FOCUS Board of Directors
2023-24 Board of Directors
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, 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 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.
Ed Bryant has over 20 years of expertise developing and executing effective strategic and integrated stakeholder engagement, communications and public affairs, and minority economic inclusion solutions for a variety of for-profit and non-profit organizations. He currently serves as Vice President, Public Affairs and Communications, for Heartland Coca-Cola. Previous positions include serving as President of the St. Louis Minority Business Council, leading the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership’s Economic Development Collaborative, and serving as Vice President of Stakeholder Engagement at the United Way of Greater St. Louis, where he led the Ready by 21 St. Louis and East Side Aligned collective impact teams.
Ed holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Memphis and a master’s degree in public policy from Regent University. In addition, he has completed graduate level coursework in policy development and urban planning at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He is also a certified DEI trainer (NCCJSTL). Throughout his career, Ed has served numerous state and local government commissions and Boards, as well as several non-profit boards. Ed has been married to his wife, Mary, for 21 years and has two young adult children (Caleb and Charis).
John McClelland joined Acropolis in 2003 as a Portfolio Manager. He works directly with clients developing and implementing personal financial plans and investment strategies, as well as advising on estate and tax planning, retirement planning, insurance and banking needs, and trust administration. Prior to Acropolis, John worked for six years as a fixed-income research analyst at A.G. Edwards & Sons.
John holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and Master of Business Administration, with a concentration in finance and accounting, from Washington University. He earned his Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation in 2006. John has served on the finance committees and board of directors at the Sheldon Arts Foundation and New City School. He also serves on the alumni board of the Yale University Rugby Football Club. Originally from Bozeman, Montana, John has been a resident of St. Louis since 1998 and has three children. He is a 2014 graduate of Leadership St. Louis.
Matt Blakely has 24 years of experience working with foundations and corporate social responsibility programs. He is Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability for Reinsurance Group of America, Incorporated (RGA). In that role, Matt leads the philanthropic, employee volunteerism, sustainability, and CSR reporting for RGA – one of the world’s largest global life and health reinsurance companies. Previously, Matt served as Executive Director of Motorola Solutions Foundation and Director of Inclusion, Diversity and Outreach for Motorola Solutions, coordinating the giving, volunteerism, and inclusion efforts of Motorola Solutions Foundation and Motorola Solutions.
Matt is a 2020-21 graduate of FOCUS Leadership St. Louis and has served on the boards and advisory committees of many large and small nonprofit organizations.
Sara Stock is founder and CEO of Stock Legal, and co-founder of Legal Back Office. Her legal practice focuses on general corporate work for small- to medium-sized businesses and commercial real estate transactions, advising clients in all aspects of the business lifecycle. Sara’s joint MBA and law degree uniquely position her to provide the highest quality legal advice seasoned with a solid understanding of her clients’ business objectives. She left an equity position at a large St. Louis law firm to join KWS Law, and later to form Stock Legal, because she felt she could better serve her target clients – small- to medium-sized businesses – from a small- to medium-sized law firm. Sara is passionate about these types of clients because they surround her in her personal life. Sara’s mom and dad ran the family trucking company out of their home while Sara was a child, and Sara’s dad and brother continue to run this successful business today. In 2018, Sara cofounded Legal Back Office, which provides back office services to small- to medium-sized businesses.
Sara is chair of the Middle Market and Small Business Committee, a committee of the American Bar Association, and sits on the YWCA Board of Directors, the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Development Board of Directors, and the Gateway 180 Board of Directors. She is also an active member of ACG St. Louis, and sits on the advisory board for a number of institutions, including banking organizations and local companies.
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.
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.
Darryl Collins joined Commerce Bank in 2000. With over 34 years in banking, he worked previously at US Bank, Firstar Bank and Mercantile Bank, gaining extensive experience in all aspects of Retail sales, branch management, several years in small business and commercial relationship management, and numerous special projects related to mergers, acquisitions, and charter integration. Currently, he serves as Regional Director for the Retail division of Commerce. This includes responsibility for all aspects of Commerce Bank’s 40-branch network in the St. Louis Metro area.
