January is the best and busiest month at AlumniCorps. As the chill sets in and the holiday cheer recedes, we open our doors and get to work interviewing Project 55 Fellowship applicants. Our staff and alumni interviewers read through hundreds of essays, resumes, and transcripts. The office buzzes with students talking excitedly about why they want to do a Project 55 Fellowship. We go through a lot of coffee. As we consider which of our 162 applicants—a record!—will comprise the 27th class of PP55 Fellows, the AlumniCorps mission feels very alive.
This year in particular, as our political life together has taken increasingly concerning turns, my spirits were buoyed by the stream of brilliant and passionate students who marched through our office door. One applicant I met is utterly determined to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, and I left our interview sure that he will make major contributions to solving this challenge. Another, who first heard of PP55 when she attended Princeton’s admitted students’ gathering in Chicago four years ago, aspires to a policy career promoting gender equity. It is inspiring to imagine what the next class of fellows will contribute to our partner organizations, and also the ways they will be transformed by Project 55.
In the middle of all this, I took a day to attend our Emerging Leaders session in New York. Guest speakers Liz Duffy ’88 and Peter Daneker ’95 talked about their experiences leading and working with nonprofit boards. As the group of sixteen Emerging Leaders reflected on Liz and Pete’s comments, I was reminded that the qualities a leader exhibits correlate to the kind of change she creates. In that room I saw reflective, empathic, dedicated, and self-aware leaders prepared to run highly effective organizations. This kind of leadership is desperately needed, and Emerging Leaders creates the conditions for its growth.
Perhaps less visible but equally as important for the future of AlumniCorps, our strategic planning work continued in January. When the Board meets later in February they will vote on a plan that envisions AlumniCorps first and foremost as a network of individuals and organizations ready to be mobilized for the public good. If you are reading this issue of Shared Effort, you are part of our network, and I hope you will be part of bringing our plans to life in the coming years.
A month of PP55 interviews is both a little draining and totally exhilarating. Our long January days didn’t just keep us distracted from the news this year; they deepened our commitment and raised our hope. Every day, the AlumniCorps community works together to solve public problems, train future leaders, learn from different perspectives, and create community. That is work worth doing for the long haul.