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Women of Strength: Alicia Wilson

Alicia Wilson/Johns Hopkins University

Alicia Wilson’s enthusiasm is electric. Her leadership journey was sparked as a young woman from East Baltimore attending Mergenthaler Vocational- Technical High School with its motto “Engage! Empower! Excel!”

Wilson has embodied these words through every level of her academic and professional career, beginning with stellar (and awarded) years at Mervo, UMBC and the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. Then, as the first African-American partner at Gordon Feinblatt law firm, as vice president of community affairs and legal advisor to Sagamore Development Company (a Plank Industries Company), as senior vice president of impact investments and senior legal counsel to the Port Covington development team and in her current post as the vice president of economic development for Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Health System.

All of this, and Wilson is only 39.

“There were a number of critical moments that happened in Mervo that opened up my eyes,” she recalls about the 15-year-old girl who hoped to learn a trade in case she couldn’t afford college out of high school. Pivotal programs transformed her outlook, perception of herself and her abilities. They included the College Bound program, Law Links (now called MyLaw) and interning at the Public Justice Center.

“Getting to see how words and advocacy and power all come together lit a spark in me that said, ‘I want to use my voice, or use whatever positions I was afforded, for the good of my community,’” Wilson says. “I learned leadership is to serve, but leadership is to be at the forefront. And leadership is also to put yourself sometimes at a sacrifice.”

Whether being mentored by Freeman Hrabowski at UMBC, or working for a judge on the Supreme Court for the City of Baltimore in the juvenile division, Wilson was gathering “formative experiences” that helped her “to see leaders leading, but also to recognize how to marry my experiences of East Baltimore with my professional background, to blend them, and to use that as a knowledge base to have context.”

Keeping one foot planted firmly in the community and one foot in powerful board rooms, Wilson uses her influence to spark real change for Baltimore.

A large part of her work at Hopkins is to scrutinize the institution’s every aspect, from HR and procurement, and design and construction, to supply chains, investment portfolios and where Hopkins grows in physical structure.

The work Wilson loves, her skill at disrupting traditional structures to serve the community and her leadership are a culmination of all she has learned along the way.

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