What is the impact of a Project 55 Fellowship? What fellows have told us…

What is the impact of a Project 55 Fellowship?

Princeton AlumniCorps, through the Project 55 Fellowship, Emerging Leaders, andARC Innovators programs, provides ways for people to engage at every age. Here are just a few of the many experiences that fellowship participants and alumni through the years have shared.

“The program should be required of all Princeton graduates. Project ’55 gives a worldview that few Princetonians have. The ivory tower is very tall and we cannot see down. A liberal arts education should teach not only a range of academics, but also an understanding of our world.”

Andrew Garland ’01, Fellow at North Lawndale College Prep, Chicago                       

“…my experience here has really surpassed all expectations. I am proud of the organization’s mission, engaged with the people I work with, and excited about the work that I am doing.”

Megan Bouchier ’02, Fellow at College Summit, New York

“I actually get to have hands on interactions with patients, to sit down with them and chart out what exactly they want to get out of their consultation with the doctors. It is not facilitated in any way, I have been trained, and trusted to perform these tasks on my own, so this feels like a real job where I’m learning real skills, and have real responsibilities, and that’s the best part.”

Aprajita Anand ’06, Fellow at UCSF Breast Care Center, Bay Area

“PP55 is a rewarding first step into the real world.”

Nadia Ben-Youssef ’06, Fellow at Bethel New Life, Chicago

“The experience I have had at my fellowship has challenged me to work in a variety of capacities – including agriculture work, leading volunteers, supervising youth, outreach, development, and more. I will take away a multitude of practical skills and rewarding experiences that I gained from working with a motivated and talented group of people.”

Kathyrn Fiorella ’06, Fellow at The Food Project, Boston

“One of the best post-grad experiences you could ask for. [PP55] provides amazing opportunities to work with inspired youth who are dedicated to social justice and to social change.”

Rebecca Garr Whitaker ’06, Fellow at Sinai Health System, Chicago

“AlumniCorps is an excellent way to get an introduction into the nonprofit space. I really benefited from having a mentor when I had questions, and learned a lot from our monthly seminars. The program did an excellent job finding an organization that fit with my goals.”

Elizabeth Pillion ’05, Fellow at DC Prep, Washington, DC

“My PP55 fellowship has accomplished its mission. I now understand what doing intellectually stimulating work of public impact means and why it matters so much.”

Sitraka Andriamanantenasoa ’11, Fellow at Center on Halstead, Chicago

“ABC is absolutely fantastic. The position at Echo Park allows for a lot of self direction and independence. My supervisors absolutely trust me with my work and are always accessible for advise and guidance. The whole staff at ABC is a joy to work with. I feel blessed every single day that I get to go to work. I wouldn’t have traded my time there for anything.”

Victoria Lee ’13, Fellow at Association to Benefit Children, New York

Deep End with Buoys: Project 55 Fellow Spotlight

Asawari Sodhi ’15 comes from New Delhi, India and is a PP55 fellow with Safer Foundation in Chicago. At Princeton, she studied Comparative Politics and also Dance. She spent a year in Serbia as a participant in the Bridge Year Program, and then a summer in Bosnia as an IIP intern. She also studied the Indian constitution, and rural development through her internships back home. Apart from social/political theorizing, she enjoys choreography and performance.

Asawari

Why did you choose a Project 55 fellowship to launch your post-Princeton life?

It was a logical outcome given my academic and work history. Moreover, as a yearlong fellowship, PP55 promised to be an involved experience and a good   interlude to an advanced degree.

What projects are you working on?

I’ve been helping with legislation, policy research for the Safer Policy Institute, research for the senior team and recommendations to the Illinois State Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform. I’m also working on two white papers on court fees and occupational licensing.

What is the value to you of the fellowship?

I have an interest in public policy. The fellowship has been an opportunity to see it in motion. Also, being with an organization for a year allows time to understand and gain their trust. It gives my experience and the littlest contribution more depth.

What are your plans for next year?

I’ll begin planning for graduate school while, hopefully continuing to work in public policy.

If you were to sum up the experience in one or two sentences for a blog post, what would you say?

Deep end with buoys.

This article is part of a series spotlighting the impact of our programs.

