Emerging Leaders Spotlight: May Mark

May Mark (3)“Emerging Leaders gave me the opportunity to take a step back from my day-to-day work on the ground and have space to really think about who I am and who I want to be. Emerging Leaders developed my skills as a visionary leader.”

As the Program Manager at New Leaders, a nonprofit that provides leadership training and resources to public school leaders, May Mark successfully completed the Emerging Leaders program in NYC last year. She has recently moved to Oakland, CA to begin work at a global education technology startup, One University Network.

Originally from the New York City area, May Mark found herself back there after graduating from Brown University in 2008. She began working at New Leaders, a nonprofit in ten cities throughout the U.S aimed at providing resources and training to promising principals and assistant principals for public schools in low-income and under-resourced areas. most recently, May was the Program Manager for the flagship Aspiring Principals Program, where she coordinated the operation of the program running in multiple cities. May skillfully balanced program fidelity and flexibility to ensure success for the school leaders and ultimately students.

At this point in her career, Andrew Protain ’08, a childhood friend and recent Emerging Leader, referred may to the Emerging Leaders program. “There are not a lot of resources for folks in the nonprofit space. Emerging Leaders provided an opportunity for young professionals passionate about their work in NYC to enter into a community. It helped to see the whole web of nonprofit work happening in the city,” said May.

It was this community built among her Emerging Leaders cohort that May found so valuable. They acted as each other’s accountability partners and soundboards. The program’s use of peer coaching was particularly helpful to practice hard conversations that pushed May’s professional growth and to hear feedback. “After Emerging Leaders, coworkers at my job commented that they could see my growth as a leader. I already had the content knowledge, but my confidence in my skills and leadership capability really grew,” said May. The program requires support from both the participants and the nonprofits they represent. May reflects that her experience was amplified by how much support she received from New Leaders and its time and financial commitment to her personal development.

Under the Emerging Leader programming, May also undertook a “stretch project” of creating an online community on social media for 15 years of alumni and staff involved with the Aspiring Principals Program at New Leaders. The online community has a current membership of over 500 members, which surpassed the original goal by 75 percent.

Although May is no longer with her nonprofit in NYC, there is a sense of fulfillment in knowing that the people she served have a tool and vehicle to continue to work together past her involvement; her project for Emerging Leaders left a legacy in connecting and engaging program alumni at New Leaders.

May continues to utilize the skills and confidence she developed through Emerging Leaders at her new role as Project Manager at One University Network based in Oakland, CA. One University Network partners with universities and employers to enable college curriculum on mobile devices, opening opportunities for students in other countries to earn college credentials and degrees at their own pace and with affordable fees. Moving from a national nonprofit to a global education technology startup poses a new set of challenges, but the goal of providing access to high-quality education remains the same. May is confident that the skills and relationships she has built in the Emerging Leaders program will continue to help her grow professionally.

Emerging Leaders Spotlight: Malena Attar

Malena Attar is the Development Associate at Good Grief and a participant in this year’s Emerging Leaders program in New York. Good Grief’s mission is to provide unlimited and free support to children, teens, young adults, and families after the death of a mother, father, sister, or brother through peer support programs, education, and advocacy. Malena’s role combines her passion for community engagement and the advocacy needed to ensure that no child ever has to grieve alone. This is an excerpt from the post she wrote for The Leading Edge, the AlumniCorps blog.

Malena Attar
Malena Attar

I had high expectations for my experience with the Emerging Leaders program, but I can honestly say that I had no idea how life-changing it would be.

Before our first session, we were asked to obtain feedback on our strengths. Only our strengths. Before our first day together, Emerging Leaders was al- ready sending us a message that would be made very clear: “You are already a leader. You already possess the unique strengths that you bring to the environments around you.” We have gotten this far because we already are leaders, we are just simply unaware of how to position ourselves so that we can best show our strengths and succeed.

The beauty of this program is that it meets once a month over the span of nine months. As we explored forms of communication, leadership styles, managing up, networking, fundraising, and public speaking, we always looped back to what kind of leader we were. It is a lot of work to undo the notion that a leader speaks, leads, works, looks a specific way. As each of the leaders in the program slowly emerged into their better-defined selves, everyone benefited. Everyone in the program shared the struggles, rethinking, perseverance, and successes of each peer. In learning to work with our varied professional teams, we were evolving into our own diverse and powerful team.

This would have been impossible without the exceptional work of the AlumniCorps staff and board, and most importantly of our facilitator, Yael Sivi. We all knew Yael would be encouraging us to stretch further than we thought we could, and that we would grow. We did. The announcement of a number of promotions, new opportunities, and workplace improvements filled the air as we met each month.

I am so grateful for this opportunity, for Princeton AlumniCorps, and for our facilitator Yael. In being accepted into this program, each leader started on a journey they didn’t know was possible. A journey with a network of hundreds of accomplished professionals, a wealth of knowledge, a family of peers that will continue to grow alongside us, and as the leaders we didn’t realize we could be.

Emerging Leaders Spotlight: Scott Welfel

Why did you join the Princeton AlumniCorps community and the Emerging Leaders program? We posed that question to Scott Welfel ’06, a Staff Attorney at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and 2014-15 Emerging Leader.

Scott Welfel '06
Scott Welfel ’06

I applied to Emerging Leaders because I wanted to learn how to play a more active role in the operation, organization, and direction of my organization even from my current role as staff attorney, to position myself to become one of the leaders in prisoner reentry policy in New Jersey, and to improve my ability to effectively and efficiently manage my direct reports. I was inspired by the example of Emerging Leaders alumni, such as Shena Elrington, who have risen to become incredibly effective leaders in their organizations and their respective fields.

