School of Professional and Continuing Studies

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Guest Speakers
| Alumni Spotlights | NLA Class of 2013
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About: The Neighborhood Leadership Academy was created in 2002, and connects resources at the University – the Community Partnership Project, the Nonprofit Management and Leadership Program, and University of Missouri Extension – with residents and neighborhoods throughout the metropolitan area who are interested in improving their communities. 

The Neighborhood Leadership Academy (NLA) provides hands-on leadership training that emphasizes community building principles, organizational leadership and management practices, and personal leadership skills. Throughout the Academy, each participant identifies and designs a community-building project for their neighborhood or organization. 

Each year, the NLA brings together a diverse group of up to 20 current or potential neighborhood leaders for 10 sessions over a three-month period. Participants are actively involved in their neighborhoods and represent communities from throughout the St. Louis region. Academy participants may be municipal elected officials, neighborhood association members, community-based organization staff, or resident volunteers. 

More than 200 neighborhood and organization leaders from throughout the St. Louis region have participated in the NLA, learning the skills and building the networks necessary to create livable communities.

What to Expect

The Academy is designed to provide hands-on training to volunteers and community organization staff so they can develop their capacity to be effective neighborhood leaders. Through seminars, discussion, and personal projects that apply tools and principles to the neighborhood and community organization setting, participants will learn:

During the NLA, participants share and work on a community improvement projects for their neighborhood. Following is a sample of their projects:

Participants who successfully complete the program receive a Certificate in Neighborhood Leadership from the Chancellor of the University of Missouri–St. Louis. A total of 3.65 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) are also awarded to participants.


The Academy costs $400 per person, which includes all instruction, textbooks, supplies, snacks at evening sessions, continental breakfast at Saturday sessions, and parking. Registration for the 2014 NLA will open in August. To be notified when registration opens, please email Kara at to have your name added to the list.


Please know that it costs approximately $1,000 per participant to run the Neighborhood Leadership Academy. We are pleased to have financial support from the University of Missouri–St. Louis and University of Missouri Extension that allows us to lower the registration fee to $400 and provide partial scholarships when needed. A limited number of partial scholarships will be available. Scholarships are awarded based on the following priorities:


The Neighborhood Leadership Academy is made up of 10 sessions held on select weekday evenings and Saturday mornings. Most sessions are held at the J.C. Penney Conference Center at UMSL. Some sessions are held at community sites to enhance participants’ learning. 

NLA Facilitators

Kara Lubischer, Community Development Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,

Kara Lubischer is the community development specialist for St. Louis at University of Missouri Extension. In this role, she develops community partnership initiatives that link university resources with the needs and priorities of communities by working on a variety of topics including capacity building, leadership development, and healthy community initiatives. Kara joined University of Missouri Extension faculty in 2007 and has more than 10 years of experience working in urban communities. Prior to joining Extension, Kara worked for St. Louis County Government as a comprehensive planner in the Department of Planning and Slavic Village Development, a neighborhood-based community development corporation in inner-city Cleveland, Ohio, as a community organizer and program director for an active-living program. 

Kay Gasen, Director, Community Partnership Project, University of Missouri–St. Louis,

Kay Gasen is the director of the Community Partnership Project at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, a joint initiative with University of Missouri Extension. In this role, she provides leadership to a variety of efforts that link the university and the St. Louis metropolitan community. Her strengths include planning, program development and implementation, grant writing and administration, and the development of collaborations and partnerships. Kay joined the University of Missouri faculty in 1986 and has more than 25 years of experience as an educator, program manager, and administrator, including serving as Extension community development specialist, regional director and UMSL Public Policy Research Center director of Community and Neighborhood Development.

Guest Speakers

Terry Jones, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science, University of Missouri–St. Louis,

Terry Jones, PhD, is a professor of political science and public policy administration at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. He has held many leadership positions at UMSL, including 14 years as dean of arts and sciences. His books include Fragmented by Design: Why St. Louis Has So Many Governments and The Metropolitan Chase: Politics and Policies in Urban America, and he has authored dozens of scholarly articles, chapters, and technical reports. His research interests are primarily in the area of metropolitan governance, urban public policy, state government and public opinion. Dr. Jones has been a consultant to more than 60 governments and nonprofit organizations in the St. Louis region. For 20 years, he was the principal consultant to the Leadership St. Louis Program.

