Fellow Story: Lydia Blandford

I want my service to be the best it can be and that’s led to me being a lot more outspoken and more competitive with myself.”  -Lydia Blandford

 Lydia Blandford grew up in Columbia, Maryland, and attended the University of Pittsburgh where she earned a degree in Economics and a certificate in Arabic Language and Culture. At Pitt, she devoted much of her time to FORGE, where she worked with the local refugee community, and is a English Writing Peer Tutor at Pitt’s Writing Center. Lydia also interned with the National Aviary in the philanthropy department and was a Consular Section Intern at the American Embassy in the United Arab Emirates. In her free time, Lydia enjoys reading, knitting scarves, and gardening.  She is a part of the South Hilltop cohort, and is serving at Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

Sam Spearing: What has been the most valuable part of the PULSE experience so far?

Lydia Blandford: I like the ability to have access to a workplace to which I wouldn’t have had access as a fresh college graduate without a Master’s.

Sam: How has PULSE inspired you to live/think/act differently?

Lydia: I’ve become more competitive and outspoken in both my house and my nonprofit. In Kingsboro I have two housemates who are pretty competitive people so it’s definitely nurtured that characteristic in myself. We play a lot of board games which is the most obvious manifestation of the competition. There’s a lot of good energy brought to the table during board game nights which, at least for me, takes off the scary, uncomfortable edge of competitiveness and instead makes competition a fun, light-hearted thing. At my nonprofit I’m significantly more confident than I expected when it comes to expressing my opinion on the directions projects are taking. I want my service to be the best it can be and that’s led to me being a lot more outspoken and more competitive with myself.

Sam: Tell me something you are learning about yourself through PULSE.

Lydia: I have learned I am able to hold myself accountable for expectations that are higher than I previously thought capable.

Sam: What do you enjoy most about your nonprofit partnership?

Lydia: I really like my coworkers. They’re super perky, super fun.

Sam: What have you enjoyed most about living in community?

Lydia: The house dinners. We all have very busy lives and it’s a moment for us all to connect (and roast each other).

Sam: Describe a typical day at your nonprofit partnership.

Lydia: One of the many services that The Allegheny Conference provides is Data on Demand which is a bank of market research data on the 10-County Region. Part of my job is collecting the new data and uploading it to the website, but Data on Demand is an ongoing project that I do in between other projects. One of the other projects that I’ve worked on was a funding analysis of successful community development corporations to see if there’s anything we can learn from their funding models. I’ve also worked on creating a resource that would help start ups find funding and other support services. My projects tend to bounce me to different departments and since the work that the Conference does is so varied (community development, real estate, consulting, innovation economy) no two projects have been even remotely similar.

Sam: What surprised you most about Pittsburgh?

Lydia: The food scene. It is very innovative.

Sam: What’s your favorite “family meal” recipe for the house?

Lydia: My empanadas. I am biased to my own cooking.


Story by PULSE Fellow Sam Spearing.

Read more Fellow Stories about their experience in PULSE. If you would like to learn more about the PULSE program, please visit our Serve with Us page.

Also, check out other Stories of Transformation: