About Common Circles
Common Circles is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to making a difference in our world by providing ground-breaking interactive and immersive experiences that seek to improve intergroup relations, increase empathy and respect, reduce bias, and encourage action in our communities. Our team includes highly regarded experts in the field who work against bias and intolerance.
Former attorney &
Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Marla credits her parents with instilling a great appreciation for equity and inclusion. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Tufts University with a BA in International Relations and receiving her JD from George Mason University Law School where she was a member of the George Mason Law Review and Supreme Court Economics Review, Marla worked in the legal profession for several years.
Marla redirected her talents towards forming partnerships with various community and national organizations with missions to promoting equity, advancing human rights, and implementing anti-bias education programs. Through her engagement with these vital community partners, Marla recognized the serious need for the creation of a new type of museum. She designed an interactive experience that provokes substantive and exciting encounters capable of engendering authentic empathy and understanding. She believes that the experience of stepping into the shoes of individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds will lead to better understanding of implicit bias and will inspire individuals to work to reduce bias, prejudice, bigotry and hatred.
Television & film
producer with more than
25 years of experience
Her work covering entertainment and politics has taken her around the world. Sue’s interest in and involvement with supporting those in need includes videos produced for the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, The Westchester Institute for Human Development, The CityKids Foundation, Equine Advocates, the SPCA of Westchester, to name a few.
Karen has served as a member of the Ferguson Commission Citizen-Law Enforcement Working Group, is recording secretary for the St. Louis County Human Relations Commission, sits on the Advisory Board of the NCCJ-STL, the Advisory Council of Cultural Leadership, the Multicultural Affairs Committee of the St. Louis FBI, and the Board of ARCHS.
Karen received her BA from Barnard College and her JD from the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law.
Dr. Kira Hudson Banks
Department of Psychology
Saint Louis University
As a consultant, she has worked with schools, communities, institutions of higher education, and corporations to improve diversity and inclusion efforts, and engage people in productive dialogue and action. She most recently served as a racial equity consultant for the Ferguson Commission and has continued as the Racial Equity Catalyst for Forward Through Ferguson.
She received her BA from Mount Holyoke College, where she was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, and her MA and PhD from the University of Michigan.
Kwofe is an active contributor to the St. Louis community, serving on the Mayor’s Vanguard Cabinet, Keystone of St. Louis, The Urban League’s Save our Sons program, and was the recipient of the St. Louis American’s Salute to Young Leaders award.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
Director of Professional Development
Greater St. Louis, Missouri Area
Associate Dean for Diversity
& Associate Professor
Tonya completed her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin.
Gregg earned a BA in Economics from Tufts University and a JD and MBA from the Georgetown University Law Center and School of Business.
Flint W. Fowler
President of the
Boys & Girls Clubs of
Greater St. Louis
A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Flint has received both Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Black Studies, and Master’s degree in Psychology from Washington University, as well as a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Education from Saint Louis University.
As a leisure industry expert with more than 30 years of consulting experience, John has been involved with projects in North America, Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. He has conducted planning studies where he has evaluated concepts, expansion possibilities, market potential and financial feasibility for many new and existing attractions and museums. Past projects and clients include the Walt Disney Company, the National Air and Space Museum, Marriott Corporation, Guam Museum, Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, Universal Studios “Back to the Future – The Ride”, Arkansas Arts Center, Andy Alligator’s Fun Park, Canadian Geographic, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Boston Museum of Science, Wildlife Conservation Society (Bronx Zoo), Wisconsin State Fair Park, Celebrating Patsy Cline, Inc., and many others.
John has been a speaker at many annual conventions for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) and has been interviewed and quoted by the Wall Street Journal, CFO Europe, Canadian Business, USA Today, Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Film and Video, Tour and Travel News, among others. He has contributed articles to Amusement Business, Funworld, and World’s Fair.
