Soto-Harmon: Schar School Alumna Named Leader of National Conservation Nonprofit

A blonde woman in a red outfit folds her arms and smiles at the camera.
Lidia Soto-Harmon: She hopes to connect fellow MPA grads ‘to the work we are doing to inspire the next generation of conservation leaders.’

When Lidia Soto-Harmon graduated from George Mason University in 1991 with her Master of Public Administration degree, she knew her education had “set the stage for me to become an effective leader,” she said.

She wasn’t kidding: Soto-Harmon’s resume spans decades as she’s served with public-facing organizations including the Fannie Mae Foundation, literacy nonprofit First Book, and the President’s Interagency Council on Women established by President Bill Clinton. In addition, she spent 18 years at the regional council for Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital, including 12 years as the chapter’s CEO.

But most recently, the Schar School of Policy and Government alumna was named the next president and CEO of the Student Conservation Association (SCA), a national conservation nonprofit founded in 1957 and headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, that provides hands-on environmental conservation programs to more than 2,000 youth and young adults each year.

Speaking of her time at Mason, Soto-Harmon, a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, said that her Schar School degree provided “a comprehensive understanding of the tools needed to thrive in the nonprofit space and make an impact.”

Her conviction to shape the future of nonprofit leadership is self-evident: She chairs the MPA Advisory Council at the Schar School and returned to Mason during the pandemic to teach a graduate-level nonprofit management seminar.

Now at the helm of one of the largest conservation nonprofits for youth in the country, she said she’s looking forward to connecting “MPA students at George Mason to the work we are doing to inspire the next generation of conservation leaders.”

The admiration between alumna and alma mater is mutual.

“The Schar School's MPA program is very proud to call Lidia Soto-Harmon an alumna and wishes her well in her new position at the Student Conservation Association,” said Alan J. Abramson, director of the Schar School’s Center on Nonprofits, Philanthropy, and Social Enterprise. “The association is fortunate to have this smart, passionate, warm leader as its new executive.”

Soto-Harmon received the 2014 Wayne F. Anderson Award for Distinguished Public Service from Mason, an honor reserved for those dedicated to “embodying the spirit of public service.”

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