FOCUS on New Civic Leadership: Perspectives from Non-Elected Leaders
Date(s) - October 27, 2021
12:00 pm - 1:15 pm
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The public sector is not just about elected leaders. In the past two years, we have seen a wealth of new public sector leadership emerge at a variety of civically engaged institutions in St. Louis – at the same time we’re also seeing some of the biggest changes in our region’s civic landscape in several generations.
Join us on Oct. 27 for a conversation with four of these leaders to discuss their thoughts, plans and vision for the future of St. Louis. We’ll explore:
- How do public sector leaders work effectively (and collaboratively) across a diverse region?
- Where is the biggest potential for positive change in the St. Louis community – and what is attainable over the next decade?
- What does a more equitable region look like to them, and what are the steps they’re taking to achieve it?
- How will they hold themselves and their organizations accountable, and what do they need from the community to be successful?
- Vanessa Cooksey – President & CEO, Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis
- Arrey Obenson – President & CEO, International Institute of St. Louis
- Dr. Dwayne Proctor – President & CEO, Missouri Foundation for Health
- Karlos Ramirez (LSL 2012) – VP, Community Engagement & Business Development, Midwest BankCentre
This event is free and open to all.
Presented with support from
About Our Speakers
Serving as RAC’s third President & CEO since November 2020, Vanessa Cooksey has held marketing, communications and philanthropy leadership roles with various government, non-profit and for-profit organizations including Washington University, Wells Fargo, Anheuser-Busch, Cartoon Network, The City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office, Save-A-Lot Food Stores and Mary Kay Cosmetics. A lover of the arts, Vanessa has championed funding for arts and culture in her previous roles.
Vanessa believes that her three decades of continuous community service is the foundation of her personal and professional success. She currently serves on the board of directors for several nonprofit organizations including the SIFMA Foundation for Investor Education, Harris Stowe State University, Mercy Hospitals and The Deaconess Foundation.
Vanessa earned her bachelor’s degree in Radio-Television-Film from the University of Texas at Austin and a master’s degree in Business Administration from Webster University. A student of governance and culture, Vanessa has studied in Europe, Asia, Central America and Africa.
Arrey Obenson is the President and Chief Executive Officer of International Institute, having joined the institution in January of this year. Prior to that he was Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Transformunity, a consulting firm that harnesses opportunities of corporations and organizations to transform the world.
Prior to founding Transformunity, Obenson served as Secretary General of JCI, a global network of 150,000 young active citizens in more than 100 countries. For 17 years, Obenson led the organization at various levels, including Director for Africa and the Middle East, Executive Director and Deputy Secretary General. Obenson is also an author of a book published in 2021 called “Bridging the Opportunity Gap”.
Obenson is a barrister at law and member of the Cameroon Bar Association. He holds a Master of Law degree from Washington University in Saint Louis, United States. He lives in St. Louiswith his wife, Victorine, and is gifted with two boys.
Before becoming president and CEO of Missouri Foundation for Health in 2021, Dr. Dwayne Proctor served in a variety of roles at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In 2002, he joined as a senior communications and program officer, providing strategic guidance and resources for several child health and risk-prevention initiatives. In 2005, Dr. Proctor was tapped to lead RWJF’s national strategies to reverse the rise in childhood obesity rates.
Prior to RWJF, Dr. Proctor was an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine where he taught courses on health communication and marketing practices to reach multicultural populations. During his Fulbright Fellowship in Senegal, West Africa, his research team investigated how HIV/AIDS prevention messages raised awareness of AIDS as a national health problem. Dr. Proctor received his doctoral, master’s, and bachelor’s degrees in marketing and communication science from the University of Connecticut. He is the former chairman of the board of directors for the Association of Black Foundation Executives and currently is the chairman of the board of trustees for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Foundation.
Karlos Ramirez joined Midwest BankCentre as the Vice President of Community Engagement & Business Development this summer. He will focus on building, nurturing and expanding bank relationships in the community and economic development arena. Prior to joining MBC, Ramirez was formerly the President & CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan St. Louis. During his tenure, the Hispanic Chamber grew its membership by 201% and increased corporate sponsorships by 707% and is now the third largest chamber in the metro area. Ramirez received his master’s degree in Educational Administration from Illinois State University and his bachelor’s degree in Education from Northern Illinois University. He is joined here in St. Louis by his wife (Alejandra), and daughter (Karina 12) while his son (Cristian 27) is in school in San Antonio, Texas.