John is a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
In August 2003, the St. Louis Business Journal named Laurna as one of the 25 Most Influential Businesswomen in St. Louis. Her other civic honors include both the St. Louis, Missouri and the Alton, Illinois YWCA’s “Women in Leadership” award and the St. Louis Sentinel Newspaper’s “Yes I Can” award. Laurna is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois and serves on the boards of the Girl Scout Council of Greater St. Louis, the Regional Chamber and Growth Association, and the United Way of Greater St. Louis.
Laurna received her undergraduate degree in English Literature and American Studies from Princeton University and her masters in journalism from Columbia University in New York City.
Dr. Holly Hick
St. Louis, Missouri
on implicit bias
As an engaged research institute at The Ohio State University the Kirwin Institute works to achieve their mission by educating the public, building the capacity of allied social justice organizations, and investing in efforts that support equity and inclusion. They employ interdisciplinary research methods in a quest to understand and mitigate barriers to opportunity. Research and staff expertise are shared through an extensive network of colleagues and partners — ranging from other researchers, grassroots social justice advocates, policymakers, and community leaders throughout the nation, who can quickly put ideas into action.
the McMurtrey Financial Group
at RBC Wealth Management
After graduating, Mary was recruited to work for the Public Policy Research Center at UM-St. Louis where she oversaw all the regional communications efforts to help promote PPRC as a policy leader. After her tenure helping to launch PPRC, Mary became the Executive Director of the Wildlife Rescue Center of Missouri where she worked tirelessly to invigorate a failing organization and tube feed baby opossums.
Next Mary went on to take the helm of a residential children’s facility, Boys Hope Girls Hope St. Louis. There Mary was able to refine her communication skills by being constantly and lovingly challenged by a group of very smart teenagers. From opossums to teenagers, Mary learned the ins and outs of the day to day reality of running nonprofit organizations that are essential to the community.
During that time, Mary volunteered for a number of regional initiatives where she had the opportunity to work alongside key leaders in the policy and nonprofit space. From there she was recruited to be the Vice President for the Gateway Center for Giving and then went on to become president. GCG is a regional organization whose members represent nearly 100 corporate, private and family foundations. After a number of years there, Mary was approached by the St. Louis Community Foundation to join them to help grow their community engagement work.
During her tenure at the St. Louis Community Foundation, Mary created and ran the regional Give STL Day which raised over 5 million dollars for area nonprofits as well as the community and economic development initiative Invest STL. After many long years and long hours, Mary decided to take a break to spend time with her family.
She currently lives in Ladue with her husband Michael and their two children, Sophia and Lyla. Mary enjoys gardening, reading and yoga.
Leader in mobile
They deliver turn-key services for museums, foundations and corporations directly and in collaboration with leading creative companies and exhibit producers through offices in Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan. Past clients include the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress, the Aga Khan Foundation Canada, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Mayo Clinic and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Museum.
The company has an established, successful track record of creating compelling, authentic experiences that engage audiences, stimulating the human senses in controlled, immersive environments. They work with their clients to “inspire audiences anywhere” by creating immersive mobile tours that integrate graphic imagery, architecture, sound, and technology and turn them into meaningful personal experiences that can inspire people and move them to action.
Chief Program Officer
and Family Services
Prior to working at Epworth, she oversaw programs for teens and young adults in the areas of educational equity, college access and persistence, and the development of social emotional learning and leadership skills at the Wyman Center and was Senior Director of the runaway and homeless youth programs at Youth in Need, a non-profit child and family service agency in St. Louis.
Katrina is a graduate of University of Missouri — Columbia where she received a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies. She received her Masters in Professional Counseling from Lindenwood University in St. Louis.
Dr. Stephen Radinsky
In 1996, Steve and his wife had a near death experience, which had a profound effect on him. Now retired, that experience continues to influence how he spends his retirement years.
Steve has served on a variety of philanthropic boards such as the American Cancer Society and Missouri Healthcare For All and was the recipient of the 2000 Wendell Scott Award. He is a weekly volunteer at Fox 2 News Call for Action, and enjoys studying at the Lifelong Learning Institute, University College of Washington University.
