Contact Economic & Community Development to connect with UMSL


Tasnim Haq
Program Manager
Creating Whole Communities

Tasnim Haq is the program manager of Creating Whole Communities, an organization focused on connecting University resources and neighborhood residents to strengthen communities. She oversees programs and projects within three buckets of work: leadership & capacity building, research, & civic dialogue. The foundation of her role is to work alongside residents and other community stakeholders to inform community development and building efforts. Tasnim holds a Masters in Social Work.







Claire Wolff Rippel
Education Director / Director
Community Development / Creating Whole Communities


Claire Rippel, MSW is the Education Director, Community Development and Creating Whole Communities Director for UMSL.  She leads MU Extension’s community development team and strategy for developing community partnership initiatives that link university knowledge and resources to foster civic capacity and vitality across Missouri’s communities. Prior to her current role, Claire served as MU Extension Community Economic Development faculty in St. Louis. Claire also worked as the Director for Community Development at Grace Hill Settlement House and Community Engagement Specialist at Old North St. Louis Restoration Group. She currently serves on the board of Forward Through Ferguson.






Todd Swanstrom
DES Lee Professor of Community Collaboration and Public Policy

Todd Swanstrom is the Des Lee Professor of Community Collaboration and Public Policy Administration at the University of Missouri – St. Louis.  His co-authored Place Matters: Metropolitics for the Twenty-First Century (3rd edition, 2014) won the Michael Harrington Award from the New Politics Section of APSA.  His co-authored book, The Changing American Neighborhood:  The Meaning of Place in the 21st Century will be published by Cornell University Press next year. Todd has used the resources of his endowed professorship to support the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis, a coalition of about 70 community building institutions working to build better neighborhoods in St. Louis, and the St. Louis Anchor Action Network, sixteen institutions in the St. Louis metropolitan area working together to target hiring and business contracts to disinvested communities in St. Louis City and County.





Ifeanyichukwu Ukpabi
Post-Doctoral Fellow
St. Louis Anchor Action Network

Ifeanyi Ukpabi is the Post-Doctoral Fellow for the St. Louis Anchor Action Network (STLAAN). Ifeanyi received his Ph.D. in Sociology from Georgia State University in 2022. His research focuses on Black communities, race and racism, work and employment, urbanism and urban stratification. His primary research aim is to illuminate the socioeconomic realities of Black communities in the post-Civil Rights era. Therefore, his research focuses on two pillars of socioeconomic life – employment and housing – to understand how racial capitalism continues to structure the racialized pathways into middle-class life for Black individuals and communities.





Photo of Prima Wagan
Prima Wagan
Senior Manager
Economic Development Projects
With over twenty-five years of university experience with data analysis and project management, and her MA in Library and Informational Sciences, Senior Manager of Economic Development Projects with the Economic and Community Development unit works with UMSL data managers to collect, integrate, analyze and interpret data, projects and information. She develops and maintains tools, and leads projects to facilitate UMSL’s Strategic Plan commitment to advance racial equity and remove barriers to economic opportunity and facilitate transparency with special focus on inclusive local hiring and purchasing. Prima Wagan also leverages her data and project management expertise to support university involvement in redevelopment projects.






Stefani Weeden-Smith
St. Louis Anchor Action Network

Stefani is the Director of the St. Louis Anchor Action Network (STLAAN), a coalition of local anchor institutions -large companies and organizations – that are working to leverage their economic and organizational resources to increase employment, income, and wealth in majority Black and Brown communities facing high poverty rates. The Network aims to build a St. Louis where everyone, everywhere can thrive. Stefani brings 20 years of professional experience as a community engagement strategist to her role as the Director for STLAAN. She served as Program Director at NCCJ St. Louis (Equity and Inclusion Organization), Interim Executive Director at Teen Pregnancy Prevention Partnerships and most recently served as the Assistant Director of Community Engagement at Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement at Washington University in St. Louis. While at Gephardt Institute, she led the community engagement efforts for the students, staff, and faculty.

She earned her Master of Professional Studies at Pratt Institute in Creative Arts Therapy and Creative Development in Brooklyn, New York. At Rockhurst University in Kansas City, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Marketing. Stefani was also selected into the Senior Leadership Non-Profit Certification Program hosted by United Way of New York and Baruch College’s Marxe School of Public and International Affairs.

A St. Louis native, she lives in Tower Grove East and loves to get to know her neighbors by sharing a meal at the various South Grand restaurants.



Travis Wente
Senior Grant Writer

Travis J. Wente is Senior Grant Writer for the Economic & Community Development unit at University of Missouri - St. Louis (UMSL). Mr. Wente received his Bachelors of Political Science and Masters of Public Administration and Policy Analysis from Southern Illinois Univeristy Edwardsville (SIUE). He has workforce experience in public, private, and non-profit organizations, with a special focus in grants starting at the Monroe County Economic Development Corporation prior to joining UMSL in 2023.





Photo of Patricia Zahn
Patricia Zahn, EdD
Community Engagement & Outreach
Dr. Patricia Zahn is the Director of Community Engagement & Outreach at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL). In this capacity, she provides oversight and coordination of campus community engagement efforts by developing and maintaining relationships with community partners, supporting the community engaged work of faculty and staff, and serving to connect people with other individuals and organizations both on campus and in the community to facilitate these efforts. Patricia has worked in cultural and educational focused fields in nonprofit organizations for over 30 years. She earned her Doctorate in Education from UMSL and holds a Masters degree in Public Policy Administration with an emphasis in Nonprofit Management & Leadership, and an undergraduate degree in American Studies. Patricia serves the community as well. She is a strong supporter of the United Way of Greater St. Louis having been a member of the United Way Women’s Leadership Society cabinet since 2013 and serving as Chair of the annual campaign at UMSL for several years. Patricia is the immediate past-President of the Affton School Board, having been on the board since 2011.