Women We Admire is pleased to announce The Top 50 Women Leaders of Missouri for 2023. With a multitude of industries playing their part, the Missouri economy is thriving and expanding dynamically. As of 2021, the state's gross domestic product stands at approximately $343 billion, making it the 20th largest economy in the United States. Key sectors driving this economic success include agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, tourism, and mining.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the presence of women in leadership roles, particularly within prominent companies based in Missouri. This year, notable achievements were made by our awardees from various industries, including engineering, investment management, marketing, and retail. Among the distinguished companies are MariCorp U.S., a leading manufacturing and consulting firm in the United States, and U.S. Bank, a financial services company with an extensive network of over 3,000 branches nationwide.

The rise of women leaders from major corporations in Missouri can be attributed to several factors, including the state's proactive approach towards promoting diversity and equal opportunities for women. In line with this, among this year’s awardees is Sarah London, a trailblazing CEO renowned for her impactful work in health data, technology, and healthcare delivery transformation within Centene Corporation.

Also awarded is serving as the Vice President and Commercial Lending Relationship Manager at Central Bank, Stephanie Murphy takes pride in delivering legendary service while aiding her clients in selecting the perfect products and services to meet their personal and business credit needs. Ultimately, as the Chief Commercial Officer at Sunset Transportation, Tracy Meetre takes charge of leading the sales process from beginning to completion, managing daily operations, and strategic planning for sales and marketing throughout the entire company.

Please join us in celebrating the accomplishments of The Top 50 Women Leaders of Missouri for 2023. These exceptional women have made significant contributions in their respective fields and have become role models for aspiring leaders everywhere.

1. Sarah London
Chief Executive Officer, Centene Corporation

Sarah London is CEO of Centene Corporation, a Fortune 500 company and leading national healthcare payer that takes a unique local approach to providing fully integrated, high-quality, and cost-effective services. Centene focuses on government-sponsored healthcare programs and primarily serves underinsured and uninsured individuals.

London has spent her career at the intersection of health data, technology, and healthcare delivery transformation. Before her 2022 appointment to CEO, she was Centene’s vice chairman, responsible for strategy, technology, ancillary services, enterprise compliance, and quality, as well as for Centene’s portfolio of independent, non-health plan companies. Prior to Centene, she was an operating partner at Optum Ventures, the venture capital arm of UnitedHealth Group. Previously, she held roles at Optum Analytics, first serving as vice president of Client Services and then later becoming its chief product officer, where she drove the strategy and commercialization of the company’s integrated data solutions for the provider, payer, and life sciences markets. She joined Optum after it acquired Humedica, a clinical analytics start-up, where she led the client services and operations team.

London graduated Magna cum laude from Harvard College, where she played Division I tennis. She also holds a Master of business administration with High Honors from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

3. Renita Mollman
Chief Administrative Officer, Burns & McDonnell

Renita Mollman is the Chief Administrative Officer for Burns & McDonnell, a global construction, engineering, architecture, and environmental consulting firm headquartered in Kansas City. In this role, Renita leads many of the company’s operational departments that support their team of more than 7,000 employee-owners, including human resources, corporate communications, corporate marketing, and the Burns & McDonnell Foundation, among others. 

Mollman joined Burns & McDonnell in 1988, immediately after graduating from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. During her time at Burns & McDonnell, she had many fantastic opportunities to work as a design engineer and PM on airfield infrastructure projects, including runways, taxiways, and aprons. She has also led an outstanding team of civil engineers and designers for the company’s aviation and facility services. For 11 years, Renita was a vice president and GM of Burns & McDonnell’s California offices, leading a team of talented and dedicated professionals who focused on delivering innovative and cost-effective solutions for clients.

As one of the first female officers at Burns & McDonnell, Mollman is committed to advancing and mentoring women within the firm. She initiated a Professional Women's Exchange in the San Diego and Orange County offices. As a result of her love of engineering, she is actively involved in promoting STEM education to kids and has been a judge for FIRST Robotics Competitions.

6. Rory Akers
VP & ERISA Compliance Attorney, Lockton

Rory Akers has more than 15 years of legal experience as a compliance attorney. She works with team members and Lockton clients to better understand ERISA-related compliance through publications, presentations, and day-to-day support. She answers questions and collaborates with the Compliance Services team to determine the best approach for clients with ERISA-related questions and issues.

Before joining Lockton, Akers worked as a senior investigator for the US Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA). During her time with the EBSA, Akers conducted complex investigations involving employee benefit plans, service providers, third-party administrators, and other financial institutions to determine compliance with civil and criminal statutes. Rory’s previous work has given her extensive experience in the application and interpretation of applicable provisions of ERISA, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), applicable provisions of the Internal Revenue Code, and other laws related to employee benefit plans, plan investments, and financial transactions.

In her role as senior Investigator, Akers served as the Kansas City regional coordinator for the Health Benefits Security Project, as the Kansas City multiple employer welfare arrangement regional coordinator, and as a member of the EBSA National Health Development Team.

Akers earned her JD from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and an undergraduate degree in nursing from Truman State in Kirksville, Missouri.

7. Stephanie Murphy
VP & Commercial Lending Relationship Manager, Central Bank

Stephanie Murphy is the Vice President and Commercial Lending Relationship Manager for Central Bank. She has over 15 years of relationship banking and commercial lending experience. Murphy is passionate about building quality relationships and prefers to offer a personal approach. She is responsible for providing legendary service while assisting her clients with the right products and services for their personal and business credit needs.

