bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering and served in the U.S. Navy as a submarine driver and information professional for over 20 years. He retired from the Navy as a Commander in 2009. A lifelong learner, Jason holds three master’s degrees, including his most recent—an Executive MBA from Washington University in St. Louis, having graduated in 2020.

Jason is active in the community, having founded and served for six years as Board President of CyberUp before turning it over this spring, Board President of the UNCOMN Foundation, and board member to numerous local non-profit organizations. He is an investor and mentor in local startup accelerators, including SixThirty Cyber and the Cultivation Capital Geospatial Tech Fund.

Leann Chilton

Leann Chilton serves as vice president for BJC HealthCare, one of the largest nonprofit health care organizations in the United States. She works collaboratively with elected and appointed government officials at the state, local and federal levels on behalf of BJC’s hospitals and service lines including inpatient and outpatient care, primary care, community health and wellness, workplace health, home health, community mental health, rehabilitation and hospice. Prior to joining BJC HealthCare in 1999, she worked in Denver and Washington, D.C. and St. Louis in the telecommunications field.

A 2001 graduate of Leadership St. Louis and a 2016 graduate of FOCUS Impact Fellows, Leann serves on the Government Relations Council of Greater St. Louis, the Hawthorn Board and Missouri Partnership Board. She was named among the Most Influential Business Women Class of 2003 by the St. Louis Business Journal. She has an MBA from Washington University and has called St. Louis her home since 1985.

Maria Briggs, FOCUS Director

As Vice President at UBS Financial Services, Maria Briggs is one of the founding partners of the Omega Group, providing advisory and brokerage services across the U.S. the last 30 years. After receiving both her BSBA and MBA from Washington University, she earned her CFP and the CIMA designation from the Wharton School of Business, and has been recognized as one of the America’s Top Financial Planners. Prior to joining UBS, she was with Smith Barney Shearson 17 years, and has management, operations, and lending experience from Boatmen’s Bank, Community Federal Savings and Loan, and Citicorp Mortgage.

A 2009 graduate of Leadership St. Louis, Maria currently serves on the Board of the Artist Presentation Society, the Advisory Council for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and various committees on behalf of Rosati-Kain High School, Washington University and Forest Park Forever. Born in the Philippines, and a transplant from Chicago, Maria also serves as an ambassador for the St. Louis Mosaic Project and was one of the founding board members of Belas Artes Multicultural Center and Art Gallery. Prior to that, she received multiple President’s Volunteer Service Awards for her time with Mentor St. Louis, St. Louis Tax Assistance program and Habitat for Humanity.

Dr. Karen I. Hall is an accomplished Educational Consultant, University Professor, and a Department of Education Regional Supervisor with extensive experience educating, advocating, and guiding action-focused conversations centered around the theory, practice, and business of equity-focused leadership. She started her career as a distinguished educator and academic program administrator evaluating curriculum, maximizing learning opportunities, and employing innovative methods in education in several school districts. She has been instrumental in assessment forecasting, analysis, and strategic planning for academic initiatives while mentoring, coaching, and supporting educators to ensure professional development and equity-focused student progress.

She has received numerous awards, including the Outstanding Administrator Award from the Missouri State Thespians Association in 2013 and the Inspiring St. Louisan Award from the St. Louis County NAACP in 2014. She also received recognition from The National Conference for Community & Justice, Metropolitan St. Louis, with the Brotherhood Sisterhood Award in 2019 and the 2020 Salute to Excellence in Education from the St. Louis American Foundation.

As an educational consultant, her mission to “Stand Up for Justice” provides her with an extended platform for delivering equity-focused leadership through numerous public presentations, community-based consultations, and the acquisition and development of superintendents throughout the country.

New Board Members

Susan Barrett

Susan Barrett’s company, Barrett Barrera Projects, and its subsidiary spaces—projects+gallery, projects+exhibitions, and Guest House—produce exhibitions and projects that create a dialogue on contemporary issues through art and design. She is a visionary with a background in painting, architecture and fashion design, which has influenced the projects she has spearheaded and championed. Notable among these, Susan conceptualized and developed the St. Louis Chess Club and served as the founding executive director of the World Chess Hall of Fame, where she created the innovative exhibit A Queen Within, which is still touring internationally. Susan is a graduate of Washington University, where she holds a Master of Architecture, a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Arts and French, and a Bachelor of Fine Art. Susan is an active board member at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Laumeier Sculpture Park, Southside Day Nursery, Arts in Transit, Sheldon Art Galleries, the St. Louis Chess Club, Circus Flora, Mid America Arts Alliance, and the Saint Louis Fashion Fund. She is the recipient of the 2019 St. Louis Women’s Visionary Award, the Visitation Academy St. Jane de Chantal Distinguished Alumna Award and St. Louis Magazine Influencer in Art St. Louis award.