A SWIC alumnus, Darryl received his Associates degree in 1982, then moved on to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville where he earned his B.S. in Business and Mass Communications in 1984 and returned to complete his MBA course work in 2002. His board affiliations include serving as past President of CFT (a.k.a AIB), SWIC Foundation, St. John Home and Community Care, Collinsville Chamber, the SIU-E Athletic Advisory committee, the Deaconess Foundation, Norman J. Stupp foundation, the SIU-E School of Business Alumni Advisory Board, and the Leadership Council, Southwestern Illinois. He is a 2013-14 graduate of the FOCUS Leadership St. Louis program.
Lauren Daming is an Officer in Greenfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C.’s Labor and Employment Group, advising and representing clients in employment and privacy matters. She serves as the firm’s Assistant General Counsel for employment matters and co-chair of the recruiting committee. She is a Certified Information Privacy Professional and member of the International Association of Privacy Professionals Exam Development Board.
Lauren is a proud Emerging Leaders graduate and regularly provides pro bono legal services to The Little Bit Foundation and other community organizations.
Ja’Net Daniels serves as Agency Chief Operating Officer for AssuredPartners, the fastest growing independent insurance agency in the United States. She leads a change management program, consolidating multiple agencies into one. She is instrumental in creating efficiencies through processes analysis, improvements, structural alignment and fostering a culture valuing career and personal development. Prior to joining AssuredPartners in 2021, She spent over 20 years in the insurance industry leading operations and business transformation.
A graduate of FOCUS Leadership St. Louis 2020-21, Ja’Net is a committee member of the St. Louis Forum, a mentor in the Professional Women’s Network and the Founder and President of BeLovely, a wellbeing and gift boutique who supports other women by partnering with women artisans and women entrepreneurs.
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 as the area human resources leader responsible for the central division of Branch Development. She was named the director of Human Resources for the Client Strategies Group in 2014 and immediately set to work developing and executing a five-year talent strategy and developing talent metrics to ensure alignment with the firm’s five-year talent strategy, which includes increased representation of women and people of color. She was named an Edward Jones principal in 2019.
Irasa has extensive experience in the human resources industry, including serving as human resources manager for Energizer Battery Inc. Prior to coming to Edward Jones she was the Director of HR at MGP Ingredients.
A native of Winfield, Mo., Irasa earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. She also holds the Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) professional designation. She and her husband, Kurtis, have two daughters, Kira and Kumari. Irasa has served with Connections to Success since 2013. She is a deaconess with her church, 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.
Dawn Gipson is currently Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Centene Corporation, where she is responsible for analyzing employee metrics and developing policy recommendations and educational programming that advance the company’s inclusive culture. Before joining Centene, Dawn worked at FleishmanHillard for 19 years, where she did communications strategy, program planning, events management, and DE&I strategic development. As the D&I Champion for the company’s Global Headquarters, some of the initiatives launched during her tenure included a focus on inclusive policies to drive results in talent and employee engagement, a mentoring program for high school students, and the launch of an LGBTQ+ employee resource group. Dawn’s work at FleishmanHillard was recognized by the St. Louis Business Journal in 2018, when she was a recipient of the Diverse Business Leaders Award.
Dawn is a member of the St. Louis Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta and co-chair of the regional leadership development team, along with serving as Chair of the St. Louis Delta Foundation. In 2016, she became a certified yoga instructor, and she works to bring practices to underrepresented communities, including people of color and those with differing abilities. Born and raised in St. Louis, Dawn received her bachelor’s of journalism degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She earned her master’s of fine arts with a concentration in graphic communications from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Sara Govero grew up in the small town of Crystal City, Missouri. As a competitive gymnast, she learned quickly that you don’t have to be the best; you have to train the hardest to be the most consistent. Sara applies this principle everyday. At age 19, Sara approached a bank, made an aggressive proposal and was able to purchase her first piece of real estate, and Govero Asset Management, a property management company, was born. Sara now owns a multimillion-dollar real estate portfolio. At 20 years old, Sara graduated with a Masters in Legal Studies from Webster University. She now sits on Webster’s Arts and Sciences Board of Directors. After college, and while simultaneously managing Govero Asset Management, Sara has worked in the legal field since 2005 in multiple capacities including as a trial paralegal, revenue management, growth/change management, knowledge management, client relations, and overall firm operations. In 2010, Sara earned a MBA from Missouri Baptist University. Entrepreneurially, Sara has started two businesses – The Defense Collaborative and Strategic Solutions.