Murphy holds an undergraduate degree in business administration from Vatterott College. She is active with the Springfield Chamber of Commerce and serves on the Voice of Business Committee and the Small Business Council. She’s a past board member and current general member of The Network, a member of the Catholic Business Network, and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield Southeast. She is also a past board member of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Ozarks.

9. Jessica L. Liss
Managing Principal St. Louis and Kansas City Offices, Jackson Lewis PC

Jessica L. Liss is the Office Managing Principal of the St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri, and Overland Park, Kansas, offices of Jackson Lewis, PC. Based in St. Louis her entire career, Liss is a seasoned trial attorney with extensive experience litigating all forms of employment matters throughout the Midwest, in federal courts, state courts, and before administrative agencies, arbitrators, and mediators.

Liss is a trusted advisor, providing ongoing legal support and counsel on a daily basis to employers, large and small. Skilled at proactive risk management and litigation avoidance, she partners with clients to understand their specific needs. As a former assistant public defender, she is also a fearless advocate when called upon to litigate and try a case before any jury. She excels at internal investigations and workplace training that support a productive workforce, including sexual harassment prevention, EEO and anti-discrimination training, practical strategies for performance management and documentation, workplace safety, disability, and leave management. She also counsels employers on employee handbooks and compliant workplace policies.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Liss guided employers through the myriad of federal, state, and local orders, FFCRA, furloughs, remote work and hybrid work arrangements, and workplace safety policies and procedures for reopening workplaces.

12. Lisa Blake
Senior Vice President, U.S. Bank

Lisa Blake has built her career advising both high-net-worth individuals and some of the country’s largest institutional investors. At U.S. Bank, within the Private Wealth Management division, she enjoys helping clients with their complex financial affairs, helping them take their success to significance. Lisa has more than two decades of professional investing and wealth management experience.

Prior to U.S. Bank, Blake was a VP and wealth management consultant with Commerce Trust Company. Prior to that, Blake was with New York Life, where she held life and health insurance licenses and multiple securities licenses. She also served as VP of national accounts for American Century Investments and executive director for UBS Global Asset Management. She earned her undergraduate degree in management and human relations from MidAmerica Nazarene University and is currently obtaining her RICP designation.

13. Tanisha Montgomery
Strategic Initiatives Leader and Chief of Staff to CMO, Home & Auto, Synchrony

Tanisha Montgomery is the Vice President of Marketing Strategic Initiatives and the Chief of Staff for the Chief Marketing Officer of one of Synchrony’s largest platforms. In this role, Montgomery works to strategically position Synchrony’s product and service offerings across multiple client partnerships to drive growth implementations across clients like PayPal, Venmo, Walmart/Sam's Club, and CareCredit. 

Montgomery has a proven track record across digital, retail, and multi-client structures. She has successfully innovated and driven several scalable strategic initiatives across client partners and providers at Synchrony. More recently, she received executive-level recognition for her work towards an estimated growth initiative of $800 million in digital products and legacy enhancements for one of Synchrony’s largest client partners, while executing another initiative to actualize $2.1 million in incremental growth. She’s been instrumental in transformational evolutions across the organization. 

In addition to the investments made towards Synchrony’s growth, she invests in herself and others. Montgomery participated in West Point’s Thayer Leadership Program in 2022 and the St. Louis Business Diversity Initiative Fellowship program in 2021. She continues to build a talent recruitment pipeline for Synchrony as the Black Experiences Network Career Leader, leading a team that programs and engages HBCUs as a part of an investment partnership with the HBCU Caucus and the Executive Leadership Council (ELC) scholarship program, in full alignment with an overall HBCU strategy. She also co-leads small groups for the Women’s Network and is a supporting member and ally for the PRIDE+ Network. Equity and inclusion are core principles that continue to be interwoven into Tanisha’s personal and professional engagements. She is also a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Montgomery has dual degrees in international studies from the University of Missouri-Columbia and an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management.

14. Courtney Thomas
President & CEO, Newhouse

Courtney Thomas is a strategically wired visionary, complex problem solver, captivating public speaker, and contagious people motivator. Her entrepreneurial approach and leveraging innovation to grow both business and people have been the key ingredients to her successful career in business turnarounds and acceleration. Courtney has transformed the customer and staff experience, delivered award-winning marketing campaigns, and unlocked new revenue opportunities for four Kansas City organizations over the last 20 years.

In December of 2019, Courtney Thomas joined Newhouse as President and CEO. Founded in 1971, Newhouse is Kansas City’s first and oldest nonprofit domestic violence shelter. With 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experiencing some form of domestic violence in their lifetime, Courtney’s work creates a literal lifeline to those most vulnerable in our community. Newhouse is the only domestic violence shelter situated in the urban core, and their 88-bed emergency facility is located within a 3.5-mile radius of where 85% of the violent crimes prosecuted in Jackson County occur.

Through Courtney's leadership, Newhouse has undergone a strategic revitalization of its vision, mission, values, operational approach, and brand identity. Revenues have more than doubled under her leadership and the organization’s brand footprint has expanded exponentially. She previously served as president and CEO of Great Plains SPCA and Central Exchange. She was named one of KC Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People in Kansas City. Courtney is also the recipient of the Silver Stevie Award, earning Female Executive of the Year honors. In 2022, she also launched her growth acceleration practice, Thrive 360, where she optimizes the strengths of people and businesses to amplify business and life outcomes. Believing a life of service is her true calling, Courtney also serves on the board of directors for the Big Shifts Foundation, InnovateHER KC, First Interstate Bank, and the Global Diversity and Inclusion Council for the YMCA.

