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Alia Whitney-Johnson

Alia Whitney-Johnson founded Emerge at the age of 19, after traveling to Sri Lanka on a tsunami relief trip and falling in love with a group of courageous young women. Her work with Emerge has led to a number of awards, including her selections as one of Glamour Magazine’s Top Ten College Women, a Truman Scholar for public service, one of 20 young social entrepreneurs to be a YouthActionNet® Global Fellow (2009), and one of 14 young global leaders to become a Sauvé Scholar (2011).

Alia holds a B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from MIT and an MPhil in Development Studies from Oxford University, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar. Her masters research focused on how human resource management within Sri Lanka’s apparel industry affects women’s empowerment.

In addition to her work with Emerge, Alia has worked for the World Bank, McKinsey & Company, and LeanIn.Org, with projects spanning mobile money operations to project managing #LeanInTogether, a public awareness campaign focused on men and their important role in reaching gender equality. With only a team of 10, the campaign reached ~460M people on social media, and generated 21M+ #LeanInTogether video views.

Alia is an accomplished public speaker and the author of a chapter in “Do Good Well,” a #1 Amazon bestseller with reviews from Muhammad Yunus and Nicholas Kristof. She currently serves on MIT’s board of Trustees.

She loves salsa dancing (though is still stepping on toes!), tree houses, and the very special girls of Emerge.