Board & Staff

The LCU Fund is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors and managed by a full time Executive Director.

Current Board Officers

Linda J. Wright, President

Linda migrated to NYC in 1970 from a small town (pop. minus 1,000) in Massachusetts. Graduating from Wagner College, Staten Island with a dual B.A. in English Literature and Religion/Philosophy, she saw a future in lifting up others while exploring the world. Her first stop was west London where she taught for two years in a struggling secondary girls’ school comprised in equal thirds of working-class whites and recently settled immigrants from India and the Caribbean. When her visa expired, she returned to NYC to pursue an M.A. in TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language), expecting to be back overseas soon. No money pushed her to take a clerical position in the development office at Teachers College, Columbia University to help finance her studies. This decision led to a professional sea change: Linda now saw the non-profit sector–focusing on institutional development, fundraising, and management–as an even more effective, inclusive way to reach people in need. As her multi-decade career at Teachers College (1975-96) and Spence-Chapin Services to Families and Children (1996-2013) wound down and she looked to supplement past volunteer/board commitments, Linda embraces the work of the LCU Fund and writes, “Each of our student’s stories has reinforced how important/critical the LCU Fund is to her success and has reminded me of my mother’s and their shared dream: “That I/We be the first in our families to go to college; have a meaningful, successful career, and always remember/give back to our roots.”

Lindsey Counts, Vice President

Lindsey Counts is a Senior Attorney with New York State Homes and Community Renewal’s Fair and Equitable Housing Office.  In this role, she advises on state and federal fair housing law and assists in the development of policy and procedure to promote access to affordable housing statewide.  Prior to this position, she worked as an Associate at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP and as an Analyst at Goldman Sachs.  A native New Yorker, Lindsey earned a BA in History from Yale College and a JD from Yale Law School.  She is a co-chair of the Prison & Re-Entry Ministry at the Church of the Heavenly Rest, where she also serves on the vestry.

Sofya Shuster, Treasurer

Sofya is a Director of Real Estate Finance at ING in New York. In this role Sofya is responsible for underwriting, execution, and portfolio management of commercial real estate loans across the United States. She is also a Global Sustainability Champion for Real Estate Finance at ING, acting as a connector between Sustainable Finance and Real Estate Finance teams. Previously, Sofya worked in Loan Syndications at ING in Amsterdam and London, where she was responsible for underwriting, structuring, and distribution of syndicated loans in Europe. Over the course of her career she has covered a number of sectors, including infrastructure, energy, transportation, and commercial real estate. Originally from Russia, Sofya received a BSc Cum Laude in Economics from Lomonosov Moscow State University. Thanks to her participation in a prestigious international Huygens Scholarship Programme, she had an opportunity to continue her studies in the Netherlands. She received an MSc Cum Laude in Finance and Investments from the Rotterdam School of Management (Erasmus University), which launched her career in international banking. Since 2014, Sofya holds a chartered financial analyst (CFA) designation. Given her personal experience, Sofya cannot underestimate the value of non-profit organizations supporting education and she is keen to contribute her time, energy, and resources for this cause. In her free time, Sofya enjoys visual and performing arts, reading, aerial acrobatics training, and travel.

Sandra M. Stevenson, Secretary and Co-Chair, Communications & Development Committee

Sandra is an award-winning Assistant Editor in the photography department at The New York Times. She oversees digital photo editors on the news desk and works on visual content for Race/Related and the Gender, in addition to special projects such as “Overlooked.” She’s originally from Albuquerque, NM and was raised in Cheyenne, WY. After receiving a BA in English from Syracuse University, Sandra spent four years working at NBC – first as a Page and then working on various news programs. From there, she became the program coordinator for the Black Filmmaker Foundation. During her time there, she held a deep commitment to helping people of color enter the film industry at various levels. Sandra then returned to the news industry, by taking on a position at The Associated Press, where she spent eight years moving up from photo assistant to overseeing photo news coverage for Latin America and the Caribbean. She also took time to work on and an advanced degree in multimedia from L’Universite Toulouse in France. Sandra was a contributing writer in the book “Unseen: Unpublished Black History from The New York Times Photo Archives.” Most recently, she was the picture editor and co-curator on the book “This Is 18.” She currently serves as a governor on the Overseas Press Club – America. Previously she was the board president at the Bronx Documentary Center as well as a board member of the American Montessori Society.

Carol Ann Starmack, Assistant Treasurer

Carol has over twenty-five years of senior leadership experience in the nonprofit arena, ten of them at the c-suite level. Most recently she served as the Chief Operating Officer of the American Montessori Society (AMS), a 16,000+ member professional society that sets standards for Montessori schools and teacher education programs and credentials Montessori teachers. It also offers high-quality professional development to Montessori administrators, faculty, and teachers. Prior to joining AMS in 2013, in addition to consulting for nonprofit organizations, she was the Senior Vice President of The Century Foundation, a progressive, nonpartisan think tank that seeks to foster opportunity, reduce inequality, and promote security at home and abroad. She served as its Chief Operating Officer. Carol has a strong commitment to equality and justice and views the work of LCU as a making a vital contribution to creating a more just world by helping NYC women of modest means succeed and thrive. She holds a Master of Public Administration from Baruch College’s Executive program and a Bachelor of Science from the City University of New York Baccalaureate Program. She is a native New Yorker.

