Introducing the Incubator Innovators

Meet the Missourians exploring new, inventive ways to meet our region's most pressing needs.

Introducing the Incubator Innovators

Missouri Opportunity Incubator Participants 2019-2020

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Michael Barrett

Director, Missouri State Public Defender System

Michael Barrett is the current Director of the Missouri State Public Defender System, which provides criminal defense services to more than 80,000 poor Missourians annually. Michael came to Missouri during his time in the U.S. Army where he served as a foreign language interrogator. He later became a member of Joint Task Force Six (assigned to the FBI in Chicago and Puerto Rico), which combats international drug trafficking emanating out of Mexico and South America. Michael later became a public safety advisor to Governors Spitzer and Paterson in New York before returning to Missouri where he served as both Deputy General Counsel to Governor Jeremiah “Jay” Nixon and as the Director of Missouri’s State Emergency Management Agency. He has served on numerous gubernatorial and supreme court boards over the years and has received numerous awards, including the American Bar Association’s 2017 Dorsey Award. Michael has a B.A. in Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, a certification in reading/writing/speaking Arabic from the U.S. Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and a law degree from the Southern Illinois School of Law, where he was editor-in-chief of the Journal of Legal Medicine.  


Charlotte Blank

Chief Behavioral Officer, Maritz

As chief behavioral officer at Maritz, Charlotte Blank leads the company’s practice of behavioral science and innovation through expert applications of social psychology and behavioral economics. In this effort, Charlotte is striving to forge the connection between academic theory and applied business practice, elevating the use of field research to better make sense of human behavior in the evolving marketplace. Incentive Magazine named Charlotte a visionary and one of 2016’s 25 Most Influential in the Incentive Industry. In 2018, St. Louis Business Journal named Charlotte one of the city’s Most Influential Business Women. Charlotte has led programs in consumer psychology, social media, and global branding during her ten years in the media and automotive industries, in which she worked in innovation for Turner Broadcasting, and various marketing roles for General Motors. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology from Emory University and a Master’s in Business Administration from Harvard Business School.  


Desiree Coleman

First Vice President, Diverse Client Segments, Diversity and Inclusion, Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC

Desiree Coleman leads diversity & inclusion strategy development for Wells Fargo Advisors, leveraging internal and external relationships to drive team member outcomes, marketplace outcomes, and diversity & inclusion advocacy. In her previous Community Relations role, Desiree was responsible for Wells Fargo’s $4.1 million Missouri charitable budget and for setting the market’s philanthropy and outreach strategies. Coleman joined Wells Fargo Advisors from the United Way of Greater St. Louis, where she led major gifts fundraising and volunteer engagement for the African-American affinity group. Earlier, she held a series of positions with the Washington, D.C. municipal government including serving as director of the District’s Office of Education and Workforce Development. Desiree earned a Master of Public Administration from Syracuse University. In addition, she attained dual degrees in International Relations and Business Marketing from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She also earned a Certificate of Nonprofit Management from Georgetown University.  


Charli Cooksey

Founder and CEO, WEPOWER

During college at Prairie View A&M University, Charli led citywide protests, voter rights advocacy, and ran for the elected school board in Waller County, Texas to elevate the voices of marginalized communities. After college, she returned to her hometown of St. Louis to serve as a middle school English teacher through Teach for America. During Charli’s second year in the classroom, she co-founded inspireSTL, an education venture. From 2012-2016, as Executive Director, Charli grew inspireSTL into a high performing team of 14 full-time staff and a budget of approximately $850,000. To date, inspireSTL celebrates an annual 100% high school graduation and four-year college acceptance rate and has inducted eight classes of scholars into the program. After Michael Brown’s death in 2014, Charli spent many nights protesting on the streets of Ferguson. She co-launched an initiative called Young Citizens Council to mobilize and elevate youth voice during regional discussions about how to respond to the Ferguson Uprising. In 2015, she was elected to the St. Louis City Board of Education. Charli recently served as Interim Executive Director of Forward Through Ferguson. Today, Charli finds immeasurable purpose and energy in her work as the founder and CEO of WEPOWER. WEPOWER’s mission is to activate community power to redesign education, economic, justice, and health systems to be just and equitable for all. To date, WEPOWER has partnered with North St. Louis City communities and residents across East St. Louis to advance education policy change.