View the complete list of awardees

15. Angie Glotstein
VP of Clinical Quality and Population Health, GEHA

Angie Glotstein is an energetic strategist and agile thought leader with more than two decades of diverse experience in the medical field. As Vice President of Clinical Quality and Population Health at GEHA (Government Employees Health Association, Inc., pronounced G.E.H.A.), Glotstein oversees clinical programs including care management, wellness for both employees and members, clinical quality, and plan accreditation. Her initiatives focus on improving outcomes and promoting health equity by enhancing culturally relevant services and solutions inherent in GEHA’s continual efforts to evolve the member experience. To accomplish these goals, Glotstein emphasizes an evidence-based approach to health and care.

Previously, Glotstein was an executive director at Cerner Corporation, where she served as a leader in the emerging space of cloud-based healthcare IT, founding a fast-growing business unit focused on the development of data intelligence supporting Cerner’s platform. Over the years, she has had the honor of serving on First Hand’s Clinical Decision Committee, assisting in allocating funds to medical expenses for children around the world. Prior to her move to business, Glotstein worked as a nurse in the areas of spine surgery, care management, and emergency department care. Her work has led to accolades, including the Daisy Award, and invitations to participate in various leadership collaboratives. Glotstein was published for her joint efforts with clinicians to use electronic health records to advance epilepsy care.

Glotstein is passionate about growing others in their careers and enjoys mentoring emerging leaders. She intentionally builds teams with a passion for healthcare improvement, quality performance, and improved outcomes. Glotstein graduated from William Jewell College, where she was recognized as an officer in her nursing department and a member of the national honor society, Sigma Theta Tau.

16. Shannon Stone
Managing Director of Philanthropic Operations, Children's Mercy Hospital

Shannon Stone began her professional career 25 years ago. Today, she is the Managing Director of Philanthropic Operations at Children's Mercy Hospital. Children’s Mercy Hospital is a leading independent children's health organization dedicated to holistic care, translational research, educating caregivers, and breakthrough innovation to create a world of well-being for all children. Stone is responsible for developing and maintaining operational systems so philanthropic priorities of Children’s Mercy can be achieved. She guides the operational and accounting activities associated with specific philanthropic initiatives such as facility expansion or enhancement, programs and equipment, endowment, and special projects.

In 1998, Stone served as an assistant vice chancellor of advancement and assistant VP at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the UMKC Foundation. She graduated from The University of Kansas with an undergraduate degree.

17. Pam Bax
Principal, CSG Government Solutions

“Loving what you do” is how Pam Bax describes her passion for working in the information technology field. Pam serves as a project manager in CSG’s Healthcare and Human Services Practice and has been with CSG since 2013. Pam’s expertise has been managing complex information technology projects for both the public and private sectors for over twenty-five years. She specializes in providing business process reengineering, Independent Verification and Validation, Quality Assurance, procurement support, Advanced Planning Development for federal projects, operations and maintenance oversight, electronic records management, organizational change management, and enterprise architecture planning. Her passion for leading teams to channel and efficiently harness technological innovations is always at the forefront when serving clients and their customers.

Previously, she worked as an information technology consultant for Rose International, served the citizens of Missouri as Project Manager for the Office of Administration, Deputy Division Director for Water Protection and Soil Conservation with the Department of Natural Resources, and held various management roles at the Secretary of State’s Office. Pam is also co-owner of a sportsman hunting business and various real estate properties with her husband Charles in Jefferson City, Missouri.

18. Meghan Schulte
Vice President & Brand Leader, Barkley

Meghan Schulte brings exceptional planning, organizational and management skills to every account she touches. She currently serves as a Vice President and Brand Leader of Barkley. A personable, high-energy team player, she loves taking on new challenges and getting to know new people. Meghan oversees the execution of business and brand planning as well as integrated, strategic marketing and communications plans, including traditional paid and earned media, digital, social, CRM, and experiential. She is accountable to internal and external executive teams for both brand and financial results while overseeing the internal Barkley team of brand leadership associates.

Meghan is detail-oriented and dedicated to achieving results. She channels her energy and organization into every project, bringing big ideas to life through integrated marketing campaigns. Meghan has managed award-winning initiatives for TD Bank, Enterprise, Hallmark, House of Blues, Life is Good, and other household names. Meghan graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with an undergraduate degree.

19. Barbara R. Kavalier
President and CEO, St. Charles Community College

Dr. Barbara R. Kavalier serves as President and Chief Executive Officer for St. Charles Community College (SCC). The college’s main campus is in the popular town of Cottleville. The second campus, located in Dardenne Prairie, is home to the successful Center for Healthy Living and the Field to Table Institute. SCC is known for its outstanding academic programs, partnerships with business and industry, and extensive community and adult education offerings. 

Dr. Kavalier’s past experiences include serving as a VP for student services within the San Diego Community College District, president of San Jose City College, and district president of Navarro College, a multi-college district located in Central Texas. She has a passion for the mission of the comprehensive community college, coupled with an entrepreneurial spirit, contributing to many accomplishments and innovative practices within higher education. During her tenure at St. Charles Community College, Dr. Kavalier initiated an innovative public/private partnership to establish student housing, provided leadership to a successful multi-million-dollar bond campaign, garnered legislative support and funding for a new Regional Workforce Innovation Center, and secured 55 acres in Wentzville to establish a new campus that will extend service beyond to St. Charles County to Warren, Montgomery, Calloway, Pike, and Lincoln counties. 

