Lynn M. Ross

Lynn M. Ross, AICP, is the founder of Spirit for Change Consulting, LLC, a boutique consulting firm dedicated to developing creative solutions for people and places working to serve the common good. Growing up outside of Chicago in Joliet, Illinois, helped Ross to develop an early passion for cities and thinking about how those places could work better for the people that live in them. She has dedicated her career to advancing housing affordability, economic mobility, equitable development, and evidence-based policy making.

Ross says her experiences at Cornell were instrumental in helping her define the work she wanted to do as a planner.

"Participating in service-learning courses — with Professor Mildred Warner in CRP and Professor Scott Peters in education — helped me figure out that I wanted to use tactical approaches to research, problem-solving, and engagement to help community decision-makers make more informed choices with the goal of more inclusive organizations and communities."

Prior to founding her consulting firm, Ross directed the $40 million Community and National Initiatives (CNI) program at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami. As CNI's vice president, she led a national team focused expanding talent, opportunity, and engagement in the 26 communities where the Knight brothers once published newspapers. While still based in Washington, DC, Ross served as the deputy assistant secretary for policy development in the Office of Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Appointed by President Obama, Ross led a 23-member team focused on research, budget analysis, and policy development. During her tenure, she led the update to HUD's Research Roadmap, helped to create the Prosperity Playbook initiative and the resulting online toolkit to support economic mobility, and provided leadership on U.S. preparations for Habitat III.

Dedicated to serving mission-driven organizations, Ross has deep experience in the field including past leadership roles at the Urban Land Institute's Terwilliger Center for Housing, National Housing Conference (NHC), and Center for Housing Policy. As executive director of the Terwilliger Center for Housing, Ross spearheaded a number of key research initiatives including the America in 2013 survey examining views on housing, transportation, and community, as well as the Bending the Cost Curve joint research report with Enterprise Community Partners examining the cost drivers for affordable rental housing. As director of state and local initiatives and then as the chief operating officer at NHC and the Terwilliger Center, Ross oversaw the day-to-day operations as well as executing the education, outreach, and technical assistance strategies directed at strengthening housing policies for states and localities. Ross was part of the core team when the MacArthur Foundation recognized NHC and the Center as a 2009 Creative and Effective Institution.

Ross began her career in the research unit of the American Planning Association (APA), serving as the manager of the Planning Advisory Service, providing customized planning research to more than 1,200 subscribing agencies. During her tenue at APA Ross also served as the assistant editor for the inaugural edition of Planning and Urban Design Standards (John Wiley & Sons, 2006), and she served as staff liaison for APA's diversity initiative.

In addition to her M.R.P. from Cornell, Ross holds a B.S. in community and regional planning from Iowa State University. She is a certified planner with the American Institute of Certified Planners and was honored with the 2009 Design Achievement Award by the Iowa State University College of Design, as well as the 2016 Outstanding Young Alumni Award by the Iowa State University Alumni Association.

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