April 2022 Alumni Spotlight
Director of Operations at the Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development (ANHD), Lauren Nye, tells us more about her role, the challenges she’s faced, and what drew her towards nonprofit operations.
What drew you to nonprofit operations?
I’m a 4th generation New Yorker from a very white, segregated section of the Bronx, City Island. Until 8th grade, I lived a very sheltered life and didn’t know or understand the extent of how inequitable some of NYC’s social systems were.
I became focused on the importance of one’s community, and more specifically, one’s home on your health, ability to engage in your education, and overall life potential. I didn’t have grand ideas on how to fix our housing or other inequitable systems, but I knew I wanted to continue learning about them and that my writing and project management skills could help in some way. Thus began my nonprofit career in development, as a grant writer for The Door and University Settlement.
For nearly a decade, I have continued to advance my skills and ability to support New York City nonprofits that focus on housing and community development. I obtained my MPA from Baruch (2017-2020), which helped me transition into my current role as Director of Operations at the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD). I’m now in a position that both supports my 15+ New Yorker colleagues and helps secure grants that support our 80+ nonprofit members across New York. I’m passionate about giving other New Yorkers access to the same opportunities and privileges that have helped me live my best life.
My work in operations at ANHD is also helping me to continue my personal life project to desegregate City Island with a new housing and economic development approach.
Tell us about your role as Director of Operations at ANHD. What are some challenges you’ve faced that have surprised you?
As Director of Operations for ANHD, I’m responsible for leading our fundraising, and I oversee and manage staff and consultants who support our communications, finances, HR, IT, and events. I spend most days shuffling between talking with staff about their work and translating that information into grant applications and reports, ensuring work plans and priorities are reflected in our budgets, and thinking through current and new benefits and compliance laws. I like the variety of ways I can strengthen ANHD, our work, and our members’ work, which then supports a stronger affordable housing and economic development ecosystem in NYC.
The biggest challenge I’ve faced in this role has been COVID. COVID has truly tried my capacity to balance work and life priorities. I’ve been in overdrive mode since March 2020, working to understand if we have funding to do the work our members are asking of us and ensuring we don’t have to furlough staff. I’ve also spent countless hours understanding and then enacting various compliance protocols. Through it all though, I am usually surprised when I step back and see and remember how resourceful and resilient nonprofits are. ANHD started COVID with one office laptop and one staff who knew how to use zoom, and we have persisted through this all with solid data, coalition building, and training that has helped New Yorkers.
I am grateful in this complex, challenging and surprising moment for colleagues and partners who remind me of how much we have built and addressed, and how much potential is in this moment to change our communities.
Is there an experience you had while getting your MPA at the Marxe School in particular that sticks out to you? A favorite professor or class?
All of my Baruch experiences, especially the relationships established with classmates, reminded me of how much I have learned by going through the New York Public school system — from Kindergarten through post-grad programs at SUNY and CUNY. However, Intergroup Dialogue, which Sonja Jarvis and Nancy Aires fought to teach in the MPA program, was my most memorable Baruch moment.
Intergroup Dialogue fosters conversations between members of two or more social identity groups to create new levels of understanding, relating, and action. This course was one of the few options I had to focus specifically and intently on my racial equity competencies at Baruch and I was lucky enough to be in the inaugural class, along with about ten other graduate and undergraduate students.
Intergroup Dialogue was fundamental to helping me rethink my work and approach in the nonprofit sector and at ANHD specifically. The course and my classmates deepened and expanded my racial equity competencies and stamina (reminding me that this is an ongoing learning process). Intergroup Dialogue pushed me to dig deeper into my identity, how my actions impact others, and how to pivot to be a better ally. I really valued this experience and think the class should be required for anyone working in the public sector.