Bayeté Ross Smith
Collaborating with Common Circles provides an ideal scenario where these ideas can be explored in a way that engages multiple communities across the country in a practical and relatable way, that hopefully will inspire deeper self reflection. It also provides an additional opportunity to research diverse perspectives on identity, from the minds of young people from a variety of economic backgrounds.
Bayeté Ross Smith is a photographer, multimedia artist and filmmaker from Harlem, NY. He began his career as a photojournalist with the Knight Ridder newspaper corporation, and has gone on to work as a multimedia artist and producer for The New York Times and POV.
As an artist, Ross Smith has exhibited his work internationally with the Smithsonian Institution, the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Brooklyn Museum, the Oakland Museum of California, the Schomburg Center, the Unseen Photo Festival (Amsterdam), Goethe-Institute (Ghana), and Zacheta National Gallery of Art (Poland), to name a few. His collaborative projects “Along The Way” and “Question Bridge: Black Males” were showcased at the Sundance Film Festival among other festivals. His accolades include a TED Residency, an International Center of Photography Infinity Award for New Media, and a Jerome Foundation fellowship.
Ross Smith is a faculty member at the International Center of Photography and New York University, and the associate program director of the nonprofit Kings Against Violence Initiative, a hospital- and school-based non-profit violence prevention organization based in Brooklyn, NY.
Vice President for
Facing History and Ourselves
Marc received a BA in education and MEd from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
The Staenberg Group
Over the past 40+ years, Michael has developed 200 shopping centers comprising more than 35 million square feet of premier retail space. In 2012, he founded The Staenberg Group, a privately held company headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, which is dedicated to building first-class properties to best serve the community. Previously, Michael co-founded THF Realty which grew to become the 3rd largest commercial real estate firm in the U.S.
In 2005, Michael and his wife Carol established the Staenberg Family Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis. While their primary focus is to support Jewish causes, their philanthropy also funds community programs relating to arts and culture, children, education, medical research and social services. In addition to financial support, Michael takes a hands-on approach to improving the overall effectiveness of nonprofits by leveraging pro bono services, industry expertise, cost-saving measures, and in-kind resources.
Michael is widely recognized for his civic and business leadership. He is a member of the International Council of Shopping Centers and the Metropolitan St. Louis Board of Realtors. He serves on the board of directors, or has served in leadership roles, for the Regional Business Council, US Bank, Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance, Jewish Community Center (St. Louis and Denver), Jewish Federation St. Louis, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Barnes Jewish Hospital, Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis, The Sheldon Arts Foundation, Granite City Food & Brewery, and Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh restaurant, among others.
Michael received a BA in Economics and Finance from Arizona State University in 1976. He and Carol reside in St. Louis. They have three daughters living in St. Louis, New York, and Chicago.
Research & Learning Department
Since receiving her PhD in Developmental Psychology from Saint Louis University in 2004, Nicki has worked in the field of applied research and program evaluation, including in the Research and Quality Improvement Department at Parents as Teachers National Center in St. Louis and as a Research Associate Professor at the University of Missouri’s, Missouri Institute of Mental Health. Across her work experiences, Nicki has helped secure federal, state, and local funding to implement programs that focus on improving the lives of youth and their families; designed and supervised quantitative and qualitative evaluations of these programs; and, analyzed, presented and published data from this work.
Youth Advisory Council
Mary “Emmie” Lau
Common Circles creates innovative and unprecedented interactive experiences that provide completely new ways for groups and communities to engage with each other. We invite organizations, institutions, businesses, schools, and individuals that are interested in promoting thoughtful action to join us in this cooperative endeavor. We welcome collaboration and new ideas on our current projects and are available to consult on yours.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about our experiences and how you or your organization can be involved.
For funding sponsorship, or for information on how to make a donation, please email email@example.com.