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Lisa Gordon G’90

Lisa GordonLisa Gordon G’90 describes her Syracuse University experience and graduate studies at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs as “a game changer,” allowing her to follow her interests through a public service career spanning more than 25 years. “I came to Maxwell with passion and enthusiasm for working in the public sector.  When I left I was equipped with both theoretical knowledge and practical experience on how to analyze complex social problems and develop solutions that are effective in bringing about change,” she says.

As the president and chief executive officer of Atlanta Habitat for Humanity—one of the top 10 Habitat for Humanity International affiliates in the United States—Gordon is passionate about transformational redevelopment efforts for quality affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization. In fact, the majority of her career has focused on urban redevelopment and execution of large strategic municipal projects. During Gordon’s tenure as vice president and chief operating officer for the Atlanta BeltLine Inc., the organization opened four parks, developed 11.9 miles of hiking and permanent trails, completed design of more than 50 percent of the BeltLine corridor, and created a multiyear strategic plan. She credits her time as a cabinet member in former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin’s administration for showing her exemplary leadership. She also gained valuable experience as the city manager of East Point, Georgia, and assistant city manager of Austin, Texas.

Gordon applies her Maxwell School education every day to understand the real-world impact of good policy and practice. “I remember my economics professor telling us a fundamental lesson of providing service to the public: ‘There is no free lunch.’  As graduate students, we argued the point until he graphically shared with us the cost to provide the lunch and all of the resources needed to make programs a reality,” Gordon says. “Now I always think about the economic impact of policy and operating solutions, and look for the break-even on impact to the community along with all of the resources needed to provide the service. Maxwell prepared me to understand problems and look for comprehensive solutions.”

Beyond her classroom experience, Gordon was impressed with Maxwell’s multitude of career counseling and job opportunities, and she graduated feeling well prepared for a life in public service. For these reasons, she remains actively involved with Syracuse University and the Maxwell School—serving on the Board of Advisors, mentoring students, hosting students for an SU in Atlanta event in 2015, and addressing the 2016 graduate class. “I think philanthropy gives people an opportunity to invest in SU in a way that gives back to the programs and students,” Gordon says. “SU and Maxwell have been an integral part of my life, and it’s an honor to continue the legacy of this great school.”