Dr. Kavalier has a distinguished record of service with national, state, and local organizations, including service on the United Way of Greater Saint Louis Board, Greater STL Inc., and the St. Charles County Economic Development Board. She is also a member of the Missouri Higher Education Commissioner’s Advisory Council. She is a Distinguished Graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, where she was also recognized as the first Senior Roueche Fellow. She received the St. Louis Region Most Influential Businesswomen of the Year Award and was named Who’s Who in Diversity and Color. 

As a nationally recognized researcher and presenter on key issues in higher education, Dr. Kavalier has written many articles and co-authored three books: Drivers of Change, The Entrepreneurial Community College, and The Hiring Game: Reshaping Community College Practices. Dr. Kavalier holds a PhD in educational administration from The University of Texas at Austin, a master’s degree in business from Amberton University, and an undergraduate degree in English/speech communication from Texas Christian University. 

20. Rebecca Baumgartner
SVP of People & Operations, Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce

Rebecca Baumgartner serves as Senior Vice President of People and Operations for the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. In her current role, she is responsible for leading the KC Chamber’s overall operations and human resources strategy, including, but not limited to, talent acquisition, leadership development, diversity, equity, and inclusion, organizational design, and cultural development. Baumgartner works across all departments and functions to build and manage an HR organization that reflects and supports their dynamic needs.

Baumgartner is passionate about equity, inclusion, and justice in the community and in the workplace. She organizes and runs initiatives that create more equitable outcomes for underrepresented communities through her participation on nonprofit boards such as InnovateHER KC and Cristo Rey Kansas City. She is frequently asked to present on DEI topics for local organizations and schools as well as provide consultation on implementing effective DEI strategies in business. Additionally, she is the chair of an annual women's empowerment event that brings women business executives from across the country together through the power of storytelling.

Baumgartner is a Certified Diversity Executive, an ICF Certified Executive Coach, and a SHRM-certified Senior Human Resources Professional. She is also co-founder and principal partner at Thrive360, a professional services firm that provides holistic business solutions. She is skilled in professional and leadership development, coaching, and the strategic planning and implementation of diversity and inclusion programs, initiatives, and efforts. Baumgartner is a proud member of CHIEF, an invite-only network focused on connecting and supporting women executive leaders.

21. Stacy Gee Hollins
Interim Associate Provost of Academic Affairs and Dean, Harris-Stowe State University

Dr. Stacy Gee Hollins is an innovative, creative academic leader focused on developing and expanding economic opportunities by developing strategic partnerships while serving, improving, and strengthening scholars, the greater St. Louis community, and beyond. She collaborates highly effectively with internal and external stakeholders, consistently advancing the organizations she serves. Dr. Hollins positively impacts the state and region by providing economic opportunities for all communities, especially those traditionally under-resourced and underserved. She has served in a leadership capacity for over seventeen years, has integrity, excellent communication skills, and is results-driven

Dr. Hollins currently serves as the Interim Associate Provost of Academic Affairs and Dean of the Anheuser-Busch School of Business at Harris-Stowe State University. Harris-Stowe State University is a historically Black institution (HBCU) in the heart of vibrant mid-town St. Louis, Missouri. In this role, she serves as the Accreditation Liasion Officer (ALO) for the university, identifies professional development opportunities for faculty, and leads the Anheuser-Busch School of Business. She is a visionary who developed the Minority Entrepreneurship Collaborative Center of Advancement and is leading the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship building project for the university. Dr. Hollins has created a culture of engagement by integrating entrepreneurship initiatives and programming across the university and for the community.

Dr. Hollins is a graduate of the University of Missouri - St. Louis and holds a PhD in educational technology, an MBA from Fontbonne University, a BA from St. Louis University in organizational communication, and an AA in business administration from St. Louis Community College. Her dissertation, titled “The Digital Divide through the Lens of Critical Race Theory,” was named an American Libraries Association Top 10 Dissertation of 2015.

View the complete list of awardees

22. Linda Emmenegger
President, Midas Hospitality

Linda Emmenegger is a 40+-year hotel executive with experience in all aspects of hotel operations, including the development and management of ground-up hotel projects and residential mixed-use properties. As President of Midas Hospitality, Emmenegger leads the operational performance of the Hospitality and Development Company. Her responsibilities include being the operations liaison between brand franchise partners and Midas Hospitality. She is passionate about the business and even more passionate about developing strategies for operational execution and guiding the company to top performance, as she serves and supports the needs of the organization.

Before joining Midas, Emmenegger held nearly every management position in the hotel industry, leading up to director-level regional positions and independent consulting. Emmenegger also spent 5 years in golf club management and 10 years in ground-up multi-use and hotel development. Emmenegger is a graduate of the University of Denver, Daniels College of Business, Hospitality Management in Denver, CO.

23. Lisa Stehno-Bittel
President, Likarda

Lisa Stehno-Bittel is the President of Likarda, a biotech company developing enabling technologies to transform the way cell therapies are delivered and optimized. Their revolutionary method to coat cells with stealth hydrogels, called Core Shell Spherification® (CSS), protects cells from destruction, keeping them viable while maintaining them in the intended location within the body. Stehno-Bittel has 28 years of experience. She began her career in 1995. Starting as a physical therapist, she saw the impact of new healthcare innovations on the recovery and rehabilitation of patients following a myriad of diseases and injuries. She wanted to be at the forefront of those innovations and thus obtained a PhD in physiology and a post-doctoral fellowship at the Mayo Foundation in pharmacology.

Before joining Likarda, Stehno-Bittel was a professor and chair at the University of Kansas Medical Center. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a PhD and from The University of Kansas with an undergraduate degree in physical therapy.