 

 

Alumni Profile Spotlight

Princeton AlumniCorps, through the Project 55 Fellowship, Emerging Leaders, and ARC Innovators programs, provides ways for people to engage at every age. We recently asked one of our most recent program alumni, Eleanor Meegoda ’12, and one of our longest-serving volunteers, Judith Hole Suratt s55, why they support AlumniCorps.

Eleanor Meegoda '12
Eleanor Meegoda ’12

Why did I apply for a Project 55 fellowship? Ultimately, it came down to 3 things: (1) Princeton Project 55 would allow me to build a strong network of mentors and peers who would help me navigate the transition from student to professional. (2) Through its wide network, the fellowship lectures and regular community events, PP55 would help me learn faster – I would learn about industries I cared about, how to deal with tricky work situations, and learn from other PP55 fellows’, alums’, and mentors’ experiences. (3) It is hard to find a substantive role at a non-profit right out of college, no matter one’s degree, GPA, or work experiences. Non-profits often don’t have an HR department, and prefer to hire candidates who come vetted from having worked at other great non-profits. PP55 gave me the opportunity to work at a world-class institution, the Rockefeller Foundation.

Things I remember most from my fellowship year? There are so many great memories from which to choose! When my mentor took my long-time boyfriend (now husband) and me out for dinner at his favorite restaurant to “vet” him; it was like having another grandparent to go to for advice. PP55’s panel on “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” with Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80, Judy Hole Suratt s55, and Andrew Romano ’04 at the Princeton Club; other panels spoon-fed me opportunities to debate with and learn from experts and leaders in their fields. That is such a treat after college.

PP55 was an incredibly humbling opportunity; I was surrounded by Princetonians of all generations who came together to guide my class in our first years after graduation. Hearing their life stories and about how they crafted their careers and entrepreneurial endeavors to improve the world in some way — founding AlumniCorps, fighting for women’s rights, improving the criminal justice system, or just how they balance their time between family, volunteering, and career — has been invaluable.

I recently moved back to New York to join Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners as Manager of Business Development. There, I support the design, launch and roll-out of our various financial products via online marketing, operations, data tracking and evaluation. The products I work on include a debt reduction program and a service that helps people manage their expenses, helping them avoid overdraft fees and payday lending.

Since moving back to New York, I’ve started volunteering with Princeton AlumniCorps to pay forward the support I got from the AlumniCorps community. As I’ve gotten involved, I’ve gained the additional benefit of rejoining a solid community of individuals who are not only passionate about social change, but also are eager to learn and support one another to succeed, despite the diverse issues they care about.

judy hole
Judy Hole Suratt s55

My late husband, Samuel Suratt ’55, was one of the earliest supporters and developers of PP55. I remember his coming home from Princeton, describing PP55 and saying, “Judy, this is important.” At the beginning, PP55 had a summer internship program as well as the full-year fellowship program. He told Chet Safian ’55 and others that while we didn’t have deep pockets, we did have an extra guest room. That was it — from that moment on we housed a PP55 summer intern. Barbara Saatkamp Taylor ’95 was the first of nearly 20 summer interns (now friends) we housed over the years. We also were mentors to full-year PP55 Fellows — and gave stop-gap housing to many of them when needed.

I am currently part of the New York Area Committee, working primarily in setting up seminars, finding new nonprofit partners, and opening my home, when needed, to AlumniCorps functions. Sam and I always hosted the farewell party in our garden, and I continue to do so. Anth of course, I am still a mentor. I joined the AlumniCorps Board of Directors in 2013, emceed the New York 20 anniversary event and 25th anniversary event, and worked on the 25th anniversary video and gala.

I recently completed an ARC Innovators project for the Fireboat Fire Fighter Museum. The longest- serving, and perhaps most famous, NYC fireboat is in need of help and money to restore her to her former glory. We hope she will become a floating museum traveling from city to city. She needed help redesigning her website and orchestrating PR and fundraising strategies. She also needed a short video to help in these efforts. Noah Therrien, a film-maker, and I produced and edited the video. Susan Abell and Roberta Leger from Boston helped with the website redesign and fundraising strategies. Charlie Ritchie, president of the Fire Fighter Museum, is most appreciative of our efforts.The fellows and fellowships in my opinion are fabulous. It impresses me that every year both the fellows and their nonprofits work extremely hard to be sure they are working as they should. And one other thing — a very selfish reason why I (and Sam, too) love AlumniCorps — it keeps young people — fabulous young people — in our (now my) life. I support AlumniCorps because the world of nonprofits needs the best and brightest as much – or more so – as Wall Street/hedge funds/and law firms.