Sara serves as the treasurer for the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Jefferson County and created and funded its first endowed fund in 2021. She also created and funded both an endowed fund and a special care nursery at Mercy Jefferson Hospital. She recently named the Welcome Center & Lobby as part of Stray Rescue’s Capital Campaign, created an endowed fund for MindsEye, and she led her Leadership St. Louis 45 Class to create and fund the first ever endowed class scholarship.
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.
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 throughout 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.
Dr. Hall’s passion for educational equity and excellence is displayed throughout her academic and professional accomplishments. 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 has 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. She continually advocates for diversity and inclusion at the forefront of every educational endeavor by forging innovative community awareness initiatives, cultivating trusted relationships, and directing organizations to adopt inclusive methodologies with an in-depth understanding that education for all students is the fundamental stone in our society’s foundation.
A Leadership St. Louis graduate, Jackie Janus has more than 15 years of experience at leading strategic communications firm FleishmanHillard. Jackie has both B2B and B2C background, including media-strategy chops, executive visibility, thought leadership, and issues-management experience. As a member of the St. Louis office’s leadership team, Jackie helps manage a 35-person corporate reputation practice group and profit center, where she is responsible for new business, recruitment, staffing, employee engagement, and more. In addition to her client and management responsibilities, Jackie helped create and oversees her office’s learning and development program. Last year, she was selected for the inaugural FleishmanHillard Senior Leader Institute, a yearlong MBA-like program for some of the firm’s top leaders.
Beyond work, Jackie also volunteers her time as a board member for the YWCA Metro St. Louis. Before joining FleishmanHillard, Jackie developed a strong journalism background as a reporter and anchor at KOMU–TV 8 (NBC) in Columbia, Missouri, and she delivered the news for Pepper & Friends, a daily variety talk show. In addition, she has radio broadcast experience from KBIA 91.3 FM, the National Public Radio affiliate in mid-Missouri. Jackie holds a master’s degree in strategic communications from the University of Missouri–Columbia’s School of Journalism. She graduated with honors from the University of Missouri–Columbia with a bachelor’s of journalism degree in broadcast news and a bachelor’s of arts in history.
Melissa Lackey is Owner, President and CEO of Standing Partnership, a full-service strategic marketing consultancy. In addition to running the firm, Lackey works closely with senior executives to help grow their businesses — whether it’s removing obstacles to growth and mitigating risk or designing marketing strategies to attract and retain customers. She is also frequently called upon to help organizations navigate crises and issues and effectively manage change.
As a 2005-06 graduate of FOCUS Leadership St. Louis, Lackey brings leadership and business acumen to several St. Louis-area boards of directors, including the United Way of Greater St. Louis, Gateway Region YMCA (former board chair) and SSM Health Foundation (former board chair). She has also served as partner relations chair for the Americas region board of WorldCom Public Relations Group.
Lackey has been a recipient of Enterprising Women Magazine’s Enterprising Women of the Year award, YWCA Metro St. Louis Leader of Distinction, St. Louis Titan 100 and the St. Louis Business Journal’s Most Influential Business Women award. Under her leadership, Standing Partnership has been recognized as a top 50 Inspiring Workplace in North America and one of Small Business Monthly’s Winning Workplaces and Fastest Growing Small Companies.
Stephen 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.
For 10 years, Natasha Leonard has had the honor and pleasure to dedicate her career to the St. Louis Metropolitan community. Starting here in St. Louis in the political scene after college, her interest quickly shifted to nonprofits. She has built a diverse career background in nonprofits from case management, marketing, government affairs, event planning, and now fundraising development. For the last five years, she has served as Director of External Relations at a local foster care nonprofit. Her biggest accomplishment has been working with the Missouri Legislature to secure an additional $5 million for her agency to grow its programs and address racial inequity that African American children are facing in the St. Louis region.
Her specialty is creating lasting relationships with corporate contributions departments and to maintain and tell the story of their impact in our region, enhanced by her years as a case manager. She gets the pleasure every day of telling the story of wonderful non-profits and communities in the St. Louis region, one rich in philanthropy and love for the area and its people.