24. Melissa Myrick
Chief of Staff to Chief Executive Officer, HomeWAV

Melissa Myrick has over twenty years of progressive leadership experience in various roles and industries. In her role as Chief of Staff to HomeWAV’s Chief Executive Officer, she acts as the liaison between the CEO and other key leaders and stakeholders to ensure consistent communication to project manage and execute strategic initiatives led by the CEO. Operating on a tactical, strategic, and operational level, she handles the oversight of initiatives by researching action plans for operational excellence. Prior to her current role, she began her career at HomeWAV as a proposal manager in 2019, then was later promoted to director of business initiatives, where she was instrumental in the inception of the firm’s Proposal Development Department, where she implemented protocols that improved efficiency in the department. Her key accomplishments include developing the department framework and procedures, building a robust content library, creating standard templates for proposals and contracts, and much more.

Myrick graduated at the top of her class from St. Louis College of Health Careers. In addition to the above, she is fully active in the local community. She has served as a National Helpline Volunteer for RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association for over ten years. During this time, she also advocated for the infertility community by sharing her story about infertility in various publications, and she also served as an ambassador for the St. Louis Walk of Hope.

Founded in 2011, HomeWAV LLC has remained the industry leader in providing safe, secure inmate communication and technology solutions to correctional facilities across the country. Headquartered in St. Louis, their all-in-one patented platform is the first of its kind to satisfy the growing demands in the correctional industry. Through the organizational pillars of integrity, innovation, and impact, they are disrupting the industry standard by leading with fairness and developing transformative technology while keeping facilities safe and communities connected.

26. Jennifer Pangborn
Vice President, WSP USA

Jennifer Pangborn is a Vice President with WSP USA, based in St. Louis, MO. Pangborn has dedicated her career as a transportation planner and engineer who focuses on people and their experiences in our built environment. She manages complex, people-focused projects across the country, working to build diverse teams with diverse experience and skill sets. Her mobility work is based on the idea that transportation is mobility and everyone has a right to access mobility. Pangborn also leads a technical team across the central US and is dedicated to empowering and building their skills and networks in the industry. She is a thought leader and people leader and participates in key initiatives with WSP focused on equity, inclusion, and diversity, Future Ready, Vision Zero, active transportation, and mentoring.

Pangborn’s passion for transportation stems from her love of places. She is dedicated to connecting people to places—live, work, play—in the safest, best experience possible. She brings logical problem-solving to her clients and teams that is human-centric and sustainable. She is sought out on projects to provide engagement in unique ways and make processes and project management fun. She values the relationships she has built both within WSP, with her clients, and in her community. Some of her work has garnered state and national recognition. Pangborn is equally passionate about public education and is serving her second term as a director for the Kirkwood School District R-7. Throughout her two terms, she has been an advocate for advancing education resources, enhanced safety, curriculum updates, policy updates, and bringing her engineering problem-solving to the district. 

Pangborn volunteers for STEAM programs and hopes to encourage more women into engineering in the future. She is the proud mother of three boys who keep her active, laughing, and wanting to do more in her community and cities to create a better future for them. Her career and community involvement were recognized by ENR where she was awarded the Top 20 under 40 across the US in 2022.

29. Melanie Ashby
Vice President of Business Development, MariCorp US

Melanie Ashby is the Vice President of Business Development for MariCorp US. She first joined the company in 2010. MariCorp U.S. is one of the largest manufacturing and consulting firms in the United States, specializing in galvanized steel floating docks and boat lift systems. With projects spanning coast to coast, MariCorp U.S. operates on an 11-acre facility centrally located in Missouri. Ashby serves as a member of the executive team responsible for creating and implementing B2B marketing and business development initiatives. She has managed lead generation, referrals, and repeat business channels to ensure continued revenue growth, utilizing data-driven sales strategies to determine new prospecting and marketing campaigns. Ashby has also directed sales representatives, providing mentoring and coaching to reach sales goals. She has been a key contributor to conducting negotiations with federal, state, and local/municipal bodies.

Previously, Ashby was a broker at CJR LLC and, before that, president at A & A Tree Incorporated, an arboriculture company. She has served as an independent business development consultant, conducting analytical market research and offering business growth strategies for companies in the maritime industry. Ashby attended Missouri State University.

30. Lisa Schaberg
Senior Director and Client Accountable Executive, Oracle

Lisa Schaberg, a Senior Director and Client Accountable Executive at Oracle, has been involved with developing and managing many large client projects, ensuring that deliverables and events are executed and delivered in alignment with client strategic and project initiatives, the highest quality, and industry best practices. In addition, Schaberg is responsible for strategic business planning, business development, business case analysis, technology and support services, and industry guidance on key healthcare topics. She has championed client-peer networking initiatives, helping to establish and mature the local HIE between neighboring healthcare providers.

Previously, Schaberg was a software developer and analyst with Chevron Information Technology Company, responsible for developing and implementing enterprise-wide solutions supporting financial business operations. Schaberg was selected to participate in the Cerner Certificate in Health Care Leadership program through the University of Missouri—Kansas City, Henry W. Bloch School of Management. She completed the program with a certificate in September 2013.

Schaberg received undergraduate degrees in computer science and mathematics from the University of Missouri–Columbia. She completed her MBA in health care management from MidAmerica Nazarene University. Most recently, she achieved Fellow status with the American College of Healthcare Executives.

View the complete list of awardees

36. Shauna Stephanchick
Founder and President, Step Up

Shauna Stephanchick founded STEP Up in 2017, continuing a 20-year prestigious career in education. She has served as an elementary teacher, instructional coach, elementary principal, and instructional coach for the Regional Professional Development Center of Kansas City and worked as a Missouri Department of Secondary and Elementary Education PLC consultant and ELA content specialist.

