Update from Urban Alliance Board Chair Mary Zients

Dear Friends,

As we look toward the start of a new year, we are also looking toward the start of a new chapter at Urban Alliance. Our wonderful CEO, Eshauna Smith, will be moving on to the next steps in her leadership journey in early 2021.

For 25 years, we have had the privilege to serve our communities by increasing economic opportunity for underserved youth through paid work experience, job skills training, and mentoring. In that time, workforce development has come to be recognized as a critical tool to level the playing field for Black and Brown youth and bridge the opportunity gap too many of them face when entering the working world. Throughout, we have been fortunate to be steered by phenomenal leaders whose innovation and stewardship have enabled us to remain true to our roots while evolving to meet the changing needs of students, families, schools, and employers. Eshauna’s leadership has continued that history.

Over nearly 8 years with Urban Alliance, first as President in 2013 and then as CEO a year later, Eshauna has led a period of exciting growth. Positioning UA locally and nationally as a valuable bridge between schools, employers, and communities, she expanded our capacity to provide critical workforce development to many more students. Eshauna also led our expansion into two new regions and built major partnerships with Bank of America, the Department of Education, Rocket Mortgage, the Barack Obama Foundation, and many more.

In this pandemic year, Eshauna worked tirelessly to solidify UA’s future and ensure our long-term sustainability by leading a quick, successful pivot to virtual programming, introducing new industry pathways for students, forging new relationships with organizations such as New Profit and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and fearlessly advocating for workforce development as a critical lever for racial justice and equity.

So it is with gratitude and love that we support Eshauna’s decision to take her next steps – and we are delighted that she will remain a core part of the Urban Alliance family for years to come, joining her predecessors as a member of our national board of directors. With the relationships, team, and infrastructure she has built, we have no doubt that Urban Alliance will continue to build a more equitable future workforce one student at a time. This year reminded us just how dedicated our team is to ensuring that all students, no matter who they are or where they come from, are able to access the skills, experience, and social capital needed to achieve economic mobility and fulfill their potential.

LeaderFit has already begun the search process for our next CEO (more here) whom we hope to have on board before the end of the first quarter of 2021. In the meantime, I hope you will join me in sending our deepest thanks and well wishes to Eshauna as she begins her transition. The entire Urban Alliance community owes her a debt of deep gratitude!

Thank you as always for your continued support of our students, and best wishes for a very happy and safe holiday season.


Mary Menell Zients
Board Chair, Urban Alliance