Board Members

Leslie Ehrlich

As an advisor, staff member, and board member, Leslie has been nurturing innovation in the business and non-profit worlds for many years. Leslie began her career at The Boston Consulting Group and went on to lead product development and marketing organizations for Citigroup, Instinet, JPMorgan Chase, GE and Mastercard.  An early advocate for the internet’s potential to transform our lives, her best-known and most widely used product is the chase.com online banking website, which underwent a top-to-bottom redo following the JPMorgan Chase/Bank One merger.  In addition to websites, she has also launched credit cards and mutual fund families. Her non-profit roles include serving on the Board of the LCU Fund for Women’s Education, a 160-year old grant making foundation devoted to improving New York women’s lives through higher education.  She also serves as the Treasurer of Double Entendre Music Ensemble, which produces concerts of and commissions new works for double reed instruments.  She was also the co-founder of Think Tank for Schools, whose curriculum enhances college readiness by teaching high school students to think and work independently and the founding co-chair of Dress for Success’ financial literacy program. Leslie holds an AB degree from Princeton University and an MBA from Stanford University.  She lives in New York City with her family.

Liang Y. Hsu

As a CFA, Liang has an extensive finance and investment background, proficient in end-to-end investment processes across various asset classes and sectors. Active in the alternative investments industry since 2000, her previous experience had centered on idea origination, investment evaluation and portfolio management, spanning Citi Asset Management, Millennium hedge fund, real estate, and private equity. Currently she is a Sr. Impact Investment Strategist at 17 Asset Management, an impact focused advisor and asset management firm. In her role she is responsible for leading strategic design of capital and investment solutions for the company’s clients and JV fund partners.  Additionally, Liang is also a venture partner at VU venture capital fund. A big believer in quality education as the basis for financial independence, together with her international student background and endeavors of working under economic hardship have given her the strong incentive to join LCU board to foster sustainable impact on those students in need.

Diana Polvere, Chair, Grants Committee

Diana Polvere is an experienced professional and leader with a background in nonprofit marketing and development, brand and consumer insights, digital fundraising and analytics. Diana is currently the AVP Development at Northwell Health Foundation, heading the Constituency Programs team and a member of the Foundation Management team. In this role, she oversees strategic donor focused programs in events, stewardship, donor recognition, and corporate relationships directly tied to special events, employee giving and peer-to-peer fundraising, and provide strategic counsel to Foundation leadership and staff. Previously, she was the AVP for Donor Engagement and Digital Fundraising strategy at Catholic Health, where she designed and implemented a multi-channel strategy including direct mail and online giving programs. Her prior roles included the Vice President, Annual Giving and Analytics, and Vice President of Market Research at Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization behind Sesame Street, and the Director, Marketing Research at American Express. Diana has had the pleasure of serving as a board member for the LCU Fund for Women’s Education since 2015 and has held many roles for the organization. She currently serves as the Chair of the Grants Committee and a member of the Executive Committee. Diana graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in business management and marketing and received her MBA in marketing from the NYU Stern School of Business. She currently resides with her family in Port Washington, New York.

Audrey Waters, Co-Chair, Communications & Development Committee

Born in Brooklyn, New York, but raised in different parts of the world, Audrey Waters is currently director of public relations for MJHS Health System, which was founded by The Four Brooklyn Ladies in 1907 and is now one of the largest community- and home-based not-for-profit health systems in Greater New York. Prior to joining the organization, Audrey worked in the Washington, DC area for a leading international law firm; an organization founded by Gen. Colin Powell; a telecommunications giant; and a large independent global public relations agency. She also taught at The George Washington University. After graduating from Middlebury College, Audrey served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Commonwealth of Dominica and Republic of Guyana. Following her return to the U.S., Audrey earned a graduate degree at The George Washington University while working as a Fellow with the Defense Writers Group and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Public Affairs. While in college, she interned for the Armed Forces Network in Seoul, Korea and Frankfurt, Germany. Her first story was about Sparky, the fire dog.

Staff

Sara Espinosa, Executive Director

Sara is an accomplished nonprofit leader with over 30 years of wide-ranging experience in foundations, community-based organizations, and government. Prior to joining the LCU Fund in 2009, Espinosa served as Executive Director of Afterschool Works New York, a statewide membership organization that promotes quality services to children and families through credentialing, training and evaluation of school-age care providers and youth development professionals. Previously, she established and led the Department of Children, Youth and Family Services for the City of Newburgh, New York where she successfully increased the scope and quality of city services for children, youth, families, and seniors. Prior to relocating to New York in 2005, Espinosa co-founded and was Deputy Director of Community Learning, an office designed to advance educational equity through early learning programs, family support and partnership practices, extended learning opportunities and community engagement for the Seattle School District and City of Seattle. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Oregon and a Certificate in Nonprofit Executive Leadership from the University of Washington Graduate School of Social Work. Sara serves on the Board of Directors of the Maya Gold Foundation as well as the New York Council of Nonprofits. She and her husband Gilbert live in the Hudson Valley where they are actively involved in animal rescue efforts and the local music scene.