This role as a state consultant advanced her knowledge of effective frameworks for implementing PLCs district-wide. It also provided insight into rural and suburban school districts, which widened her perspective beyond the urban setting. During her state role, she helped five of her building schools become recognized by DESE as PLC Exemplar Schools of Missouri.

Stephanchick believes that every student has the right to an equitable educational experience and that this can be accomplished by ensuring all districts have a guaranteed and viable curriculum. To support this vision in Missouri, her company works strategically to support educators by providing high-quality and state-specific products to clarify the organization and teaching of state standards. She is dedicated to transforming educator practice with her vast knowledge, unique and fun coaching style, and high-quality products.

Stephanchick received her undergraduate degree from Drury University, a master’s degree in teacher leadership at Mid-America Nazarene, and her specialist in education administration at the University of Central Missouri.

37. Mara Woody
Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships, Riipen

Dr. Mara Woody is a Senior Manager of Strategic Partnerships at Riipen, the world's largest online work-based learning marketplace for educators, students, and employers. Through this role, she builds a scalable, work-based ecosystem that supports the workforce needs of the future. Specifically, Mara builds relationships and partnerships to design and launch programs that serve economic, talent, and workforce needs, as well as the needs of learners and higher education.

Prior to her current role, Dr. Woody was a director with the global Wadhwani Foundation. Previously, she served as assistant commissioner for postsecondary policy with the Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development, where she led initiatives through partnership and collaboration to connect higher education and workforce development to serve adult learners in the state and changed the culture to focus on educational innovation, strategic projects, and change management. While in this role, she founded the Missouri Adult Learner Network, bringing together higher education institutions, workforce development, and community organizations to focus efforts on serving adult learners more successfully, and hosted the first Student Journey Mapping workshop in the state for higher education institutions.

Dr. Woody has served higher education for almost 20 years through public and private higher education institutions in several capacities: international credentialing, Academic Affairs, LEAN process improvement, and updating technological advances so offices become fully digital. She has an EdD in educational leadership and policy from Vanderbilt University, a master’s degree in criminal justice from Columbia College, and an undergraduate degree in criminal justice. During the summer of 2012, she was a fellow at the Peabody College Institute of Higher Education Management at Vanderbilt University.

39. Cokethea Hill
Founder & CEO, BLAQUE KC

Cokethea Hill is the CEO and Founder of BLAQUE (Black Leaders Advancing Quality Urban Education) KC, a non-profit organization committed to significantly improving the academic, economic, social, emotional, and life outcomes of African American Children in public schools. She is an innovative collaborator with over 15 years of experience working in the non-profit sector, organizing communities, building collaborative partnerships, and strengthening assets in low-income urban communities. Known for her strategic approach to assisting organizations with aligning their organizational mission with the needs of the people they serve, Cokethea has a keen ability to build relationships and mobilize others towards an identified goal. A native of Kansas City, she earned her undergraduate degree from Central Missouri State University, a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Avila University, and a doctoral degree from the University of Kansas in educational leadership and policy studies.

Recognizing the correlation between where one lives and the opportunities or lack thereof for healthcare, quality education, and gainful employment, Cokethea’s passion for education soon led to an increased focus on neighborhood and community conditions within the urban core. Cokethea’s previous employment with Mid America Regional Council’s Green Impact Zone provided an avenue to leverage her community organizing, grant writing, and strategic planning skills to secure housing redevelopment projects, lead energy efficiency Smart Grid efforts, and make public infrastructure improvements within five neighborhoods in the urban core of Kansas City.

A champion of diversity and inclusion, Hill worked at The University of Kansas’ SWIFT Educational Center, where she provided executive coaching to school leaders implementing Multi-Tiered Systems of Support to improve educational outcomes for students. With a commitment to servant leadership, Cokethea has served on Kansas City’s City Council and The Kansas City Public School Board. Prior to founding BLAQUE KC, Cokethea managed a $1.3 million funding portfolio with SchoolSmartKC, a funding collaborative working to improve access to quality schools in Kansas City. Hill currently serves on several local boards and commissions, including the Board Chair for the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, the Vice Chair of The City Planning Commission, The Urban Neighborhood Initiative, Turn the Page Kansas City, the KC Rising Steering Committee, and the Communities in School Mid-America Board.

40. Katie Danner
Executive Director, Greater Missouri Leadership Foundation

Katie Steele Danner is a multi-faceted senior executive and small business owner with four decades of public and private sector experience. As the current Executive Director of the Greater Missouri Leadership Foundation, Inc., she has dedicated her life to encouraging women leaders who can flex across a variety of sectors and leadership styles and who can create unique solutions in partnership with others.  

Danner received her degree in business and public administration from Truman State University and has held senior executive roles in the health, social services, commerce, community development, and hospitality industries. A former member of the Missouri House of Representatives and a previous senior executive service federal employee as well as the director of various administrative offices for the State of Missouri, she has a unique appreciation for the dynamics of strategic, non-partisan, and bi-partisan partnerships.   

Danner actively supports military families, chaired the Family Advisory Council for the Missouri National Guard for over 10 years, and remains active in advocacy for military families. She chaired the Clay County Bicentennial Commission, serves on the Thank You Walt Disney Building Development Committee, served on the United WE Women’s Economic Development Task Force, and is a member of the InnovateHER KC Women’s Leadership Alliance. She was named to the debut class of Ingram’s Magazine 50 Missourians You Should Know in 2011, was selected as a Kansas City Woman of Distinction in 2012, was honored at the Tribute to Success: A Celebration of Women in 2016 for her role as a founding board member of Ava’s Grace Scholarship Foundation, and was inducted into the Missouri Tourism Hall of Fame for her work developing the state’s tourism strategy that brought in a record number of visitors to Missouri.

