Shawntera Hardy is policy leader, civic entrepreneur and advocate for Black women businesses

Shawntera Hardy.

Shawntera is a leading policy professional, serial entrepreneur, and advocate for Black women

Shawntera Hardy is an award winning policy professional and serial entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience leading work in areas including government affairs, healthcare access, economic development and international relations.

A passionate and dedicated entrepreneur, Hardy's civic leadership roles include founder of PolicyGrounds Consulting, a strategic management firm working at the intersection of public policy development, organizational effectiveness, and economic development; the co-founder and chief strategy officer for Civic Eagle, a tech company building policy intelligence software that automates state and federal legislative tracking; and the co-founder of Fearless Commerce, a publication and platform focused on elevating Black women business owners.

The MUP alum says her focus has always been community: “My compass has always been to invest in communities through policy and placemaking so they can thrive.  Every professional decision and opportunity I’ve taken, no matter what the title, connects to that compass.”

Hardy says the current moment centers the work of urban planners on questions of social and racial justice: "As placemakers, designers, planners, and architects play a critical role in dismantling the systematic barriers that get in the way of building thriving communities. With the power of the pen and a lens of equity, they can change the trajectory generational inequities." 

In 2016, Hardy was appointed by Governor Mark Dayton as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development - the state’s first person of color to hold this position. Hardy led a team of 1,300 public servants and total annual budget of $1.6 billion and spearheaded the state’s investment in inclusive economic growth and operational excellence. 

Shawntera Hardy.

Shawntera Hardy and her collaborators at a recent event for Fearless Commerce, an organization she founded to elevate Black Women-owned businesses.

A native of Youngstown, Ohio, Hardy has always had a passion for serving under-resourced communities. 

After earning a bachelors degree in consumer affairs on a full scholarship at The Ohio State University, Hardy landed a position as a legislative aide in the Ohio House of Representatives. Working on behalf of district residents in Columbus, Ohio, she drew connections between state economic policy and community planning. 

She pursued the kernel of interest and, with a HUD Fellowship in hand, connected with Dr. Henry Taylor in UB’s Center for Urban Studies. An eager and engaged student, Hardy found particular interest in community-based planning methods, housing development and helping to develop a neighborhood plan for Buffalo’s Masten District. 

Taylor, who still stays in touch with Hardy, recalls her ambition. “She’s one of the best students I have ever taught. She blended smarts with authentic caring, deep insights, creativity, hard work and dependability. She was tough, and knew how to close projects.”

Hardy says her time in the program instilled an appreciation of planning in service to communities: "I left the School of Architecture and Planning with a deeper appreciation of the power of people in placemaking, both the seen and unseen. I work every day knowing that the future is for those that design the policies and processes that govern them."

Hardy's additional professional roles have included deputy chief of staff for Governor Dayton; policy director for FreshEnergy; government relations manager for HealthPartners; and city planner for the City of Saint Paul.

Her current community service roles are diverse. Hardy is a member of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis community advisory committee; Minnesota Public Radio board of trustees; and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. To ensure access to educational opportunities, she co-founded and co-directs the Fatima Kinshasa Memorial Fund and the Pioneer Scholars Award, both at The Ohio State University. 

Reflections on UB

"I left the School of Architecture and Planning with a deeper appreciation of the power of people in placemaking, both the seen and unseen. I work every day knowing that the future is for those that design the policies and processes that govern them."