Sharon brings over 30 years of experience in economic, small business and community development, most recently at the University of Missouri in Cooperative Extension, where she was Co-Director of Extension’s Community Economic and Entrepreneurial Development (ExCEED) program. Prior to joining the University, she worked for the Missouri Department of Economic Development as the department’s small business specialist and manager of the Missouri Business Assistance Center, where she specialized in business counseling for start-up and early stage small businesses. She has presented numerous workshops and seminars and developed publications and training materials.
Sharon is also the Executive Director for the Missouri Rural Development Partners (MRDP) Missouri’s federally authorized rural development council. She is past-president of the international Community Development Society (CDS) and has served on several boards including the Missouri Economic Development Council (MEDC). She is a leader in the Community Change Network.
Sharon holds an undergraduate degree in business and an MBA. She is a certified Professional Community and Economic Developer (PCED) and Strategic Doing™ Workshop Leader.
Dean Larkin has over forty years of experience working with community groups on a wide variety of issues. He is currently a County Engagement Specialist in Community and Economic Development for University of Missouri Extension, located in Montgomery County Missouri. The work is to engage with community and regional groups and develop community-based strategies to address high priority local goals.
This involves a wide range of issues including Workforce Development, leadership development, organizational development and entrepreneurship. Data analysis and large group processes are applied to create effective action plans. Dean has used Strategic Doing principles and techniques in various settings around Missouri.
Dean worked at the Missouri Department of Economic Development in the Community Block Grant Program (CDBG) and Business Retention and Expansion (BR&E).
Dean has a BA in Sociology and a MS in Community Development. He is a Strategic Doing Workshop Leader.
Rob O’Brian is founder and principal of O’Brian and Associates, LLC, a consultancy in economic, workforce and community development. Rob is dedicated to assisting organizations that help their communities thrive including chambers of commerce, economic development entities, local government, and not-for-profits. He has led short and long-term board and committee planning sessions, conducted workforce studies, researched education levels in poverty areas, assessed business park development opportunities and advised fund-raising efforts. Rob has also been a disaster recovery contractor for the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Prior to founding the company in early 2018, O’Brian led Chambers of Commerce in economic development for more than thirty years. As President of the Joplin (MO) Area Chamber, Rob
led development of a small business incubator; a workforce training center in partnership with the local community college, City and workforce Investment board; and development and marketing of one of the premier business parks in southwest Missouri. In prior chamber roles he developed industrial parks, led efforts to create a community conference center, expanded downtown development efforts and established a Main Street program.
Rob is a strong advocate for workforce development and worked closely with numerous companies and partners to make Joplin (Jasper County) the first ACT Work Ready Certified Community in the U.S. He has been a presenter at the national ACT Workforce conference.
Rob was president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce when the community was hit by an EF-5 tornado in 2011; the most devastating and deadly tornado in U.S. in more than fifty years. The Chamber’s efforts to bring back small businesses were recognized nationally by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Rob has spoken on disaster recovery and preparation to a number of groups from the local to the national level.
Rob is a Strategic Doing Certified Workshop Leader. He is also a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Ball State University with a BS in Telecommunications and minor in journalism. He completed the Executive
Management certification program at Notre Dame University and is a Certified Economic Developer as
designated by the International Economic Development Council. He is a graduate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Organizational Management (IOM).
Dr. Michelle Sabick assumed the role of Dean of Parks College of Engineering, Aviation
and Technology at Saint Louis University in July of 2016. Prior to that she was Chair of
the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Saint Louis University. Dr. Sabick began
her academic career at Boise State University in Boise, Idaho where she co-founded
the Center for Orthopaedic and Biomechanics Research and served as Chair of the
Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering for three years.
Sabick earned a BS degree in Biomedical Engineering from Case Western Reserve
University and MS and PhD degrees in Biomedical Engineering from the University of
Throughout her career, Sabick has been passionate about improving undergraduate
engineering education. She has been highly involved in efforts to transform STEM
teaching practices at both Saint Louis University and Boise State, where she helped
mentor faculty members to infuse courses with more interactive and hands-on learning
experiences. She is currently working on a Boeing-funded project to infuse more math
content into the middle school curriculum in the St. Louis Public School System.
Shellie Sanford is a student services coordinator at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, MO. She earned her doctorate in higher education leadership and has worked in higher education for over 12 years, in both administrative and faculty roles. She is passionate about student success initiatives and innovative thinking. In her free time, she enjoys being with family, gardening, taking her puppy for walks, and decorating cakes.