Ginny Burns

Ginny Burns serves as the Executive Director for Knowledge Finance, a division of MOHELA. Burns serves as Director of Borrower Experience and Processing for the Authority. She is responsible for the overall Borrower Experience of the Authority, including the Customer Advocacy Team, Training, Specialty Servicing, Loan Servicing and Quality Assurance Group. Burns joined the Authority in 2013. For the 28 years prior, she served as the Vice President-Manager of the Student Services division of Commerce Bank. She has over 36 years of experience in the student loan industry. Burns holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Communication and a Master of Arts in Business Management from Lindenwood University, located in St. Charles, Missouri. She serves on the Missouri Association of Financial Aid Personnel Board.

Irasa Downing

As a Principal at Edward Jones, Irasa Downing is responsible for leading the Centers of Excellence for culture, organization effectiveness, workforce planning and high-performance team effectiveness in strategy, design and execution for the firm. She works in partnership to lead the development and execution of the talent strategy, which encompasses how Edward Jones attracts, develops and engages a diverse and inclusive workforce. Irasa is also member of the Human Resources Strategy Team, Diversity Equity and Inclusion Strategy Committee and an executive sponsor for the Black and African American Business Resource Group. Irasa joined Edward Jones in 2012, became director of Human Resources for the Client Strategies Group in 2014, and was named an Edward Jones principal in 2019. She has extensive experience in the HR industry and holds the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) designation. Irasa earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Missouri. Irasa has served with Connections to Success since 2013 and is a deaconess with First Baptist Church of Chesterfield. Irasa has also been a part of many organizations in St. Louis and Kansas as a part of her community impact.

Barnali Gupta

As Edward Jones Dean and professor of economics at Saint Louis University’s nationally ranked Chaifetz School of Business, Dean Barnali Gupta provides strategic direction and leadership for the faculty, staff and students in 24 academic programs and four centers of distinction. Gupta serves on the Cortex Innovation Community and FOCUS St. Louis Boards. Dean Gupta is a teacher-scholar with a distinctive record of service and a global and intercultural perspective. She is focused on inclusive leadership, continuous innovation and impactful actions that drive positive change. Under Gupta, Chaifetz School is driven to be THE top business school where “Mission Meets the Market”. Previous to Chaifetz, Gupta served 27+years at the Farmer School of Business, Miami University. Areas of expertise include industrial organization and applied game theory.

Ana KentAna Hernández Kent is a senior researcher for the Institute for Economic Equity at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. She is a nationally recognized expert on various economic topics including: the racial wealth gap, gender wealth gap, Millennial wealth, the economic returns of a college degree, the effects of COVID-19 on wealth inequality, women in the economy, single mothers and the importance of child care for the broader economy.

Kent received a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Saint Louis University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Notre Dame. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Bloomberg, The Atlantic, The Financial Times, NPR, and CNN, among other outlets. She lives in Des Peres with her husband and two young children.

Stephen LeeStephen Lee is currently a Vice President and the Deputy General Counsel at Ameren Corporation leading the legal department of over 45 legal professionals in support of Ameren Corporation’s various power companies. Prior to joining Ameren in 2020, Stephen was a Managing Counsel at BP for over 19 years leading the downstream legal team in the Americas. Stephen graduated with a B.S. in Business Logistics from the Pennsylvania State University in 1993 and a J.D. from Case Western Reserve Law School in 1996. He currently serves on the Board of the Asian American Chamber of Commerce of St. Louis and is an Advisory Board member at the Pennsylvania State Law School. Stephen and his family currently live in Creve Coeur, MO.

Ronda SaugetRonda Sauget, D. Mgt, MBA, has over 30 years of expertise working across industry sectors and in transformational leadership roles helping business, industry, governmental, and organizational clients to solve complex problems. Her natural passion to assist executive leaders in bridging the digital alignment and innovation gaps to unlock the cultural wealth of hidden intellectual talent, while generating powerful industry alliances to energize thriving growth strategies, has made her a highly sought-after executive. She has assisted in driving prominent billion-dollar infrastructure projects positively impacting over 700,000 residents and a $19B industrial revenue base. She has led a nationally significant legislative coalition work for military spouse licensure and reciprocity impacting thousands of military families.