42. Amy Jo Miller
Director of Policy and Market Strategy, Q Cells USA

Amy Jo Miller is Director of Policy and Market Strategy at Qcells USA Corp. Qcells USA is a utility-scale solar and energy storage developer, EPC provider (engineering, procurement, and construction), and well as Independent Power Producer. Miller spearheads Qcells USA Corp.’s involvement in Federal, State, Utility/RTO/ISO, and some local affairs regarding utility-scale solar and storage. She has developed Qcells USA Corp.’s regulatory policies, collaborated with the Development Leadership Team regarding greenfield campaigns, and initiated corporate-wide programs to further develop employee professional development. Miller serves on the Solar Energy Industries Association board of directors.

Prior to Qcells, Miller led the Energy Team at Charter Communications (Spectrum—Fortune 67 Company) in Scope 2 reporting and developed strategies to meet the company’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2035. Thus, she has firsthand experience as a corporate buyer of energy and an advocate of sustainability. Miller also worked at a Fortune 300 company, Ameren, where she spent 7 years in policy and worked in enterprise risk management. She has in-depth knowledge of the risks and opportunities that utilities face today. Miller also chaired the MISO Supply Adequacy Working Group to move to the zonal construct that exists today.

Prior to Ameren, Miller worked at both MISO and ACES Power Marketing with experience in client relations, day-ahead scheduling, and settlements. She has three children and a loving husband. She resides in St. Louis, MO. She enjoys being a den leader to her oldest son’s cub scout den and being the liaison to the cub scout pack and the chartering organization of the elementary school PTO. Miller’s passions are to be a role model to her kids, foster a positive working environment, and transition to a clean and reliable grid.

43. Gabrielle Spurling
Managing Director of Technology, VMLY&R

Gabby Spurling is the Managing Director of Technology at VMLY&R. She first joined the company in 2018 as a lead developer. VMLY&R is a global brand and customer experience agency that harnesses creativity, technology, and culture to create connected brands. Named a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Global Marketing Agencies for five consecutive years, VMLY&R is made up of more than 12,000 employees worldwide, with principal offices in Kansas City, New York, Detroit, London, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore, and Sydney. The agency is behind award-winning campaigns for blue-chip client partners including Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Dell, Ford, Intel, New Balance, Pfizer, and Wendy's.

Previously, Spurling was a software engineer at SelectQuote Insurance Services and, before that, an integration developer at ConocoPhillips. Earlier in her career, she worked with Definition 6 as a web developer. Spurling earned an EMBA from Rockhurst University and an undergraduate degree in computer science from Georgia Institute of Technology.

44. Felicity Pino
Director of Performance Improvement, Children's Mercy Kansas City

Felicity Pino partners with hospital leadership and clinical teams to drive innovative improvements in care quality, operational efficiency, and patient safety. As the Director of Performance Improvement at Children’s Mercy, she operationalizes the improvement strategy for the organization and oversees the development of her team of specialists.

Previously, Pino spent over half a decade at NASA, training and developing training for astronauts and flight controllers, after which she was selected as an Innovation Fellow at the University of Minnesota Medical Devices Center. Pino has conducted medical and healthcare research at Stanford University, NASA, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City; she holds one domestic patent and one international patent pending. Having professionally “grown up” in a high-reliability organization (NASA), Pino dedicates her work toward transforming healthcare settings into high-reliability environments. 

Pino currently serves as an assistant professor at the School of Medicine and as adjunct assistant professor at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management, both at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She holds an undergraduate degree in engineering from the University of Missouri-Columbia, a master’s degree in engineering from Stanford University, and a master’s in public health administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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45. Deidra Thomas-Murray
Director of Students in Transition and Foster Care Liaison, Saint Louis Public Schools

Dr. Deidra Thomas-Murray, originally hailing from New Orleans and later relocating to St. Louis in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, is a distinguished professional in the field of education and social work. She holds a Doctor of Education degree from the University of Missouri-Saint Louis, complemented by master's and bachelor's degrees in social work from Southern University at New Orleans. Dr. Deidra is not only a Lifetime Qualified School Social Worker but also a certified Family, Divorce, and Civil Mediator. She is a renowned keynote speaker, national educator, devoted mentor, published author, and passionate advocate for vulnerable populations.

Currently, Dr. Thomas-Murray serves as an administrator and liaison at Saint Louis Public Schools (SLPS), where she oversees homeless and foster care services. She is a nationally recognized authority on the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance program and the Every Student Succeeds Act. Her approach is marked by authenticity and candor, which greatly aids families in navigating complex systems related to health, mental health, education, and social services. Whether a student is experiencing homelessness or not, she is the compassionate voice that guides them through educational challenges, emphasizing the principles of Advocacy, Empowerment, and Transformation.

Before joining the SLPS team, Dr. Thomas-Murray held various roles, including family therapist in St. Louis, clinical school social worker in New Orleans Public Schools, children's therapist, resident advisor, and a devoted foster parent for over 22 years, caring for more than 178 children. She also served as a case manager, monitoring juvenile offenders, and dedicated her time as a volunteer and mentor. Her commitment to service extended to the United States Army Reservists, where she served for two years, as well as her role as a reserve civil sherriff and volunteer social worker for the New Orleans Retinitis Pigmentosa and Visually Impaired Support Group.

