05.15.20 Leadership Shout Out: Elizabeth “Lib” Tietjen

Originally from Alabama, Lib joined Habitat NYC in 2016 as our Marketing and Communications Manager. Lib’s work sheds light on the importance of fair access to safe, decent and affordable housing, often told through the lens of our Habitat Homeowners, volunteers, and network at large. In addition to telling our organization’s story, Lib actively mentors HYP NYC Board members on marketing and communications guidelines.

HYP NYC: Hi Lib! How are you?

Lib: Doing well. Feeling very lucky to be sheltering with my wife, Claire, and my son, Ezra, at my parent’s vacation home in Tennessee. I feel guilty for leaving my City in its time of need but also needed to do what’s best for my family. If any consolation, I literally just ordered a full spread from Russ and Daughters, because we love them and want to support small businesses in New York.

HYP NYC: Russ and Daughters! That sounds like a great way to celebrate your anniversary. Thank you for acknowledging your privilege but don’t feel guilty about doing what’s best for your family. Many New York residents chose to self shelter outside of the city. What have you been up to since we moved our operations remote?

Lib: I’ve been spending a lot of time with Ezra. He’s 14 months so there’s really never a dull moment here! We’ve been gardening and trying to get as much time outdoors as possible. Also cooking and meal prepping have become very regular here.

HYP NYC: We’re happy you’re getting to spend so much time with your family. What’s on the menu for tonight?

Lib: Today I’m making honey, soy and garlic marinated pork chops with mango salsa, broccoli slaw and grilled asparagus.

HYP NYC: *salivates*

Lib: Yeah, I’m basically becoming a grill master. It’s been a goal of mine for a while now but obviously grilling in a one-bedroom apartment can be challenging.

HYP NYC: Everything in NYC is a challenge as of late. And something that has always been challenging is becoming a homeowner. You’re actually one of the few staff members at Habitat NYC who is also a homeowner. Let’s talk about that.

Lib: Sure. Well, again, Claire and I are very privileged in this regard. Both of our families are homeowners. That generational wealth definitely made it easier to achieve. To be honest, becoming a homeowner in NYC was Claire’s dream. I never really thought it was possible until we met.

HYP NYC: Why didn’t you think it was possible?

Lib: It’s no secret how expensive and complex housing in NYC is, whether you’re renting or buying. Becoming a homeowner is that much more expensive and complex. The amount of money you need upfront and the level of paperwork you have to get through is incredibly intimidating. After going through it, I understand on a deeper level why what Habitat NYC does is so important. Our organization works with families through this complex process to turn Homebuyers into Homeowners; and we create access to affordable housing for the communities we serve.

HYP NYC: We stan Habitat NYC! You mentioned that both you and Claire come from families of homeowners. What was your life like before Habitat NYC and what are some of your cherished memories of home?

Lib: Well, both of my parents are Army Veterans. We moved about five times by the time I was seven years old. We landed in Huntsville, Alabama. After a few years of staying put, I remember my parents saying, “This is the longest we’ve ever lived somewhere,” which was amazing to me at the time. The subdivision I grew up in was built on top this large watercress field. I used to go exploring with my disposable camera, taking a million pics of “nature” (mostly the grass and newly planted trees) My parents still have the photos – and 25 years really changed the house and the yard. And our family grew up right along with it! So this memory feels like an example of how we turned a house into our home.

HYP NYC: That’s a beautiful memory! Tell us about something you were able to achieve because your parents became homeowners.

Lib: Well, I mean… everything? Safe, decent, affordable housing is the foundation for anyone to be able to pursue and live out their dreams. I was able to move away for college, for one.

HYP NYC: You’re right, stable housing creates many paths of opportunity. What was your college experience like and how does it influence what you do now?

Lib: I have a History degree from Boston University. I was absolutely positive that I wanted to be a Museum Collections Specialist. I went to NYU to get my masters in Museum Studies and started working in various museums around the city. At one point I had five part-time jobs at different museums. That path eventually led me away from collections and into marketing at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. This job is what really exposed me to the history and complexity of housing in NYC and ultimately led me to apply for the job I have now at Habitat NYC.

HYP NYC: What a journey! This reminds us of what Habitat NYC’s CEO says about paying attention to the pebbles in front of you because that could lead you to the path you’re meant to be on. Now that you’re a part of the Habitat NYC family, we’d love for you to shed some light on your creative process as Marketing and Communications Manager.

Lib: Sure. I’m a big fan of scheduling reading and thinking time to research whatever it is we’re sharing through our communications. I don’t consider myself an expert on housing. Honestly, I don’t want to be a topic expert, because I think it will influence my storytelling. I’m also a big fan of brainstorm sessions. I love, love, love our team at Habitat NYC.

HYP NYC: We love the Habitat NYC team too! Affordable housing is tough work. How do you stay motivated?

Lib: Easy. I am a huge advocate of work-life balance in order to maintain my creative flow. Back when we were working out of our office, I like to get into my desk a little before 9AM with my fresh cup of coffee, work hard until 5 (or whenever the work is done), and then leave work at the door. It’s a little different now that I’m working from home with my family (my wife is a public school teacher, teaching her 7th graders remotely), but we proactively stay on schedule and try to be regimented as best we can.

HYP NYC: That army upbringing is starting to show and we love it! What’s something unique about your job that most people don’t think of.

Lib: With the current culture of 24/7 real-time news, there’s definitely a “get-it-done-now” demand, but the stories we’re telling are more than marketing. So we don’t really subscribe to that. We take time to make sure we’re telling the clear story that connects our network with our mission.

HYP NYC: So true! And that’s exactly why we’ve launched this series. It’s important for NYC to see the many amazing people behind the scenes who are participating in building a city – and a world – where everyone has a decent place to live. Lib, thank you for your commitment to serve. Thank you for your leadership and thank you for just being you. You’re great!