Community Builders Network Staff


Jenny Connelly-Bowen

Jenny Connelly-Bowen is passionate about work that builds strong, inclusive communities. She has a B.A. in English from Beloit College and a master’s degree from UMSL in Public Policy Administration with certificates in Nonprofit Management & Leadership and Policy & Program Evaluation. Prior to entering the community development field, Jenny spent over five years working in distribution, buying, and pricing at Save-A-Lot Food Stores. She believes in the power and potential of stories to build bridges and break through walls and is committed to cultivating a sense of place and purpose in her work.


Gary Newcomer

Director of Operations

As a native of South St. Louis City, Gary Newcomer has always held a passion for exploring and strengthening the rich fabric of neighborhoods in the St. Louis region. He graduated from Boston College and later received a master’s degree from Saint Louis University in Urban Planning and Development with a research focus on alleys in St. Louis City. Before starting at CBN, Gary worked on historic redevelopment projects in St. Louis and Davenport, Iowa and specialized in the historic tax credit program. His background in urban planning and historic real estate development have informed his approach to community development and made him a strong believer in place-based solutions for promoting vibrant and inclusive neighborhoods.


Tara Aubuchon

Throughout her career, Tara Aubuchon has supported diverse stakeholders in shaping and achieving goals related to design and community development. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Washington University and a Master in City Planning degree from MIT. Before starting at CBN, she worked in the fields of green building and affordable housing, engaging in complex community projects and facilitating organizational planning processes. Tara is committed to supporting the growing coalition tackling vacancy in St. Louis and believes that at its root, addressing vacancy is about addressing structural inequities, disinvestment, and most importantly, helping all communities thrive.

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Fatimah Muhammad

Fatimah Muhammad is a native St. Louisan that was touched by its beautiful historic city neighborhoods.  She purchased a home, and has been a city dweller for over 20 years. She is a grassroots, social organizer and serial entrepreneur whose life’s journey has spanned over several different occupations, businesses and subcultures.  Her compassion for people and a passion for community building led her to form the Hyde Park Neighborhood Association of North St. Louis. Her background includes Contract Compliance Officer and Minority and Women-owned Business Certification Specialist  for the City of St. Louis. Prior to retiring, her successful entrepreneurial path spanned over four decades and included: Entrepreneur Career Coach, Small Business Consultant, Executive Director of WOMB and owner of In Stages.

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Ronald Jones

Vacancy Collaborative Research and Capacity Building VISTA

Ronald Jones is a first-year AmeriCorps VISTA working with the Vacancy Collaborative on research and capacity building. Ronald is a recent graduate of Neighborhood Leadership Fellows and received a certificate in Civic Leadership from University of Missouri-St. Louis. He is a proud resident of the 4th Ward / Jeff-Vander-Lou and looking to partner and come up with innovative ways to not only help build his community, but St. Louis City as a whole.

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Vacancy Collaborative Communications and Events VISTA

Lilly Murphy is an AmeriCorps VISTA working with the Vacancy Collaborative on communications and events. She holds a Bachelor's of Science in Psychology from Fontbonne University. As a lifelong St. Louisan, she is passionate about helping organizations in the area build capacity through increasing communication and building positive working relationships that empower the city to flourish.


Beth Kernaghan

Beth Kernaghan is an MSW practicum student concentrating in social and economic development at Washington University. Originally from the Chicago area, Beth moved to St. Louis after completing two terms of service as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Omaha, Nebraska where she supported high school students on their path to higher education. Beth has a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Communication Studies with minors in Spanish and social work. She is passionate about developing sustainable and equitable communities. 


Alana Janssen

Alana Janssen is a graduate student at Saint Louis University studying Social Work with an emphasis in communities and organizations. During her years in St. Louis, she has seen the power of community through her work in non-profit agencies. Coming from Alabama, she witnessed the strengths that lie in St. Louis’ neighborhoods and unique community dynamic. Alana believes that progress can be made when we work together and capitalize on individual strengths.


Advisors to Staff


Todd Swanstrom

Co-Founder & Advisor

As the Des Lee Professor of Community Collaboration and Public Policy Administration at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL), Todd Swanstrom has used the resources of his endowment to support CBN. He has a master’s degree from Washington University and a Ph.D. from Princeton. He is the co-author of Place Matters: Metropolitics for the Twenty-First Century, 3rd ed. (2014) and is co-editor of Justice and the American Metropolis (2011). Presently, Todd is doing research on neighborhood change in older industrial cities and the challenges of equity planning in fragmented suburbs.


Karl Guenther

Co-Founder & Advisor

Karl Guenther helped to organize and launch CBN in 2011. He joined the Public Policy Research Center (PPRC, now the Community Innovation & Action Center) at UMSL in June 2011 as a Community Development Specialist to facilitate and staff a network of community development organizations in the St. Louis region. Before joining the PPRC, Karl worked at the Incarnate Word Foundation on their strategic initiatives in North St. Louis. He received a Master of Social Work from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, where he concentrated on social and economic development and research. He also holds a B.S. in Psychology and a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion from Truman State University.