I have learned an enormous amount from my colleagues – the other Emerging Leaders currently in the program. It is really inspiring to be connected with such passionate, driven advocates for social justice, and to learn different management techniques from their collective experience and wisdom. Additionally, Yael Sivi, Program Facilitator for New York, is hands-down a master teacher. Her knowledge of what makes us and others tick, and how to harness that knowledge to realize the full potential of our organizations, is absolutely unparalleled. If given the option of choosing one person to send to end the gridlock in Washington, I would send Yael.

The skills and tools I am learning at Emerging Leaders are particularly crucial in the social justice sphere of legal advocacy, where organizations are dependent on law student interns. Effective and efficient management of interns is particularly difficult given the transient and unpaid nature of their positions. Through mastering the skill of effective management, I hope to markedly increase the capacity and productivity of the Institute for Social Justice as well as any organizations I land at in the future.

I support AlumniCorps because I believe effective leadership, and the level of self-reflection that is required for effective leadership, must be taught. No other organization currently offers this level of high-caliber professional development for leaders in the public interest sector.

Emerging Leaders Has Continued Success

Upon leaving each session, I feel empowered, effective, and enlightened as I head back to my vocation. The tools gained serve as catalysts to my leadership awareness and promote growth along this path to being a complete leader.

-Julian Forde, 2014 Emerging Leader

In February, members of the AlumniCorps community,  along with our supporters in the nonprofit and public sectors, gathered in New York City and Washington, DC, to celebrate the newly-graduated Emerging Leaders class of 2014. AlumniCorps Board and staff members, Emerging Leaders program alumni, employers, advisers, family members, and other supporters helped to honor the participants’ accomplishments and the program’s success.

The receptions on February 20th in Washington, DC, and February 27th in New York marked the completion of the program’s third year. Last June, the new group of participants began gathering for monthly sessions to develop their skills in the nonprofit and public sectors. Participants were coached in such areas as nonprofit financial reporting, presentation skills, and fundraising fundamentals through skill-based activities and discussions with subject experts. For other topics that relate to emotional intelligence and team dynamics, presentations and best practices were combined with experiential learning and peer group collaboration. The goal of the program is to build the capacity of the participants, and the nonprofit and public sectors as a whole, as well as to address complex public issues by equipping talented young managers with the skills to launch them into leadership roles.

Addressing the attendees in New York, AlumniCorps President Kathy Miller ’77 spoke about the value and uniqueness of the program: “Emerging Leaders provides participants with a framework for developing the innate leadership talent of our participants and how they can use it effectively… In addition to hard skills like how to fundraise or pitch an idea, what makes the Emerging Leaders program unique is that it gives participants a space to learn the interpersonal perspective needed to be a leader.”

Many employers were in attendance at the celebrations. Rachael Peters, New York City Executive Director of Peer Health Exchange, Inc., described the significance of the program to her organization. “There aren’t resources for professional development for leaders at this level, so Emerging Leaders was a comprehensive, affordable, and thoughtful option that made sense. This program has been great in that we recognized our employee as a leader and she has already brought lessons from Emerging Leaders back to our team,” Rachael said.

Clara Botstein ’07: How AlumniCorps Impacts My Work

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.

Emerging Leaders Shapes Nonprofit Sector Careers

Elizabeth Lindsey *07 is a member of the first class of Emerging Leaders and the Alumni Leader for the program in Washington, DC. She currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Groundswell, a DC-based clean energy and community development nonprofit. She shares her thoughts on how the program has impacted her own leadership role and the greater nonprofit sector.


I’ve wanted to be a nonprofit leader since I was 22. My first job out of college was as an executive assistant at a nonprofit, and I was hooked right away. I loved the fast pace of the work, the challenge and complexity of raising funds and setting strategy, and building relationships. And to top it all off, I knew I was making a difference every day. After three years, I decided to develop my skill set further. I received a Master of Public Affairs from Princeton and spent a few years working in local government. In 2011, I was thrilled to return to the nonprofit sector as Chief Operating Officer of Groundswell, an organization that helps communities leverage their collective market power for good by pooling their demand for needed services and linking them with businesses that drive local economic opportunity and sustainability. I realized quickly that there was much for me to learn to become a more effective leader.

Like many in the nonprofit sector, I never had access to significant professional development or training, and I never set aside time to reflect on the type of leader I wanted to be. Emerging Leaders provided me with the opportunity for this type of self-reflection and much more. At each session, I spent the day learning from the incredible Hilary Joel ‘85, the DC Lead Facilitator who developed the curriculum, and from my peers in the program. We coached each other and talked through our strengths and challenges. We were able to be honest about our ambitions as well as fears that were holding us back. It was an incredible privilege to have this time for growth in the midst of work, family, and the other craziness of life. Through Emerging Leaders, we also had the tremendous opportunity to meet directly with nonprofit executives. They shared not only their hard skills, like how to fundraise and manage a nonprofit budget, but also their stories and insights into maximizing impact and building a career in the sector. There are so many aspiring nonprofit leaders who are as thrilled as I am about the opportunities to make a difference in the world and grow personally and professionally, but there aren’t a lot of opportunities for us to be intentional about our career path. The Emerging Leaders program provided that opportunity to me and the other graduates, and it will shape nonprofit leadership for years to come.

Emerging Leaders Update

A record 75 candidates applied for the program in New York and Washington, DC. We accepted 16 talented, highly-motivated applicants in each city.

The 2013-14 Emerging Leaders are diverse professionals working in the public interest for 32 distinct organizations. Subsectors represented range from social services and sustainability to education and youth services.

All participants have been notified of their acceptance and will begin the program in mid-June.

Many thanks to the Rita Allen Foundation for their continued leadership support of the program!