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New at the Top: Lisa Hall's job is her calling

Sunday, January 23, 2011; 6:57 PM

My father was a civil rights activist in Baltimore who was a part of the organizing activity for securing civil rights. That was a big motivator for me to understand the importance of social justice. We were also raised to understand that social justice and economic justice go hand in hand.

As a young girl, I used to say I wanted to become president. What I love is that I was in a household where people didn't look at me and say that I was crazy. They encouraged me that I could do whatever I wanted to do, and now I can say that I'm president of something.

I started in the late '80s working in community development for a bank straight out of college doing credit analysis in their credit training program and then immediately going to the urban development department to do construction lending in New York City.

I was making loans that developers used to build affordable single-family housing, condominium developments and multifamily rental. That's how I started.

It gave me an early exposure to community development finance and I haven't been able to get away from it since.

Then the first savings-and-loan crisis hit. The market turned and so I thought it would be a good time to get a second degree. I remember I put in my application that I wanted to use finance to work at a nonprofit institution.

At the time I didn't envision that there would be such a place as the Calvert Foundation, but I did have this vision of taking the skills I gained in business school and applying them in a nonprofit setting. Almost 20 years later, here I am.

I also worked for Enterprise Foundation, now known as Enterprise Community Partners. The vision was a nonprofit organization that supports affordable housing throughout the country. I worked on low-income housing tax credit transactions.

I also spent about eight years at Fannie Mae, primarily in the housing and community development division, taking a short break to work for the Clinton administration.

It was a little bit of a scary move, because at that time I think I expected that I would stay at a traditional financial institution doing community development work. Working for the government broadened my scope. I knew I wanted to go beyond the United States and have an impact globally. It was part of my evolution that led me here at Calvert.

I always thought it would be fascinating to work in government. I was active in student government since high school. The government controls and influences are so critical to how people make decisions in the nonprofit sector.

At the National Economic Council, I worked on community development issues where we made a lot of progress around the new markets initiative, which was enacted as legislation and is still operating. It is one of the things I am most proud of in my career. You rarely get the opportunity to work on something that becomes real. It was an opportunity to see policy up close.

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