Wendy Doyle

President and CEO, Women’s Foundation of Kansas City

Wendy Doyle serves as the President & CEO of the Women’s Foundation where she promotes equity and opportunity for women and their families, using research, philanthropy and policy solutions to make meaningful change in the Midwest. Wendy’s nonprofit career began as a national major gifts officer with the National Kidney Foundation, Inc. Wendy later served as a nonprofit consultant, focusing on board development, strategic planning and fundraising management and as the Executive Vice President of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. Wendy earned a B.A. from Rockhurst University and currently serves on Missouri Women’s Health Council, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Executive Women’s Leadership Council, and University of Missouri – Kansas City Starr Education Committee.  


Captain Perri Johnson

Commander, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department

Perri Johnson has been a police officer with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department for 26 years and holds the rank of captain as Commander of District Six. He has organized three of St. Louis’ most rewarding gun buy-back programs and taught numerous subjects at the academy, including Cultural Policing. Captain Johnson has received numerous awards and Letters of Accommodation. As the Commander of District Six, he oversees 90 officers and supervisors in one of the most violent districts in the city. As the Deputy Commander of Community Affairs, he supervised the Community Engagement Division, the Juvenile Division, and the Gang/ICU division. He implemented putting the STOP (Students Talking It Over With Police) Program into middle schools, as well as the GREAT (Gang Resistance Education and Training) program in elementary schools, to help students and police officers have a better understanding of one another. He has recently started a “Truth Club” at the Hogan Street Regional Youth Center, where officers go into the detention center and work with the young men to help teach them the qualities of being a man, as well as a productive member of society. He is currently working on a program called Cops and Clinicians, where social workers are paired up with police officers on patrol to provide resources on the spot to those that need them.


Dr. John Jungmann

Superintendent, Springfield Public Schools

Dr. John Jungmann is superintendent of Missouri’s largest school district, which serves 25,000 students and employs about 4,000 individuals. He began his tenure at Springfield Public Schools on July 1, 2014. Focusing on every learner, every day, Dr. Jungmann leads SPS in efforts to ensure all students are prepared for tomorrow by providing engaging, relevant, and personalized educational experiences. In October 2016, he was named Missouri Superintendent of the Year and was also invited to represent SPS in the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools. He was also named 2016 Administrator of the Year by Missouri School Public Relations Association. Dr. Jungmann completed AASA’s National Superintendent Certification Program in 2015 as a member of the inaugural class. Dr. Jungmann’s previous professional experience includes serving one year as superintendent and one year as deputy superintendent for Liberty Public Schools and four years as superintendent of the Monett R-1 School District. He is a 1998 graduate of Missouri Southern State University and obtained his Master of Science in education and Specialist in educational administration degrees from Missouri State University. He earned a doctorate in education from the University of Arkansas in 2006.   


Glenn Kage

President, United Auto Workers Local 2250

My name is Glenn Kage. As a third-generation union member for more than 40 years, I know the important role that unions have played in me and my family’s lives. From my days as a union member assembling household ranges and stoves, empowering home care workers as a union organizer, to my current job as President of UAW Local 2250, I have been standing up for social justice and organized labor. As president of the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2250, I represent approximately 4,000 active and 4,000 retired members in Wentzville, Missouri. We build the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon mid-sized pick-up trucks, and Chevrolet Express and GMC Savanna full-sized vans. I was brought up believing that a hard day’s work was worth a fair day’s pay and that we should always leave things better than we found them. As the father of three children and grandfather of ten grandchildren, I feel like we as a nation are failing the future generations. I believe that in the richest nation in the world we can do better and that is the biggest reason I am interested in participating in the Missouri Opportunity Incubator.  


