Clara Botstein ’07 is the Director of Early College Strategy for Bard College. She is a former PP55 fellow and a current Emerging Leader. We asked her to reflect on the experience of her fellowship, her career, and how AlumniCorps continues to impact her work.
Princeton AlumniCorps has had the largest impact of any single organization on my career development and trajectory. I participated in the Princeton Project 55 Fellowship program in Chicago from 2007-08 and in New York City from 2008-09. My placement in Chicago was at the Civic Federation, a nonpartisan government research organization. Through the Civic Federation and the fellowship’s weekly seminar series, I became interested in local government, policy, and community development. Through the seminars in particular, the fellowship opened my eyes to the diversity of nonprofit organizations that exist, as well as the very real challenges they face, and encouraged me to apply for a more community development-oriented policy job.
My interests led me to United Neighborhood Houses of New York (UNH), the umbrella organization of New York City’s settlement houses and community centers, which I found through the Princeton AlumniCorps fellowship network. During my two years on UNH’s policy team, I was able to learn about and advocate for a range of human services, including after school and college access programs. It was at UNH that I discovered my passion for education reform and decided to pursue a graduate degree in public policy with a focus on education.
Since graduating from policy school at the University of California, Berkeley, I have been working on new school development and advocacy for Bard College’s early college team. Bard’s early colleges allow public school students to earn tuition-free college credits up to an associate’s degree concurrently with a high school diploma, thereby creating a seamless and affordable pathway for students to and through college. At Bard, I found myself in an exciting and challenging role, and I was eager to find a support network and a way in which to continue developing my skills so I could be as successful as possible.
My desire for professional development and a support network led me to apply to the AlumniCorps Emerging Leaders program, which I learned about through a friend. Emerging Leaders has been a terrific experience. I have been able to hear from inspiring nonprofit speakers and to delve deeper into specific topics, such as fundraising, that are relevant for my job. The program also focuses heavily on management and team building, which has been very helpful for me as a member of a new and growing staff. Most importantly, Emerging Leaders allows me to take time out of my schedule to reflect on my work and to learn from talented peers (the other Emerging Leaders participants) who face similar challenges.
Princeton AlumniCorps has had a profound impact on my career and aspirations. As a Princeton graduate interested in public service, Princeton AlumniCorps provided a much-needed outlet through which to find opportunities in the nonprofit sector. Beyond help with job placement, Princeton AlumniCorps has allowed me to discover and explore potential career paths, develop my skills, and meet mentors and like-minded individuals who will become the next generation of public sector leaders. Having those experiences and that network has been invaluable. I am fully committed to a public service career, and I thank Princeton AlumniCorps for helping to make that possible, for me and hundreds of other graduates.
AlumniCorps will begin recruiting the next class of Emerging Leaders in New York and Washington, DC, in early 2014. Stay tuned for application information! For more information about Emerging Leaders, please contact Rachel Benevento at RBenevento@alumnicorps.org.