46. Elena Steinmetz
Director of Marketing, Flat Branch Home Loans

Elena Steinmetz is a marketing leader, innovator, and educator in the Midwest with nearly a decade of experience in executing successful marketing campaigns for renowned businesses in the Midwest. Throughout her career, she has worked one-on-one with executive leadership teams to build creative solutions for business and sales needs. Her portfolio includes working with esteemed institutions, including Bayer, Mercy Hospital, and Maryville University. Currently, she serves as the Director of Marketing at Flat Branch Home Loans, the #1 Overall Lender in Missouri and #5 USDA Lender in the nation

While leading the corporate marketing strategy in her role, Steinmetz is also known for innovating in team building and leadership. Coming from an Educational background, Steinmetz has a passion for implementing empathy-based psychology to drive retention and recruitment. In her current role, she took a team that had a nearly 95% turnover rate and has had full retention of the current team for over a year without changing the administrative budget. She also retained her previous team for three consecutive years. Additionally, Elena currently plays a key role in the direct recruitment of new employees at Flat Branch.

Steinmetz is dedicated to the advancement of MARTECH and investigating new ways Marketing and Technology can help build authentic connections between consumers and businesses. She currently works closely with technology and compliance leaders in the financial industry to achieve this. Beyond her professional achievements, Steinmetz has a special focus on non-profit organizations, including serving as a volunteer for animal welfare organizations for over two decades and working with STEM organizations for children.

47. DeAmbra Crochrell
Director of Alumni Engagement, University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis

DeAmbra Crochrell is Director of Alumni Engagement at the University of Health Sciences & Pharmacy in St. Louis. In her role, she leads the strategic planning and implementation of programs and events that foster meaningful connections and lifelong relationships between alumni and the institution. With over seven years of experience in the hospitality and education sectors, she has developed a passion for creating inclusive and engaging communities that celebrate diversity and belonging.

After relocating to Missouri, she earned her undergraduate degree in hospitality management, with an emphasis on conferences and events, and a minor in business from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She has earned several certifications in allyship, unconscious bias, diversity, inclusion, and belonging. Prior to joining UHSP, she followed her passion for girl empowerment as associate director of programs at Girls in the Know, where she supported program development and execution for preteen girls. She also managed the programs, events, and alumni network for the Beta Gamma Sigma International Honor Society for several years. Throughout her journey, she found her niche in international programs, events, and volunteer management.

48. Marisa Lather
Director of Marketing and Communications, Bridge Partners

Marisa Lather (known as @MarketerMarisa) is a data-driven design thinker who specializes in creating aesthetic brand experiences that delight. With an inbound marketing specialization in multimedia content creation and engagement, she develops and executes omnichannel campaigns, blending online and offline worlds to create data-informed, demand-gen content and affinity-building experiences for brands. As Director of Marketing and Communications for Bridge Partners, she oversees marketing for the firm, specializing in revenue growth for tech and cloud leaders. She is on the board of the American Marketing Association and actively engages in the national marketing community, collaborating with brands for her blog and speaking at national conferences. In her free time, she enjoys creating and discovering art, cultural studies, traveling, hiking, live music, and being a fit-foodie.

49. Megan Lumenello
Content Director, side sea | Hopsie Inc

Megan Lumenello is the Content Director at side sea. She helps clients across various industries tell their stories with her creativity, enterprising, and problem-solving skills by strategically creating and managing content. Lumenello creates complex information architecture frameworks for web design projects and crafts a content structure that creates an intuitive and informative user experience. After this, she writes on-brand messaging concepts using straightforward, creative, and error-free content for websites, apps, advertising campaigns, and more. 

Lumenello graduated from Western Governors University and Truman State University, achieving her MBA and an undergraduate degree in business administration. She has a decade of customer service experience, seven years of marketing experience, and three and a half years of copywriting experience. In previous roles, Megan worked at various full-service sales and marketing companies. She has served clients across various industries, including but not limited to automotive, healthcare, hospitality, financial services, and manufacturing industries. Her marketing experience includes mail, digital, direct, and social media, in addition to rewards-based loyalty, recognition, and incentive programs. 

50. Jeanette Hernandez Prenger
Founder, CEO and President, ECCO Select

Jeanette Hernandez Prenger serves as the Founder, CEO, and President of ECCO Select. She leads one of the top Hispanic businesses in the country, with over 500 employees serving clients across North America. ECCO Select is a talent acquisition and consulting company specializing in providing people, processes, and technology solutions.

Hernandez leverages her expertise in quickly assessing situations, identifying issues, and developing the right solutions to help businesses strengthen operations, revenue, profitability, and competitive advantages. Jeanette has put these skills into practice at ECCO Select since 1995. Beginning with a single client, ECCO Select has grown into a leading provider of technology talent for Fortune 1000 companies and government agencies, with offices in Kansas City, MO, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis, MO.

Hernandez advocates for business and economic growth through her leadership and involvement in organizations around the country. She serves on the national boards of The Latino Coalition (Chair), Junior Achievement USA, Boy Scouts of America, Harvard Kennedy School of Business Taubman Institute, Women Impacting Public Policy, and Orphaned Starfish Foundation, as well as those closer to home – Missouri Tourism Commission (commissioner), Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association (Visit KC, Chair), the American Royal, Kanss City Police Foundation, and the Command and General Staff College Foundation. She is a former chair of Park University, Junior Achievement of Kansas City, the Greater Kansas City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and former vice chair of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC).

View the complete list of awardees