Rebecca Deaton ’91 and Mike Malecek ’09 Discuss Their Fellowships

 

Recently, we asked two former fellows – Rebecca Deaton ’91, one of the first, and Mike Malecek ’09, one of the most recent – about their fellowships, what they’ve done since, and why they’ve remained involved.

1 – What inspired you to apply for a PP55 fellowship? What made you accept?

Rebecca: I graduated during a recession so there weren’t a ton of job opportunities that year!  Apart from that, I was inspired by the opportunity for an adventure with nine classmates.  John Fish ’55 was someone you simply trusted, so I went along for the ride with him.

Mike: I wanted to be involved in something meaningful upon graduating from Princeton. I majored in sociology and urban studies. I narrowed down my fields of interest to city policy, local government, and nonprofits. PP55 partner organizations were in many of these sectors. I was attracted to the matching component of PP55 (although I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I had an idea of the field, and PP55 would find an organization that matched my interests and skills). When I graduated, I was so tired of school and couldn’t wait to contribute to meaningful work in the real world, where I could have an impact. Ultimately, I hoped to have an opportunity to help disadvantaged populations and have a positive impact through my work.

I accepted my placement because of the reasons listed above. I was placed with a great organization in a new city. I wanted to explore and experience new things. Despite having never been to Chicago (where my placement was) or having experience with workforce development or former offenders (the work my organization did), I heartily accepted. PP55 is a great opportunity to be in a new place, meet new people, and experience new things. I wholeheartedly embraced that and was excited to begin my post-college life in Chicago with the organization I was placed with.

 

2 – Describe your fellowship: your work, what you learned outside of work, your biggest takeaways.

Rebecca: I was lucky enough to work for Jody Kretzmann ’66 who had been working in Chicago neighborhoods for years and seemed to know everyone.  Jody founded the Asset Based Community Development Institute at Northwestern University, which partnered with non-profits across the city.  My job was to collect success stories from libraries and community colleges; this work became a small part of a manual that still guides the work of ABCD today.  My favorite memory is taking the bus to the Robert Taylor Homes on the south side of Chicago.  The librarian there could not have been more gracious and I never felt worried about my safety.  The opportunity to be completely out of my element and to broaden my worldview was unique.

Mike: My fellowship was with the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN) on Chicago’s West Side. The great part of a PP55 fellowship is that I got diverse exposure to many aspects of the nonprofit I worked in. I did everything, including: communications, small business work, direct client training, beekeeping (unique to NLEN and Sweet Beginnings), work with the executive director and board of directors, and more.

I learned a lot outside of work. Working and spending time in a disadvantaged neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side gave me a new perspective on what many people struggle with day to day to put food on the table or succeed in life. Chicago had a number of other resources that I pursued outside of work to educate myself with urban policy issues and other problems affecting the city and often those with the fewest resources.

I also learned a lot in the weekly seminars the Chicago program hosts for fellows. It was valuable to be exposed to so many nonprofits, programs, and experts in my first year out of school. This also provided me additional perspective on other public interest agencies and programs that had impact and gave me knowledge of what others were doing outside the nonprofit I was placed with.

My biggest takeaways were broadening my world view, empathy for others and their unique circumstances, and appreciation and awe for those people dedicated to public interest work.

 

3 – What have you done since your fellowship – career? Volunteer?

Rebecca: Most of my volunteer work has been with Alumni Corps.  Because I stayed in Chicago, John Fish made sure I never left the fold!  I have loved being part of a special Princeton community in Chicago.  Princetonians of different generations and from all walks of life have come together to do meaningful work together.  We have more than our alma mater in common.

Professionally, I am an advisor to wealthy families.  While helping my clients take care of their finances is rewarding, it also leaves me with a desire to give back to less fortunate people.

