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Pictured is Ed.D. student Cheryl Hall-Russell, president and CEO of Hill House Association and Hill House Economic Development Corporation. | Photo by Jim Judkis

Meet Cheryl Hall-Russell

Job titles: President and CEO
Employers: Hill House Association and Hill House Economic Development Corporation
Pursuing: Ed.D. in leadership and administration, professional leadership track, Point Park University
Degrees earned: M.P.A. in nonprofit management and M.A. in philanthropic studies, 1999; graduate certificate in public management, 1997 and B.A. in liberal arts, 1992, Indiana University
Hometown: Indianapolis, Ind.
High school: Northwest High School
Now living in: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Hobbies/interests: Writing, working out, history and genealogy
Twitter: @challruss
LinkedIn: Cheryl Hall-Russell, MA., M.P.A.

Point Park University doctoral student Cheryl Hall-Russell has been named a BusinessWomen First 2015 Award Winner by the Pittsburgh Business Times. The completion of the Centre Heldman Plaza and the Hill House Passport Academy Charter School are among her recent accomplishments. Learn more about Hall-Russell's recognition.

What was your reaction to being named one of the BusinessWomen First 2015 Award Winners?

There are thousands of women leaders in Pittsburgh so I was very honored to be one of the 26 chosen for this award. When I heard the news, I immediately thought about how grateful I am for my staff and that we are being recognized for our work.

As a president and CEO, why did you decide to pursue a doctoral degree?

I've been in leadership roles for more than 20 years now. I'm a life-long learner. Like my grandmother, it's always been of interest to me to get better at what I do and take it to another level. I felt that with a doctoral degree in leadership and administration I could learn even more.

In the future, I'd also like to teach in the classroom so it was important that I got into a program that would prepare me to transition into teaching after working in direct service.

What factors made you choose Point Park University?

When I moved to Pittsburgh from Indianapolis, I began to hear so much about Point Park University. The Downtown campus atmosphere was familiar to me because I graduated from a university that was located in Downtown Indianapolis. Also, when I was interviewing for the Ed.D. program, I was really impressed with the faculty. I saw that Point Park was progressive and a university in which I would be proud to be affiliated with.

Tell us about your experiences so far as a student in the Ed.D. program.

Initially, there was some trepidation coming into the program. I had not been in school since 1999 so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to "get back on that horse" easily. However, meeting my cohort group was a very positive experience. We bonded very quickly and this has been essential to my success so far. We're a tight-knit group who depends and supports one another. It's great that each time one of us dips, the other one lifts. Also, the quality of what we are learning has been great but it is fast and intense.

What are your key responsibilities as president and CEO of Hill House?

I'm responsible for all of the staff including supervising senior-level employees ranging from vice presidents to directors. We also have a seven-building campus that I'm responsible for keeping in good shape for our programs and tenants. In addition, we lease to 23 other nonprofits so we must maintain good relationships with them and ensure they are positively supporting the Hill District. I also serve on the board of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh.

In terms of programming, it's my responsibility to make sure there is a proper mix of programming that is responsive to community needs. I meet regularly with the directors to evaluate programming and make sure we are on track by looking at program outcomes and data. If you are a nonprofit executive, you've also got to be an entrepreneur. We are always looking at what the next program could be and new ways to do things more effectively. For instance, we just applied for funding for a program to work with the police department and emergency responders in Pittsburgh to increase the number of minorities working in public service.

Day to day, I serve as the ambassador and spokesperson for Hill House. I am often outside of the office looking for new opportunities and partnerships. I also write a lot - including op-eds, grants, policy statements and strategic plans. I can't emphasize enough the importance of writing.

You've already achieved so much. What's next for you?

In my organization, there has been a lot of restructuring and rebuilding. I want to ensure that the process is complete and that the Hill House is having maximum impact in the Hill District for the residents we serve. That is my immediate goal for the next few years.

Your final thoughts?

I love the saying "Service is the rent we pay for life." I have a strong service-orientation because I believe giving back is what we are mandated to do. Sometimes I think people see that as difficult. You've got to see it as an honor. I'm honored that I'm able to do the kind of work I do every day. It's part of my personal mission as well as my professional mission. It's really cool when you can do them both.

More About: graduate education, Downtown Pittsburgh, education, Ed.D. in leadership and administration, doctoral programs, doctoral student