Jeff Mazur

Executive Director, LaunchCode

Jeff Mazur is the Executive Director of LaunchCode, a national nonprofit that builds the tech workforce by providing free training and job placement to driven individuals who lack traditional credentials. Jeff previously worked as Senior Adviser for Policy and Communication to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and as Executive Director of the Missouri-Kansas affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. He has served as an appointee to the decennial Missouri Commission on Senatorial Reapportionment in 2011 and the Missouri Citizens & Legislators Working Group on Medicaid Eligibility and Reform in 2013. Jeff is a graduate of University of Missouri-Columbia and the Georgetown University Law Center.  


Megan Morris 

Foundation and Philanthropy Advisor, Bass Pro Shops

As Foundation and Philanthropy Advisor, Megan provides leadership and oversight of Bass Pro Shops’ conservation and community involvement. Through Megan’s leadership, the company has taken a strategic approach to strengthening its investments in both local and national efforts to protect fish & wildlife habitat, connect kids and families to the outdoors, and advocate for sportsmen and women’s rights. She is also involved in local historic preservation, revitalization efforts, and real estate development. Megan graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Colorado and earned a Master’s in Public Administration with a concentration in non-profit management from the University of Washington – Seattle.  


Travis Sheridan

President, CIC Venture Café Global Institute

Travis Sheridan is the president of the CIC Venture Café Global Institute, where he oversees the organization’s expansion into several global innovation markets as well as supports the existing network of Venture Café locations. He is passionate about entrepreneurship as a driver for economic development and believes innovation is a process to improve the human condition. Travis earned an undergraduate degree in psychology with a minor in conflict & peacemaking, a master’s in organizational behavior and completed the coursework toward a doctorate in organizational leadership. Travis was appointed to the board of the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership by Mayor Krewson and serves on the board of the Laumeier Sculpture Park. 


Rabbi Susan Talve

Founding Rabbi, Central Reform Congregation

Rabbi Susan Talve is the founding rabbi of Central Reform Congregation, the only Jewish congregation located within St. Louis city. Rabbi Talve has led her congregation in promoting radical inclusivity by developing ongoing relationships with African American and Muslim congregations, and by fostering civil liberties for the LGBTQ community. Today CRC serves as a home to generations of LGBTQ families and to many Jews of color of all ages. As part of a committed pro-choice congregation, Rabbi Talve continues to stand on the front line of abortion and reproductive rights issues. In 2007, she became a founding member and president of Missouri Health Care for All, a statewide grassroots advocacy organization that is building a strong coalition for groups and individuals working to bring health care access to all Missourians. Rabbi Talve was ordained by Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati in 1981, where she earned a masters degree in Hebrew Letters and a Doctor of Divinity. She was the first non-Christian to receive an honorary Doctorate from Eden Theological Seminary in 2011 for a career of visionary and bold leadership and supporting interfaith relations in the St. Louis community.


Dr. Carlos Vargas

President, Southeast Missouri State University

Dr. Carlos Vargas became the 18th president of Southeast Missouri State University July 1, 2015, after having served as acting president at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania. Under his leadership, regional partnerships and collaborations have been solidified, including several joint initiatives with Three Rivers, Mineral Area and other community colleges. Prior to assuming the presidency at Southeast, Dr. Vargas served one year as acting president of Kutztown University, where he also served as the provost and vice president for academic and student affairs. Prior to his tenure at Kutztown, Dr. Vargas was at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio, where he served as provost and vice president for academic affairs. He previously served in several roles at Kent State University (Ohio) for a total of 18 years, including founding director of the program on electron beam technology. He was also Kent’s associate dean for research, interim assistant dean for research and interim assistant dean for the School of Technology. He started his tenure at Kent State in 1985 as a professor and continued to teach until his departure from the university in 2003. Dr. Vargas began his career in higher education at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), from which he received a Bachelor of Science in physics. He earned his Ph.D. in physics and aerospace science from the University of Michigan and he has Master of Science degrees from Michigan in both physics and aerospace science.