Samira Behrooz joined the Design Trust staff in August 2017 after spending three years at the City of Toronto. She worked with Toronto’s City Planning Department focusing on heritage planning and urban design studies, and worked earlier, as a Toronto Urban Fellow, on healthy public policies and Complete Streets Guidelines. Before joining the City, she consulted on the Public Realm Plan for the Toronto Financial District Business Improvement Area. Samira holds a Master of Urban Development (MPl) from Ryerson University, and a Master of Historic Preservation and a BArch from Tehran Azad University. Email Samira.
Elana Ehrenberg joined the Design Trust in October 2019. Previously, Elana was the Community Relations Manager at NYC Ferry Operated by Hornblower, where she managed the ferry’s government relations and community outreach since its launch in 2017. Elana worked to create strategic partnerships with local businesses, civic groups and non-profits in all of the neighborhoods surrounding NYC Ferry landings. Before joining the ferry, she worked in the New York City Council where she was the Director of Special Projects for Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, managing the Participatory Budgeting process. Elana received her B.A. from New York University studying music, but after college she became interested in access to public space and transportation while working for a local music festival. She is the recipient of City & State’s Responsible 100 award (2018) and recently graduated from Coro’s Leadership New York program (2019). Elana is also the Chair of the 50th Assembly District Committee made up of County Committee representatives in the Kings County Democratic Party in North Brooklyn. Email Elana.
Ryanna Fossum joined Design Trust in April 2019 after spending two years in Los Angeles with Water Education for Latino Leaders (WELL). She began working with WELL as a CivicSpark Americorp Water Fellow and later became WELL’s Program Manager, where she worked with Latino elected officials to build their water policy knowledge and leadership skills. She is deeply passionate about the nexus between equity, natural resource management and urban sustainability. Ryanna holds a BA in Geology and Environmental Studies from Oberlin College and is enthusiastic about pasta, true crime podcasts, and getting lost in the woods. Email Ryanna.
Leslie Griesbach Schultz has been working with non-profit organizations and their senior management teams for more than 30 years, first as an attorney and then as the long-time head of BRIC, the Brooklyn arts institution, where she led successful efforts to raise the profile and impact of BRIC’s work, and ensure that BRIC achieved its mission to make cultural programs free and accessible on a large scale and to meaningfully support Brooklyn artists and media-makers. This included the successful launch of a newly designed 40,000 square feet arts and media venue. During her 13-year tenure, BRIC’s budget grew from $3.7M to $15.8M, and the organization launched numerous new initiatives, greatly expanding its reach. Schultz most recently served as Interim CEO of Inspirica: from homeless to home, a homeless services organization based in Stamford CT. In her law and management roles, Schultz developed deep experience in both cross-sector and public-private partnerships. Schultz is a graduate of Harvard Law School and former partner at the law firms of Manatt Phelps and Phillips and Kalkines Arky Zall & Bernstein. Email Leslie
Dhanya Rajagopal joined as a Communications Intern at Design Trust while pursuing her Masters in Urban Placemaking and Management from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn NY. Prior to this she worked at Gehl Institute as a Research Intern, where she was involved in updating the Public Life Toolkit version 2.0. She received a thesis grant from Pratt Institute for her participatory research on cultural landscape study of coastal commons in Chennai, India. In 2018, she participated in a semester long travel studio in Havana, Cuba to study housing, public space and civic engagement models. Dhanya worked as an architect in Chennai, Auroville and Bangalore before her graduate program. She also has a Bachelors Degree in Architecture from Meenakshi College of Engineering, Chennai, India. She enjoys writing poetry, playing ukulele in the park, and chai time conversations. Email Dhanya
Alisa Schierman recently joined the Design Trust staff in August 2017. She has over two decades of non-profit management and fundraising experience. Most recently she had a consulting practice working with small performing arts organizations. Alisa was also the Director of Development at New York Theatre Workshop (NYTW) from 2008 until 2015 where in partnership with NYTW’s leadership was able to turn a $1 million deficit into a $2 million cash reserve.
Her areas of expertise include: board development, major gift and individual giving strategy, as well as a deep knowledge of foundation fundraising. Alisa holds a Master’s Degree in Urban Affairs from Hunter College. She is also a classically trained singer and a member of the New York Community Chorus. Email Alisa.
Charisse Weston joined the Design Trust in September 2019, after earning her MFA in Studio Art, with a Critical Theory Emphasis at the University of California, Irvine. A current participant in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Studio Program and an artist in resident at Abrons Art Center’s AIRspace Visual Artist Residency, Charisse is a visual artist whose work has been shown in notable national venues including two solo exhibitions at Project Row Houses (Houston, Texas), the Los Angeles Contemporary Archive, and most recently at Praz-Delavallade Gallery, Los Angeles. She has received competitive awards, fellowships, and residencies from the Dallas Museum of Art, Artadia Fund for the Arts, the Dedalus Foundation, and was a 2019 nominee for the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s Painters and Sculptors Grant. She also holds a MSc in Modern Art: History, Curating and Criticism from the University of Edinburgh. Email Charisse.