In 2017, we launched a Meet the Leader speaker series featuring a range of local and national leaders with a demonstrated commitment to civic and community engagement. Intentionally offered in an intimate setting, the hour-long event allows attendees and speakers to connect in meaningful ways, with opportunities for questions and answers that are personalized and tailored to the interests of attendees.

Speakers discuss their professional background and the civic pathway that got them to where they are today. Though there is a natural career focus, the goal of the series is to highlight a variety of pathways for civic engagement and how it can be integrated into one’s lifelong commitment, career or otherwise. While the series is geared toward students, all members of the WashU community are welcome and encouraged to attend. 

This Civic Moment: A Special Meet the Leader Series

In light of the COVID-19 global pandemic, communities have changed significantly, calling us to examine our civic responses as individuals and institutions in new ways. Though mainstream media is covering some common narratives as it relates to our healthcare systems and local/federal government responses, our hope is to uplift less common narratives that highlight COVID’s civic challenges and opportunities for our students and broader WashU community. Through a special virtual series using our Meet the Leader model, we ask that invited speakers focus in on their area of expertise through the lens of COVID and one or more of our Gephardt Institute values: inquiry, empathy, collaboration, integrity, equity, and action.

View virtual Meet the Leader discussions in their entirety by clicking on the links below, and check back for upcoming events. 

  • Shaina Goodman (AB ’08, LW ’12, MSW ’12) is the director of policy for reproductive health and rights at the National Partnership for Women & Families. Shaina discussed the impact of the current crisis on women.
  • Nicholas Fandos is a national reporter for The New York Times, based in the Washington bureau. Nicholas discussed perspectives on the implications of COVID in the context of journalism, media, and politics.
  • Julia Ho (AB ’14) is the founder of Solidarity Economy STL. Julia discussed the role of mutual aid and a solidarity economy during the current crisis. 

Amrit Gill, MBA ’90, and Amy Gill, discuss their career and philanthropy journey as founders of Restoration St. Louis.
Greg Perlstein, AB ’08, shares his experience as senior director of growth & marketing at DoSomething.org
“I think what universities can continue to do, and what you can continue to do, is make students more aware of those issues, continue to give them opportunities to engage– not to talk down, not to control, but to engage– to see what change can be made, and to remind students that the easy path is not the only path.  Oftentimes I think there’s a sense of reinforcement– a patting on the back, you did a good job, you got the A+, you’ve worked hard– so go off and be comfortable. So I think we have to be uncomfortable with that to be stronger citizens in this country and the world.”

Pushkar Mohan Sharma, AB ’06, independent policy strategist and writer working to advance a renewed commitment to the global rights-based international order, discusses his work with the United Nations. 
“Write down your goals and hold yourself accountable. Surround yourself with people that inspire you, people that have like-minded dreams and goals. And, most of all, learn how to ask for what you want.”

Adrian E. Bracy, chief executive officer for YWCA Metro St. Louis and previous senior financial manager with professional sports teams such as the St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals, and Miami Dolphins, shares about her career experiences in a male-dominated environment.

David Eichenbaum, Democratic media consultant, spoke on his career path and on the importance of telling powerful stories to connect with people and combat disinformation.

“Do what you’re passionate about because you can make a difference in anything you do. You don’t have to follow the strictures set out for you. You can make it your own. You can change things, both large things like society and things in your own life. Stretch yourself. Don’t just do something because it’s easy. Always seek opportunities to grow.”


Meet the Leader Speakers

Since our first Meet the Leader event, we have featured 20 prominent leaders representing industries from government, education, marketing strategy, community planning and development, and economic and social policy research. Some of our previous speakers include: 

  • Eric Schultz: AB ’02, senior advisor to former President Barack Obama serving as the Principal Deputy Press Secretary and Special Assistant to the President. In this role, Eric advised President Obama, spoke on behalf of the Administration on Air Force One and in the White House briefing room, and helped manage the Administration’s proactive messaging and news-of-the-day responses. 
  • Nisha Patel: the Executive Director of the U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty at the Urban Institute. Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the partnership is a nonpartisan group of leaders, experts, and practitioners working to identify promising interventions to make real, lasting progress against persistent poverty in America.
  • Chris Koster: EMBA ’02, former Missouri Attorney General and Senior Vice President for Corporate Services at Centene Corporation, one of the largest and most successful managed healthcare organizations in the United States.
  • Laura Vilines: AB ’06, is Executive Director of the St. Louis Teacher Residency (STLTR), which recruits, trains, and supports aspiring teachers who are capable of accelerating student achievement from the moment they enter the classroom as a teacher of record.

Are you interested in meeting a particular leader? Please send your recommendations to gephardtinstitute@wustl.edu.


View a Complete List of Speakers 

Spring 2020
  • David Eichenbaum, Washington based Democratic media consultant and previous campaign manager for several U.S. Senate races. 
Fall 2019
  • Adrian E. Bracy, MBA, CPA, chief executive office for YWCA Metro St. Louis.
  • Pushkar Sharma, AB ’06,  policy strategist and writer working to advance a renewed commitment to the global rights-based international order.
  • Ian Lever, BSBA ’16, management consultant at Accenture who has the opportunity to work on their US Corporate Citizenship core team.
  • Amrit Gill, MBA ’90, and Amy Gill, founders of Restoration St. Louis
Spring 2019
  • Fernando Cutz, BA ’10, senior associate at the Cohen Group and former member of the National Security Staff at the White House.
  • Kurt Summers, BS ’00, Chicago’s 70th treasurer and former senior vice president at Grosvenor Capital Management.
  • Judge Rodney W. Sippel, JD ’81, Chief District Judge for the Eastern and Western Districts of Missouri and Washington University School of Law alumnus. 
Fall 2018
  • Chris Koster, EMBA ’02, former Missouri Attorney General and Senior Vice President for Corporate Services at Centene Corporation, one of the largest and most successful managed healthcare organizations in the United States.
Spring 2018
  • Eric Schultz, AB ’02, senior advisor to former President Barack Obama serving as the Principal Deputy Press Secretary and Special Assistant to the President. 
  • Eric Scroggins, AB ’01, Founder and CEO of the Opportunity Trust and former executive vice president supervising Teach For America’s national Growth, Development, and Partnership team.
  • Dana W. White, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Defense.
Fall 2017
  • Salin Geevarghese, Senior Fellow on issues related to housing and community development as a platform for building thriving communities at the Center for the Study of Social Policy.
  • Nisha Patel, Executive Director of the U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty at the Urban Institute.
  • Esther Shin, the President of Urban Strategies as of January 2017, coordinating social and economic strategies to revitalize urban communities.
  • Laura Vilines, AB ’06, is Executive Director of the St. Louis Teacher Residency (STLTR), which recruits, trains, and supports aspiring teachers.
  • Alumna Yaala Muller, AB ’17, was a Rodriguez Scholar, a Gephardt Institute Civic Scholar, and a Resident Advisor. 
  • Greg Perlstein, AB ’08, senior director of growth & marketing at DoSomething.org.
Spring 2017
  • Julia Feliz Sessoms, the Director of Global Strategy and Policy in the Corporate Affairs Group at Intel Corporation.
  • Dr. Kari Moe, Chief of Staff for U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison since 2006.