Hester Street’s new Executive Director Eva Neubauer Alligood recently sat down with Board President Timothy Johnson to discuss Eva’s professional journey to Hester Street, what makes the organization so unique, and why HST is poised to address some of the key issues facing cities today.

Listen to the full conversation here:

Read highlights from the conversation:

Timothy Johnson: What drew you to Hester Street and what excites you most about its mission and impact?

Eva Neubauer Alligood: I’m excited about HST because it’s a hugely impactful organization committed to social, racial, and economic justice. At the heart of our mission is making sure that the voices of folks in the community that have been left out are not only heard but have agency to affect the conditions of the places where they live, work, and play.

Timothy Johnson: What about your personal experiences motivated you to do this work? How did you get into community development?

Eva Neubauer Alligood: When I was young growing up in the city of Pittsburgh that had neighborhoods that had suffered from disinvestment and redlining and all the things we see here in New York City and other places where we work,  I was very aware that something wasn’t right. I got into community development because I had a notion that there was a field of work that’s about making those conditions better by bringing people into the process and helping them to shape their environment.

Timothy Johnson: What do you think HST’s focus should be over the next several years?

Eva Neubauer Alligood: We have so many crises unfolding at this moment in time. And that’s where I see HST’s value add is our ability to respond to the key issues of today, which are racial justice, climate change and climate justice, the incredible pressures that people are feeling around housing affordability and homelessness. A lot of what we’re doing is finding in allyship with other organizations ways to address those key issues that we are confronting.

Timothy Johnson: How do you see staff development impacting HST’s work?

Eva Neubauer Alligood: I think we should be really focused on racial equity, not just in the work we do but also within the organization. We want to ensure that folks who represent the communities we serve get a chance to work at HST, gain the skills, are invested in, so that they can become leaders either at HST or in other settings. One example of building the talent pipeline that I’m really excited about is the Jim Diego Fellowship, which will launch this summer. It’s in honor of someone who we sadly lost on our team last year, Jim Diego, and it’s a fellowship for graduate students of color who are interested in working at HST to gain hands-on skills and to build out their professional networks. We all know that in any profession, it’s so important to build a network and experience to get your foot in the door, so I see HST as a training ground for that, and we can be very intentional about who we bring in to provide those opportunities.