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Urban planning and grassroots advocacy merge in the career of Dora Leong Gallo, MCP ‘92. Since 2003, she has been CEO of A Community of Friends (ACOF), a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that develops affordable housing for homeless people and families headed by someone with a mental illness. “I get a lot of affirmation for this work at the building openings when I see people crying when they get the keys to their apartments,” Gallo says.

As CEO, Gallo oversees project development, asset management, residential services, advocacy, and fund-raising. ACOF has housed more than a thousand people in 28 apartment buildings since 1988 and has eight more projects in the pipeline. The group also provides on-site social services–from anger management counseling to cooking classes. “You can’t build buildings and hope that everyone who moves in is going to be okay,” she says. “And you can’t address their issues before they are housed. They can’t deal with drug abuse recovery or job training when they don’t know where they are going to sleep at night.”

Gallo’s interest in affordable housing was sparked when, as a teenage rental assistant in a real-estate office, she was unable to find an apartment for a low-income woman. She studied public administration at the University of Southern California before earning her master’s in city planning at MIT. In the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP), she found like-minded people who believed in social justice and grassroots advocacy.

Before heading ACOF, Gallo worked for 11 years in local government; among other things, she’s been a housing analyst, a redevelopment project specialist, and chief of staff for an L.A. City Council member. Last spring, she returned to campus as a featured speaker at the DUSP Alumni/ae of Color Dinner Series and the Graduate Alumni Convocation and Reunion to share her experiences as an Asian-American woman in a political field.

Gallo has served as a president of the MIT Club of Southern California and earned MIT’s Lobdell Award. She and husband Grey Gallo, who heads Vector 3D Solutions, live in Torrance, CA, and enjoy collecting and drinking wine and vacationing in vineyard areas.

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