More than once, Lisa Rawlings has found herself at a career crossroads. She’s worked in child and family services, at a health foundation, and for the criminal justice system. All have a common thread—service. So perhaps it’s fitting that her next pivot was helping others navigate career changes.
Rawlings is the president and CEO of National Urban Fellows (NUF), a leadership accelerator for mid-career professionals, particularly people of color and women, interested in making a deeper social impact. Rawlings is herself an alumna of the program, which includes a master’s in policy management from Georgetown, mentorship with senior executives, and access to a thriving network.
The reason we don’t see more people of color leading nonprofits, philanthropies, and in government, Rawlings says, “is often because they’re looking for others already in their networks. They’re thinking very narrowly. We look to disrupt that.”
Previously a chief of staff at a federal government agency, Rawlings was appointed NUF CEO in June 2020, taking over at a critical time for the 52-year-old organization.
“I walked into what I knew would be a turnaround,” says Rawlings. And closing the doors was not an option. “It’s an organization I’m deeply invested in, and I knew that there’s such immense talent in this pool. I wanted to be a part of making sure that we would see another 50, another 150 years.”
In just over a year, Rawlings reports “tremendous strides” thanks in part to her clear vision. “I knew what it needed,” she says, “but I also felt well equipped from my Haas training.”