Wendy Dyer, Fund Development Consultant,,

Wendy Dyer has been a fundraiser and a fundraising consultant for more than 20 years. Her fund development career began at Saint Louis University, where she worked in donor research and prospect management, then major gifts and corporate/foundation relations. In consultation with nonprofit organizations, she provides coaching, grant strategies, major giving programs including annual fund and capital campaigns, board design and engagement. Wendy provides capacity building workshops throughout the country as well as locally through the Deaconess Foundation Impact Partner program. She is adept at developing grants for neighborhood-specific projects where it is important to identify local assets and interests. 

Kristen Wagner, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, University of Missouri–St. Louis,

Dr. Kristen Wagner is assistant professor of social work at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. She has a PhD from Washington University in St. Louis (2011), an MSW from Washington University in St. Louis (2005) and a BA in Psychology from the University of North Dakota (1997). Her research, publishing and teaching interests center on social inclusion and poverty alleviation with a particular focus on the role of asset building in social and economic development. Her research takes a multi-faceted approach to studying program and policy interventions in both domestic and international contexts around three key areas: asset development interventions, culturally relevant community development strategies, and community-based participatory research methods.

Sean Thomas, Executive Director, Old North St. Louis Restoration Group,,

Sean Thomas is the executive director of Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, a not-for-profit community development corporation pursuing a comprehensive redevelopment of the Old North St. Louis neighborhood, just north of Downtown St. Louis. In this position, Sean is responsible for managing a diverse range of initiatives, from a farmer's market to a broad array of housing acquisition, stabilization, rehabilitation and development projects. Prior to joining ONSLRG in November of 2003, Sean worked for the St. Louis Association of Community Organizations (SLACO) for 11 years – five as a community organizer and the last six as deputy director. Sean also has worked as a community organizer in Detroit, and community initiatives coordinator for what is now East-West Gateway Council of Governments.

Wendy L. Werner, Founder, Werner Associates, LLC,,

Wendy L. Werner is the founder of Werner Associates, LLC, specializing in the areas of career management, coaching, and business practice management. She also works with other types of professional services firms and individuals from the business, government and not-for-profit sector. For more than 25 years she has worked with thousands of job seekers in the creation of career development plans and implementation of effective job search strategies. Her business, Werner Associates, LLC, also works with businesses to develop effective recruiting and retention plans, marketing strategies, and employee development and supervision models. She screens and interviews candidates and makes hiring recommendations to law firms and corporations. She also provides job search assistance and outplacement services to laid-off employees.

Alumni Spotlights

Listening to the Community
NLA alum Suzanne Hough, Community Development Officer with Carrollton Bank, puts her leadership skills into practice when teaching financial education classes, providing funding for services, or just talking with people to find out what’s needed in the community. “The Neighborhood Leadership Academy gave me a heightened sense of the importance of listening to the wants and needs of communities," she said. "The process of working with all the stakeholders, no matter how cumbersome that may be, is the only way to ensure you really understand the neighborhood’s priorities.” Read more about joining your fellow neighbors in serving your community!

Building Your Neighborhood Networks 
NLA alum Carole Anne von Eschen, President of the Forest Park Southeast Neighborhood Association, does not hesitate to reach out to others for good ideas. “NLA taught me the importance of reaching out beyond the normal limitation of one neighborhood organization," she said. "Some of my colleagues and I attend other neighborhood meetings for new ideas … and reach out to local businesses and other organizations to cooperate.” Read more about joining your fellow neighbors in serving your community!

What Could You Do Next?
NLA alum Michael Powers found that his new leadership skills helped him to make a key job change. “The Neighborhood Leadership Academy inspired me to increase my leadership role in St. Louis and to accept a Legislative Director post within the office of the President of the Board of Aldermen, Lewis Reed," he said. "I left NLA more confident and more committed to building a stronger St. Louis.” Read more about joining your fellow neighbors in serving your community!

So You Think You Know How to Manage a Neighborhood Project …
NLA Alum Heather Robinett, co-founder of the Old Ferguson West Community Garden, has learned that managing a community project can be quite different than managing a work project. “One of the most important things I learned in the Neighborhood Leadership Academy and was able to put into practice was to listen and consider opinions that differed from my own," she said. "I didn’t have years of experience and expertise to shape my views, and learning to accept and consider opposing or different ideas helped me open up to a more collaborative approach.” Read more about joining your fellow neighbors in serving your community!

NLA Class of 2013

Congratulations to the 2013 Neighborhood Leadership Academy Class! 

2013 Graduation Class