Meet our Team: Alyia Smith-Parker Gaskins

Each month, we’ll be profile a new member of the CCI Team. First up: Alyia Smith-Parker Gaskins, Assistant Director of Programs/Health.

Welcome to CCI, Alyia! What’s your role here?

My role is to help the Center and the communities we work with rethink the ways they deploy their assets to promote the health and well-being of all residents. I’m am also helping the Center better engage the health system leaders in accelerating investments in building healthy communities.

What about CCI’s work most excites you?

I am most excited about working with people on the ground who are or might be engaged in community investment efforts, and the opportunity to help them transform the places they live and work into places with robust opportunities to thrive. I’m looking forward to working with leaders who are passionate about place and people.

We hear you almost became a doctor, how did you end up in community development?

I was interested in becoming a doctor because as a child I spent a lot of time in and out of the hospital caring for my mom, and I was always amazed by what doctors did for my family. The more I learned about health and what it takes to lead a healthy lifestyle, the more I appreciated the impact of factors outside the hospital walls: ensuring quality housing, access to transit, connecting residents to healthy food and health-promoting resources, and other activities that alleviate stress and make it easier to live a better life. Recognizing that there are so many different pieces within communities that contribute to our health, and wanting to work on how to put those pieces together in a systemic way led me to community development.

What were you working on before you joined CCI?

Most recently, I was at the National League of Cities in the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, working with local elected officials and their staff on strategies to address childhood obesity and promote healthier communities. We worked on helping city leaders think about the health impacts of their decisions and policies and programs to improve children’s health.

When you’re not at work, you are…

Spending time with my husband, my dog, and my friends finding opportunities to explore Alexandria and other parts of the DMV, whether wineries or museums or new restaurants. I’m also studying for a master’s degree in urban and regional planning at Georgetown.

People would be surprised to know…

That I’m a diehard Steelers fan who bleeds black and gold and is glued to the TV every Sunday during football season. My dog even has his own jersey.

What’s on your reading list?

I read theSkimm every morning, and am a subscriber to Medium feeds on entrepreneurship, creativity, the economy, and health.

I’ve been reading a lot of planning case law for school, so I haven’t read a good book in a while. But recently, I’ve been rereading “7 Strategies Entrepreneurs Can Use to Boost Discipline and Execute Effectively” by Josiah Humphrey once a week because it speaks so much to how we are trying to work as a team at CCI. Part of the beauty of our design is the opportunity to innovate, which comes with the risk of not always knowing how things are going to work out on the first try. I’m inspired by opportunity to be in that space, and learn and grow.

Have a question for Alyia? Reach her at agaskins@centerforcommunityinvestment.org.

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