As Vice President of Community Development for Regions Bank, Eric Madkins is responsible for developing partnerships with business groups both internally and externally to assist in successfully identifying community development lending opportunities, investments and services in low and moderate income communities. He is also responsible for corporate compliance for community reinvestment act activities for Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and has dual master’s in business management and communications from Webster University. He is a 2018-19 graduate of FOCUS Leadership St. Louis. His community involvement includes serving on the boards of directors for the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, St. Louis Community Foundation, St. Louis Metropolitan Equal Housing and Opportunity Council and Epworth Children & Family Services. He also serves on the steering committee for the Regional Business Council’s Young Professionals Network Leadership 100 and UMSL’s Alumni Association Governing Board.
Nalini has been in practice since 2003, specializing in Immigration, Estate Planning, Special Needs and Elder Law. She is outside General Counsel for Phinix Group of Companies and serves as Alderperson for the City of Frontenac, Missouri. Her career started off as a corporate lawyer in India for five years before relocating to the U.S. She holds an undergraduate degree in accounting, a master’s degree in law from the University of Mumbai, India, an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis and obtained a JD from Saint Louis University.
Nalini volunteers as an advisor to several local nonprofits, including The Arya Foundation, The Hindu Temple of St Louis, and South Asian Women Empowerment Regional Association St Louis (SAWERAA). A 2014 graduate of Leadership St. Louis, she taught Law Practice Management and Immigration Law as an Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University School of Law. She was the chair of the Missouri Bar Immigration Committee and one of the founding members of the South Asian Bar Association of Metropolitan St Louis (SABA). Her book, How to Start a Law Practice and Succeed, is based on her personal experience.
Sekhar Prabhakar is the Co-founder of CEdge Inc, which supports several federal and commercial customers. He has worked as a senior technical staff member for high-tech companies such as Sun Microsystems & Sybase. He has received numerous awards for his commitment to the company’s excellence and philanthropy. Sekhar was recognized as one of the most inspiring CEOs by Industry Tech Outlook magazine to watch in 2020. He was one of the honorees for Who’s Who Diversity in Color 2019. He was selected as one of 14 CEOs for the 2019 C-Suite Award honorees by the St. Louis Business Journal. In 2018, Sekhar was recognized as Technology Leader of the year (finalist) by Gateway to Innovation St. Louis, Top 100 St. Louisans by St. Louis Small Business Magazine, and Small Business Person year in 2018 and 2019.
Sekhar holds a master’s degree in computer science from City College, New York. He serves as a board member on several nonprofits, including ITEN (Information Technology Network), VBRC (Veterans Business Resource Center), NAF (National Academy Foundation) & MAPO (Metro Area Professional Organization). He served as a mentor at Ameren Accelerator and Capital innovators. He serves as a co-chair for the St. Louis Working Group, a part of USGIF as a co-chair for Small Business, leading the K-12 committee.
Shayn Prapaisilp is the COO for STJ Group Holdings LLC, his family’s company specializing in food and beverage concepts. Currently their holdings include two international supermarkets as well as four restaurants.
Shayn received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from The George Washington University and a Master of Science in public service management from DePaul University. Other board memberships include serving as a Director for the Asian American Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Board Leadership Forum for Enterprise Bank & Trust, and past President of the St. Louis Young Democrats. He is a 2005 graduate of Youth Leadership St. Louis.
Devin Price is Vice President of Talent Development for Enterprise Holdings and is responsible for several HR functions including Training, Diversity and Inclusion, Global Mobility, and Meetings and Travel. Devin has been with Enterprise for 30 years, starting as a Management Trainee in Southern California and moving up in the management ranks. He was promoted to Regional Vice President in 1998 and then VP of Human Resources in 2004. In 2006, Devin moved to Winnipeg, Canada, where he was Vice President/General Manager of the Central Canada Group. In 2008 he moved to Toronto and spent nine years as VP of Airport Operations for Canada supporting the Enterprise, National, and Alamo brands. In 2017, Devin moved to St. Louis for his current position.
Devin was born and raised in Palo Alto California and graduated from University of Oregon. While in Southern California, he served on the board of Junior Achievement in Los Angeles. He currently lives in Frontenac with his wife, Teresa. He is a 2019 graduate of Leadership St. Louis.
Ronda 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.