Mike: After my fellowship year, I was retained by the nonprofit in a development role. I was employed as a Development & Program Associate for two years.  I left my job at NLEN to attend a summer urban planning, graduate-level immersion program at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. I knew I wanted to return to school for a masters degree eventually, and this was a great way to see if graduate school was for me, and if urban planning was what I wanted to study. Upon returning to Chicago, I was employed by a boutique public affairs consulting firm, Resolute Consulting. I worked in their real estate and land use practice group under the firm’s managing director for two years.I applied to graduate schools in December 2013 for dual masters programs in urban planning and public policy. Now, I am a graduate student at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill. I am a dual degree student with the Masters of City & Regional Planning and Masters of Public Administration programs.

Since my fellowship, I’ve volunteered my time on the PP55 Chicago Area Committee and on the Princeton Club of Chicago Board or Directors. I’m now volunteering my time as a board member of the Carolina Triangle Princeton Club.

 

4 – How have you remained involved with Princeton AlumniCorps? Why?

Rebecca: There are so many ways to stay involved with PAC, and I’ve tried most of them!  That way I don’t get bored in the same role.  I’ve been a mentor to fellows, have served on the board, have organized anniversary celebrations and have been a part of our Chicago area committee for many years.  I find getting to know the fellows energizing and find the commitment of the members of the class of 1955 inspiring.  In addition, just as my fellowship took me out of my element, I continue to be out of my element in all of my PAC volunteer roles.  I don’t consider organizing events, speaking at seminars or being a board member roles I naturally excel at, but enjoy challenging myself.

Mike: I remained involved with Princeton AlumniCorps in Chicago by serving on the PP55 Chicago Area Committee. Through this network I remained connected to PP55 in Chicago and the incoming classes of fellows. It was rewarding to be a resource to the new fellows for fellowship, career, and other advice. Staying involved in the PP55 network in Chicago was important to me.

 

5 – Why do you support Princeton AlumniCorps? Why should other fellowship/internship alumni?

Rebecca: I’ve always been impressed by how much of our work is done by volunteers, but nevertheless we need a dedicated staff to fulfill our commitment to our fellows, partner organizations and even volunteers.  This organization provides a unique opportunity for Princeton alums of all ages and also provides a unique resource to some of our most challenged urban neighborhoods.  PAC gives me back much more than I contribute!

Mike: I support Princeton AlumniCorps annually. It is such a unique organization with an important mission. My PP55 fellowship was instrumental in shaping my interests and career path; I wouldn’t be where I am now without that experience. I hear other PP55 alumni say this all the time. Princeton AlumniCorps also serves the important role of promoting careers in the public interest on campus. Too many students are consumed by the finance, investment banking, and management consulting career tracks. It is important to advocate for career options that may not be known to students; impactful careers that make a difference in our society. Other alumni should contribute to make a difference in the lives of recent graduates, and to give back for what PP55 has given you.

As we celebrate 25 years of Project 55, now is the time for our 1500 fellowship and internship alumni to lead Princeton AlumniCorps forward. We are counting on YOU to support the organization and ensure its future. Please consider a gift today. 

 

 

PP55 Seminars Teach and Inspire

Regular seminars are a core element of the Project 55 Fellowships Program, giving fellows opportunities to deepen their knowledge about public issues and civic leadership. In Chicago, PP55 fellows gather weekly with fellows from our TAN affiliate schools to be inspired by and learn from leaders working for social change. Latalia White ’12 reports on a recent PP55 seminar in Chicago.

On Wednesday, November 13, Chicago PP55 fellows met downtown at Civic Consulting Alliance with Public Interest Program fellows from Northwestern University and the University of Chicago for a seminar led by Pamela Bozeman-Evans, Chief Operating Officer of the YWCA in Chicago. Bozeman-Evans described how growing up in a grassroots politically active family on the South Side of  Chicago set the foundation for her to dedicate her life to public service, with a focus on helping women and children. After graduating from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor’s degree in corporate communication and a Master’s degree in fiscal administration, Bozeman-Evans took a position as the Director of the University of Chicago’s Community Service Center after childhood friend [and former PP55 mentor] Michelle Obama ’85 persuaded her to consider the position. She has also worked on Barack Obama’s Senate campaign and served as the Senior Program Director for the Gary Comer Youth Center.

