The Team

Natalie Self,
Executive Director


Natalie Self brings an extensive background in building a more equitable St. Louis through cross-sector collective leadership, operationalizing equity frameworks for regional change, and national grant-making.

Most immediately prior to this role, Natalie served as a Program Officer in Entrepreneurship at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, where she managed a national grant portfolio totaling more than $24M in investments made to organizations implementing novel approaches to supporting entrepreneurs from communities systemically left behind. In this role, she facilitated diversity, equity, and inclusion learning conversations with 34 member foundations of the national Entrepreneurship Funders Network.

Prior to her work at Kauffman, Natalie served as a Program Manager at BioSTL, where she was responsible for the operations and evaluation of the BioSTL Inclusion Initiative. In this role, Natalie also drafted the framework we used to launch STEMSTL. She also founded the St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective.

Natalie has a Masters in Social Work from Washington University in St Louis, and is a graduate of the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs.

Daniel Ristau, 
AmeriCorps VISTA


Dan serves as an AmeriCorps VISTA supporting STEMSTL. Dan’s role is to support the overall operations of the STEM Ecosystem by establishing and facilitating a management system for Salesforce, the ecosystem workgroups, and the ecosystem’s communications strategy.

Dan has a diverse background of experiences. Prior to STEMSTL, Dan worked as a Laboratory Technician for almost four years, and meanwhile served on the board of directors of a non-profit religious organization for six years. 

Dan graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from University of Missouri—St. Louis in 2014. He is very passionate about STEM and STEM education, and is always looking for opportunities to help others.  Dan personally loves mathematics and logic-based problem solving, despite not liking them very much when he was young!  When not working for STEMSTL or reading on a variety of thought-provoking topics, Dan loves playing guitar and hiking through the woods with his wife, Cara.

Kate Polokonis,
Program Coordinator

Kate Headshot

Kate is a former teacher with experience in St. Louis public schools and out-of-school STEM programs. Her experiences in the classroom led her to return to graduate school to study social and economic development and social policy as a way to foster change in the systems surrounding education and child wellbeing.

Kate received her MSW from The Brown School of Social Work at Washington University. During her graduate career, Kate focused on workforce development. She project managed the launch of Starkloff Disability Institute’s DREAM BIG program, a career-exploration camp for teens with disabilities, from pilot program to full implementation. At Ready by 21, she supported the Regional Youth Employment Coalition and led the research on regional short-term credentialing programs that formed the basis for the online portal Blueprint4Careers. Kate has led community-organizing efforts to end the school-to-prison pipeline and implement anti-racist and restorative disciplinary policies in districts throughout the St. Louis area.

Kate is a Tomorrow Builder Fellow at WEPOWER where she focuses on improving governance and coordination in St. Louis’s early-childhood system.

Kate is a life-long St. Louis resident and passionate about promoting racial and economic equity in her hometown.




Deborah Patterson, 
STEMSTL Champion


Deborah Patterson serves as Champion for BioSTL’s STEMSTL initiative. Deborah recently retired as Vice President of Global Contributions and Employee Engagement at Monsanto (now Bayer). Prior to joining Monsanto, Deborah was CEO of the American Red Cross of Eastern Missouri. She also previously served in St. Louis City government, holding two cabinet positions concurrently: Executive Director of the St. Louis Agency on Employment and Training and Director of the Community Development Agency. As director of development, Deborah was the mayor’s top advisor for housing and economic development.


Deborah attended the University of Missouri-St. Louis and has participated in the Harvard Kennedy School Senior Executives in State and Local Government program and the Leadership St. Louis program. Her past community service includes board involvement on several local organizations, including the United Way of Greater St. Louis, President of the Board of FOCUS St. Louis, and member of City+Arch+River Design and Construction Committees. She currently serves on the boards of directors for Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis Public Library Foundation, St. Joseph’s Academy, the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, and the Board of Delta Dental of Missouri.

Learn more about STEMSTL.

See our current list of community partners.

See current job opportunities.