Alumni Update: Providing a glimmer of hope to those in need
A. Sue Weisler
One thing has remained constant as Christina Gullo has advanced in her career—her passion for helping people.
Gullo ’06 (Executive MBA) is president and CEO of Villa of Hope, a youth and family services organization in Rochester dedicated to helping those struggling with substance abuse, mental illness, and education challenges.
“I am a big believer that everybody should have opportunities to pursue their dreams to their fullest potential,” she said. “I want to be sure that everyone has equal access to have and use services that are available to them, to have the confidence to reach out for support when they need it, and to have organizations like Villa of Hope support them through their journey.”
The Saunders College graduate began her career as a human resources coordinator at Catholic Family Center in Rochester, rising to vice president within seven years.
It was during this time that she decided to earn her Executive MBA degree, growing the skills she would need to one day become a leader equipped to make the right decisions for the people she would serve.
“I felt that my EMBA would serve to fill the gaps of what I was lacking—the financial background, the strategic thinking, the marketing,” she said. “And the program at RIT was exactly what I needed. And little did I know how much I needed it until I walked in the door at Villa of Hope eight years ago.”
When Gullo arrived at Villa of Hope, the organization was operating in the red. It was unable to financially sustain itself due to the abundance of residential care services it provided its clients at a time when the need was declining.
In addition, staff was overwhelmed and unable to meet the changing clinical needs of its residents.
“The environment where children were solely living in residential care was starting to change. Not only is it extremely expensive, but research has shown that youth and families fare better when the family unit remains intact and relationships develop,” she said. “We needed to completely re-examine our organization from top to bottom, which included downsizing in order to grow, specializing our residential program, and expanding our community-based and behavioral health services.”
Today, Villa of Hope serves about 4,000 people annually, including in its community education and prevention programs, clinics, and school.
The organization has operated in a surplus for the past three years and is the only certified sanctuary organization in the Rochester area specializing in trauma services for children and families.
“For me, it has always been about improving lives; that’s never changed. But the type of leader that I wanted to become suddenly became clearer,” she said about the EMBA program. “I looked at everything differently after I finished my EMBA program. It was life changing.”