By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, [email protected]
Alicia Wilson, the ascending attorney and civic leader rooted firmly in the East Baltimore community where she grew up, has been tapped for a new position of leadership at Johns Hopkins University.
The university announced Wilson, 35 will become their vice-president for economic development starting in July.
“In this new role, Wilson will lead a core team driving Johns Hopkins’ institution-wide strategy and initiatives as an anchor institution in and around Baltimore, and elevating and expanding Hopkins signature commitment to the city through investments in economic and neighborhood development, healthcare, and education,” Hopkins said in a statement.
Wilson, a 2000 graduate of Merganthaler Vocational-Technical High School, (known as Mervo) in East Baltimore comes to Hopkins from what many characterize as her standout work with the Port Covington Development team, from Plank Industries, Sagamore Development, Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group and Weller Development Company.
Since 2016, Wilson who graduated magna cum laude from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), has served as senior vice president of Impact Investments and senior legal counsel for Port Covington Impact Investments and vice president of Community Affairs and legal advisor for Sagamore Development Company. A 2007 graduate from the University of Maryland Carey Law School, Wilson led the execution of the largest community benefits agreement in Baltimore City’s history as part of the Port Covington redevelopment project in South Baltimore.
Prior to her work at Sagamore, Wilson spent eight years as a labor and employment and litigation partner at Gordon Feinblatt LLC.
“I’m from East Baltimore, but I feel like I’m just from Baltimore right? And…Hopkins is an economic driver in this city, state and region. So, to get to be at the helm, strategizing and implementing economic development strategy, as well at both the health system and the university is really a chance of a lifetime,” Wison said by phone.
“That’s really my main motivation for wanting to take a next step in progression of just being able to invest in this city that cared for me.”
Wilson begins her new role on July 29 and she will report directly to Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels and Kevin Sowers, president of the Johns Hopkins Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine.
“It’s the creation of a new office and the positioning of me as a direct report to the president, I think, is a huge move, in the sense that where it is positioned within the institution speaks volumes about the authority within that space,” Wilson said, referring to the new location of her office on the Homewood Campus.
Wilson, who still lives in East Baltimore’s Frankford community where she grew up, said she is fully aware, “as a student of history,” of the many systemic practices, often rooted in racism, that have devastated mostly Black communities throughout Baltimore over generations. She approaches the work of economic redevelopment in these communities from a very personal place.
“I’m more like a pilot on a plane, so I have to live with the very same decisions that I’ve been able to make,” Wilson said.
“That’s been part of my sensitivity to the challenges. But, also understanding opportunity and being in the business world…I was a partner in a law firm, having all that within my background, allows me to approach this with a little bit of a 360 view on the challenges that we face. And also with an understanding of a school that allows for revitalization to happen in a way that honors indigenous people in neighborhoods that is honorable to communities and allows for them to move forward without leaving people behind,”she added.
Yet, given the lens of history she alluded to during her conversation with the AFRO, Wilson seems clear-eyed about the challenges, limitations and possibilities of her new position.
“You have to be honest about this stuff…the way certain streets look is not by accident, Wilson said. “Organizations are filled with imperfect people. We have to examine what we do and how we do it and charge forward differently. I wouldn’t want [people] to believe we are going to boil the ocean or melt the ice caps, but I would want [people] to come away with believing this is not business as usual.”