“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.”

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

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. 

Spring 2021 Meet The Leader Speaker Series

The Gephardt Institute is honored to welcome three distinguished leaders to our spring 2021 Meet The Leader speaker series. These virtual conversations will engage local leaders with decades of experience in nonprofit, business, and philanthropy.

Each dropdown includes an event registration link and the opportunity to submit your questions for each speaker in advance.

Anna Crosslin – March 11, 2021

March 11, 2021 4:00 – 5:00 pm | Register to Attend >>

Since 1978, Anna Crosslin has led the International Institute of St. Louis, our region’s immigrant services and community engagement hub. The Institute offers integrative services to more than 6,000 immigrants from 60 countries annually. IISTL is widely respected for its English and citizenship preparation, workforce development and career path services, small business development and microlending, and cultural competency training. Annually, staff collaborate with more than 250 area institutions, including higher education, government, and business. 

Crosslin is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions. Since 2000, she has routinely been identified as one of the St. Louis Business Journal’s “Most Influential St. Louisans” including awards for Diversity and Women’s Leadership. She is a gubernatorial appointee to the MO Commission on Human Rights. Crosslin is frequently quoted by the media and has been featured in stories in publications around the world. 

In June 2015, she was recognized as a White House Champion of Change for World Refugee Day. Crosslin has been awarded two honorary doctorates – one from Webster University and another from Washington University, her alma mater. She is transitioning from her leadership role at IISTL in Spring 2021 after 42 years. 

Julio Suarez – April 8, 2021

April 8, 2021 4:00 – 5:00 pm | Register to Attend >>

Julio Suárez is Senior Director of Community Affairs at Anheuser-Busch. In his position, Julio directs the company’s community impact programs across the United States. This includes the Anheuser-Bush Foundation, workplace giving and volunteer programs, the Anheuser-Busch emergency drinking water program, and the Employee-Sponsored Disaster Relief Fund. Julio is also the founder and current co-chair of AB Inspira, Anheuser-Busch’s Latino-focused employee resource group.

Before joining Anheuser-Busch in 2014, Julio was Director of Community Affairs and Diversity Outreach at Darden Restaurants. In this capacity, Julio administered the Darden Restaurants Foundation, led all national social impact programs, and oversaw the establishment of all external diversity partnerships.

Prior to Darden, Julio was at Sprint for nine years, serving in a variety of assignments, including multicultural marketing, inclusion and diversity, and training and development.

Julio holds bachelor’s degrees in Business Administration and Communication Studies from the University of Kansas and an MBA from Baker University in Kansas City. Throughout his career, Julio has served on multiple nonprofit and civic boards, including the American Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program, the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, FOCUS St. Louis and the national council for the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

Jack Oliver – April 15, 2021

April 15, 2021 4:00 – 5:00 pm | Register to Attend >>

Jack Oliver works across the highest levels of international and national politics, government, technology, finance and business to provide senior relationship management and unparalleled insights at the intersection of public policy, communications, innovation and commerce.

Currently, Jack is a Managing Partner of Finback Partners, a merchant bank based in Miami, Florida, and serves as an attorney and Practice Group Leader of the international law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP.Additionally, he is a Senior Advisor tocompanies including 8vc, Palantir Technologies, OpenGov, Addepar, Leeo, and Rubicon Global, and serves on the Board of Directors forE-Health Corporation and Gateway Blend.

For 13 years Jack served as Senior Advisor to Barclays, providing counsel for top clients across investment banking and capital markets management. He served for two years as Co-Chairman of the ONE Campaign, an organization founded by U2’s Bono to raise public awareness about global poverty. Earlier in his career, Jack served as National Finance Vice-Chairman for Bush-Cheney 2004 and as Deputy Chairman and CEO of the Republican National Committee In 2000, Jack was National Finance Director for George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign, leading an historic effort that shattered all previous presidential fundraising records.

Jack graduated from Vanderbilt University and earned a law degree from the University of Missouri at Columbia.


Previous 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.

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.

This Civic Moment: A Special 2020 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. Through a special virtual series using our Meet the Leader model, we asked invited speakers to focus 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. 

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.