Steve Savis is Chief Human Resources Officer for ESCO Technologies, serving as a key member of and adviser to the executive leadership team by envisioning and implementing human resources strategies and practices to support ESCO’s increasingly complex business across its locations and subsidiaries. Before joining ESCO in December 2022, Steve was Vice President for North America Crop Science Human Resources at Bayer. He previously was the Human Resources Lead for Monsanto’s North America & Climate business. He joined Monsanto in 1996 in IT supporting HR and held HR leadership roles of increasing responsibility in HR IT, Benefits, HR Operations, and as the HR Lead for Global Biotechnology, Global Strategy, Corporate Engagement, Law, and US Commercial functions.
Steve holds both a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Science in management information systems from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in business administration with an emphasis in management and organizational behavior from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. He is a member of the Board of Trustees for the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and an Executive Committee member of The Conference Board’s Senior HR Executives Council. He resides in St. Louis with his wife Laura and their two boys, Bryan and Steven, where they are active in their church, community, sports, and travel. He is a 2016 graduate of Leadership St. Louis.
Dr. Jody Sowell serves as the seventh president in the 156-year history of the Missouri Historical Society. Though new to the position – he was appointed in July 2022 – Jody is hardly new to MHS or to St. Louis. He has worked at MHS for 16 years and has lived in St. Louis for 19. Jody has served in several roles in his time at MHS. As Oral Historian, he conducted interviews with test pilots, air hostesses, and NASA’s first aerospace nurse for an exhibit about St. Louis’s aviation history. As Public Historian, Jody became one of the primary spokespeople for the institution, leading tours, giving presentations, and recording Here’s History segments for KDHX radio. As Director of Exhibitions & Research, Jody and his team opened eight of the 10 most visited exhibits in MHS’ history, including the exhibit that commemorated St. Louis’ 250th birthday. As Managing Director of Public History, he led the education, programing, publications, communications, evaluation, public history, and exhibits teams. As President, Jody will oversee one of the biggest transformations in MHS history with three new core galleries planned for the decade ahead and with plans to share more of the MHS collection than has ever been shared before.
Prior to MHS, Jody was an academic and a journalist. He was assistant professor of journalism at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism and has served as an adjunct professor at Fontbonne University, Washington University, and Saint Louis University. He continues to teach at SLU, which is where he earned his doctorate in American Studies. Jody started his career as a journalist, working as a reporter for the Dallas Morning News and as an editor at the Columbia Missourian.
Jody regularly speaks about the power of public history, how to connect people to their shared past, and how St. Louisans can use their past to help build a better future for the region. He appears every week on KMOV’s CBS Sunday Morning in his popular STL History Minute segments.
Dr. Alisa Warren has served as the Executive Director for the Missouri Commission on Human Rights (MCHR), a state agency housed in the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, since January 2008. Under her leadership, MCHR works diligently to prevent and eliminate discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Her professional positions are many and distinguished: Director of Diversity Initiatives for the University of Missouri – College of Engineering; Executive Director for the Missouri Community Service Commission; Missouri Director of the Office of Equal Opportunity; Director of the State of Missouri Supplier Diversity Program; and Minority Contracts Coordinator for the State of Missouri Division of Design and Construction.
Dr. Warren holds a Bachelor of Science, Master of Public Administration, and a Ph.D. in Applied Social Sciences in the area of community development and social disparities, all from the University of Missouri- Columbia. She has been involved with a number of organizations, such as: the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis Fair Housing Task Force; the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights State Advisory Council; Board of Directors and past Vice President for the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies; U.S. President’s Initiative on Race “A Day of Dialogue”; Chair of the Missouri Human Rights Conference; Governing Board for Central Missouri United Way; Board of Directors for Girls Scouts of the Missouri Heartland; Strategic Leadership for State Executives at the Duke University Governors Center; Advisor to the University of Missouri National Society of Black Engineers, Society of Women in Engineering, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers; Mentor for the Lincoln University Minority Women’s Leadership Program; and Chair of the State of Missouri Diversity Council. She is a 2017 graduate of Leadership St. Louis.
“I served FOCUS St. Louis as a board member with great pride because of the quality of its leadership and commitment to our region.”
Director, Customer Care, Ameren
Leadership St. Louis 2007-2008