Washington University in St. Louis will work alongside 10 other local organizations in a newly formed coalition designed to reduce racial, economic and spatial inequities in the St. Louis region. The St. Louis Anchor Action Network (STLAAN) comprises universities, institutions, businesses, community leaders and other stakeholders committed to reducing inequities through increased employment, health and wealth-building opportunities.
STLAAN grew out of conversations among local leaders that began in December 2019 — and became more urgent in 2020 — amid growing awareness of inequities due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the continued national reckoning with racial injustice.
“Washington University is fully committed to the St. Louis region through its mission and demonstration of operational excellence in how we do business every day within our community,” said Shantay Bolton, executive vice chancellor for administration and chief administrative officer. “We look forward to working in partnership with other leading institutions and community partners to address inequity in employment, income and imbalanced access to opportunity. Our aim is to engage in impactful collaborations that provide economic opportunity to create a fairer, better community for all of us and our future generations.”
In addition to WashU, founding network members are BJC HealthCare, Edward Jones, Harris-Stowe State University, Mercy Health, St. Louis Community College, Saint Louis University, the Saint Louis Zoo, SSM Health, the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Webster University.
STLAAN’s initial goal is for member institutions to increase employment and spending in high-poverty areas with the aim of increasing the share of Black and brown employees in their workforces as well as expanding spending with businesses owned by people of color in those areas.
Stefani Weeden-Smith will serve as the network’s inaugural director. Weeden-Smith, who has more than 20 years of experience in community engagement, most recently worked at WashU as the assistant director of community engagement at the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement.
“People have been waiting too long,” Weeden-Smith said. “This has to be something different. It’s a different time, and I think people are at that place where we can’t continue to ignore the inequities in our city. I’m excited about WashU’s involvement and convening all of the institutions so we can move forward and make these commitments together.”
Learn more about the St. Louis Anchor Action Network.