Bozeman-Evans used her time as Executive Director for Blue Gargoyle Community Services from 2007-2009 to  detail the struggles of running a nonprofit organization during tough financial times, reflecting to fellows how the shutting down of Blue Gargoyle under her leadership inspired her to prove her critics wrong by successfully moving ahead in her career. Bozeman-Evans’s advice to fellows who want to work in the nonprofit sector is that their focus should be on working toward a future in which their nonprofit organization no longer exists.

Using her current position as COO of the YWCA Chicago as an example, she expressed that she would be horrified if there was still a need in one hundred and fifty years for the YWCA, an organization that seeks to eliminate racism and sexual violence toward women; nonprofit companies need to strive for prevention as opposed to intervention. Taking questions from fellows about moving up in the nonprofit world, Bozeman-Evans’ recommendations were to implement a “strategic and visionary approach to development, the most important team” in a nonprofit, understand your hook, and constantly be thinking about what your company’s future needs will be in an ever-changing world.

 

Starting Out: An Interview With Eileen Torres ’13

Eileen Torrez ’13 is a current fellow in the Bay Area. We recently checked in with her about her first few months as a PP55 fellow at GreatSchools in San Francisco.

 

Tell us about yourself. What interests and experiences did you have at Princeton? What was your major and focus of study? Where are you from?

I come from Corrales, NM, which is a small town just outside of Albuquerque (think adobe houses, corn fields and lots of horses and goats). When I was younger I was always curious about the bigger picture: What is the nature of things? Why do people act the way they do? How much can we know about the past and the future? At Princeton I got hooked on metaphysics and epistemology and decided to major in philosophy. I explored the connections between       philosophy, language, and religion, ultimately traveling to India during the fall semester of my junior year to study Buddhism and then writing my thesis on Buddhist philosophy. I also studied Arabic and was part of     singing and yoga groups on campus.

Tell us about your host organization. What is its mission? What kind of work are you doing?

GreatSchools’ mission is to help parents get a great education for their kids both at home and at school. They started 15 years ago as a website of school     profiles, with transparent information on academic performance and reviews by parents, students, and teachers. The idea is that the more parents can make      informed choices about where they send their kids to school, the more the quality of schools will improve over time. The site has since expanded and now includes content aimed at helping parents become more actively involved in their kids’ education.

My job is to act as [the CEO’s] assistant, which so far has meant researching and crafting documents for   either internal or external purposes. For example, last month I directed the writing of a paper for funders    illustrating the theory and practice behind our new local engagement model. This month I’ll be working on the same type of paper, but for our new website called GreatKids.

We know it is early on in your fellowship. What has been the most surprising thing to you in your time on the job? Has anything been particularly rewarding so far? How are you finding the Bay Area?

I’ve been surprised to discover how much opportunity for impact still exists in the field of education reform. It’s encouraging to know that as long as you start somewhere, adapt quickly, and stay true to your original  vision, you can make a difference. I see that happening with GreatSchools and I really like knowing that I’m a part of the movement behind the scenes. I especially enjoy blogging because I get to read about the most recent debates and cutting-edge ideas in education, and process my own ideas about them. The best part about my job is that I’m actually using the skills I learned in college. There is a serious need in small public interest organizations for humanities students – people who know how to write, who can do solid research, and who bring their own perspective and voice to things. I feel good knowing that I’m making a difference at a company that’s having such a real impact.

San Francisco is, hands down, the most amazing city I’ve ever been in. A couple of times a week I go out and do something unique around the city.

What are your short and long-term career plans? How do you imagine your fellowship fitting in?

I started this fellowship with the goal of developing two things: my professional skills as a writer and my understanding of how nonprofits operate. So far my office has been an excellent training ground on both fronts. I’ve also been gaining a lot of insight into the more elusive aspects of running a business, such as the bridge between theory and practice. How does a nonprofit stay true to its mission in the midst of a competitive industry? How does it deal with internal clashes and interact with outside partners? Answering these questions has been incredibly helpful for me as I     consider how I might want to run an organization of my own someday.

I’m not sure where I’ll end up in the next couple of years, but I have some interesting ideas. I think I might take some time off and explore music for a while, then come back to the nonprofit arena and do more management-focused work. I may even go to business school! I’m really inspired by my boss’ story and I think I could accomplish a lot in a similar role. I may end up doing something education-related, and I may not; I’ve learned one thing through this fellowship it’s that all social and cultural issues are intimately connected.