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Paul Evensen, PhD

Paul Evensen was the Founder and Executive Director of Social Innovation STL. After a successful three year start-up and incubation period, Paul led the merger of the Public Policy Research Center at UMSL with Social Innovation STL to form the new Community Innovation and Action Center.

Previously, Paul served as Senior Vice President of Community Planning and Evaluation at the Forum for Youth Investment, Senior Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at Wyman, was the President and Co-Founder of Community Systems Group, Inc., served as the designated Subject Matter Expert for the National Guard Bureau’s J3/ Domestic Operations Joint Directorate Civil Operations Program, and is the co-founder of several nonprofit organizations located in South Carolina and Kansas.

Paul completed his doctorate at the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Centre for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas and has worked with hundreds of coalitions across the country addressing a range of outcomes including teen pregnancy, poverty, HIV prevention, literacy, hunger, school readiness, and substance abuse. Away from work, Paul is an amateur travel agent and sleuth finding amazing travel bargains for family trips to far off destinations.


Kiley Bednar, MA
Associate Director

As CIAC's Associate Director of Partnership Performance, Kiley leads and oversees a growing portfolio of strategies to build the strength of our region’s many community partnerships and coalitions, including ThreadSTL. A St. Louis native, Kiley comes with more than 20 years of experience in youth development, education, and social service administration. Most recently, she served 10 years with the Forum for Youth Investment, providing training and technical assistance to state and local leaders working to get young people ready for life. Through the Forum’s David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, she supported out-of-school time partnerships throughout the U.S. in building systems to measure and improve the quality of their youth programs. Prior to this, she oversaw the Forum for Youth Investment’s training programs – including the Ready by 21 webinar series and the Ready by 21 Institutes – as well as coordinated the national Children’s Cabinet Network for statewide coordinating bodies. As a technical assistance provider at the Forum, she led community engagement efforts, data communications, and strategic planning for cities and states focused on better aligning their efforts around improved child and youth outcomes. Kiley received a Master of Arts at the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration and is a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach.


Paul Sorenson, MSW
Associate Director

Paul Sorenson leads the Community Innovation and Action Center's regional data strategies, including the formation of the Regional Data Alliance to promote a powerful agenda for how governments, funders, universities, and nonprofits can better use data for community change. Paul previously founded and ran GoodMap, an online tool for nonprofits to organize information about the services they provided to their communities. He also served as the Director of Strategic Planning at Grace Hill Settlement House from 2012 to 2017. Paul graduated from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis in 2012 and is slowly pursuing a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He was named one of the St. Louis Business Journal’s 30 Under 30 in 2014 and was a FOCUS St. Louis Impact Fellow as part of its 2016 inaugural cohort. In his steadily diminishing free time, Paul enjoys cooking, being actively involved in the local Jewish community, and pretending to understand jazz.


Mark Tranel, PhD
Director Emeritus

Mark Tranel has been with the University of Missouri-St. Louis Public Policy Research Center (PPRC) for over 25 years, serving as its Director 2002 to 2018 and Director Emeritus of the new CIAC since June 2018. He has been the principal investigator or project manager on over 70 applied research projects. The Public Policy Research Center served as an independent applied research center of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The PPRC conducted applied research, evaluation, and special research projects for civic, nonprofit, and public organizations, primarily in metropolitan St. Louis.

Prior to joining the PPRC, Mark was the Director of Real Estate Development for the Economic Council of St. Louis County. He established the small business incubator program in St. Louis County and managed the redevelopment of several industrial sites. He was also Manager of Neighborhood Preservation at the Normandy Municipal Council, responsible for coordinating community development programs administering a home improvement program, and a circuit city administrator program. He was the first Director of Parks and Recreation in the City of Bellefontaine Neighbors. Mark currently serves as the Collector in the City of Bellefontaine Neighbors, is a member of the Riverview Gardens School District Special Administrative Board and is a member of the Executive Board of North County, Inc.



Lisa Clancy, MSW
Former Associate Director

Lisa Clancy led the Community Innovation and Action Center’s efforts to strengthen community partnerships and coalitions across the St. Louis region. In this role, she founded and launched Thread STL, a peer learning community of partnership and coalition leaders and staff members. A native of St. Louis, she is a proud graduate of UMSL (BSW, 2008) and of the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis (MSW, 2012). As a former special education teacher as well as a corps member and staff alum of Teach For America, Lisa is passionate about ensuring that every kid in St. Louis has the support and resources to thrive, in the classroom and beyond. In 2016, she was named a FOCUS St. Louis CORO Women In Leadership Fellow. Though no longer serving as Associate Director after her recent election to the St. Louis County Council, Lisa continues to play a part-time support role to further CIAC's partnership and leadership development efforts. 


Karl Guenther, MSW
Community Development Specialist

Karl Guenther is a Community Development Specialist at the Community Innovation and Action Center at the University of Missouri St. Louis (UMSL). Karl provides staffing to two University-community initiatives. Creating Whole Communities (CWC) is a partnership between the University, University of Missouri Extension and the St. Louis Region’s neighborhoods. In this role, Karl supports capacity building programs, community forums, and neighborhood research. Along with CWC, Karl staffs UMSL’s Anchor Institution initiative coordinating strategies that leverage the institution's economic and human capital for the benefit of neighboring communities.

Karl was the founding staff for the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis (CBN). Karl and the University remains a partner in the Community Builders Network. Through Karl’s work with CBN, he helped co-found and is an ex-officio board member of Invest STL, a fund at the Saint Louis Community Foundation dedicated to accelerating equitable neighborhood development in the St. Louis region. Karl holds a Masters Degree from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis and a Masters Degree in Economics from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. The Missouri Workforce Housing Association honored Karl in 2016 with their Emerging Leader Award. Karl was also recognized as one of the St. Louis Business Journal’s 2013 class of 30 Under 30. In 2011/2012, Karl was fortunate to be a member of the 36th Leadership St. Louis cohort.


Todd Swanstrom, Ph.D.
Des Lee Professor
Community Collaboration
and Public Policy Administration

Todd Swanstrom has a joint appointment in Political Science and Public Policy Administration. Todd has an MA from Washington University (1971) and a Ph.D. from Princeton (1981). His co-authored Place Matters: Metropolitics for the Twenty-First Century, 3rd ed., (U. Press of Kansas, 2014) won the Michael Harrington Award from the New Politics Section of the American Political Science Association. Todd’s current research focuses on neighborhood change in older industrial cities. He is facilitating a collaboration between urban scholars in St. Louis and Dortmund, Germany, on how “gentrification” is perceived differently by different actors.

Todd has used the resources of his endowed professorship to support the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis, a coalition of CDCs, banks, foundations, and governments working to build better neighborhoods in the St. Louis region. Todd is Chair of UMSL’s Anchor Institution Committee, which is guiding the work of the university with surrounding communities. Todd tries to relax by playing golf but it only makes him more stressed out. He strongly recommends against taking up the game.

claire wolff

Claire Wolff, MSW
Community Development Specialist
University of Missouri Extension

Claire Wolff is the community development specialist for St. Louis City 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 community engagement. Claire joined University of Missouri Extension faculty in 2016 and has extensive experience working in urban communities. Prior to joining Extension, Claire worked as the Director for Community Development at Grace Hill Settlement House. Claire currently serves on the board of Old North St. Louis Restoration Group and Perennial STL and is the co-founder of the Park Picnic Project.


We frequently have openings for both graduate research assistant positions and staff positions. Interested in learning more? Please reach out to Desiree Jones-Smith,