Project 55 in Boston: A Transformative Experience

Rebecca Nemec ’05
Former PP55 Fellow, Area Committee Coordinator

When most people think of Boston, they think of the famous Red Sox, the Boston Tea Party, or “Hahvahd Yahd” (okay that’s in Cambridge). Boston, though, is also a cultural and educational Mecca – a place which prides itself on being civically engaged.

With only 600,000 residents, and a relatively small city center, Boston is filled to the brim with a diverse, vibrant and productive public interest sector. In this rich environment, Project 55 fellows can’t help but have a productive, engaging and transformative year!

Rebecca Nemec '05
Rebecca Nemec '05

Princeton Project 55 fellows have a variety of unique placement options addressing environmental, health care, and educational issues throughout the Boston area. Currently we offer six fellowship positions at nonprofit organizations in the Boston metropolitan area.

Gill Pressman ’08 followed in the footsteps of former PP55 fellow Dena Koren ’04 and serves as the Assistant to the Chief Operating Officer at Building Educated Leaders for Life (B.E.L.L). Karen Jeng ’08 works at the Children’s Sentinel Nutrition Assessment Program where she is conducting policy research on the effects of food stamps on the nutrition of low income families and children.

The High Meadows Fellowship, an environmental program run by Princeton University, also participates in our program. Laura Smith-Gary ’08 is a development associate at The Food Project, an organization that employs young people to grow healthy food for local residents. Marissa Grossman ’06 also works at The Food Project, organizing college students to change their college food service operations.

Jana Holt ’08 and Margaret Arbuthnot ’07 are fellows at The Environmental Defense Fund, working to protect the environment through public policy initiatives in the Boston area. Ellen Zuckerman ’07 holds a fellowship at The Vermont Community Foundation, and serves the nonprofit sector through grant making to communities all over the state.

Our area committee is full of Princeton alumni, many of whom have been through the fellowship program and had amazing experiences. We are very focused on working with the current fellows in Boston to give them a year that will increase their professional growth, and provide them with a deep knowledge and commitment to the public interest.

The Boston area committee works hard each year to help fellows become acquainted with the city by exposing them to local public interest issues and connecting them to professional development opportunities. To this end, we have developed an important relationship with the Harvard Center for Public Interest Careers (CPIC), which provides us with the opportunity to offer a free workshop on negotiation and bargaining at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Together, we plan monthly seminars and bring fellows from both groups to social events. Seminars focus on a specific public interest issue or nonprofit organization working in Boston. Fellows, alumni and others in the Princeton community are invited to these seminars, creating an environment where fellows can deepen their understanding of the public interest sector and build a robust community. Our next seminar will focus on public interest law and will be hosted by the Harvard Law School and the Harvard Children Advocacy Program.

PP55 Happy Hour with the Princeton Association of New England (PANE)
PP55 Happy Hour with the Princeton Association of New England (PANE)

Socially, we keep our fellows engaged as well. In November, CPIC and PP55 fellows met at the Liberty Hotel on the banks of the Charles River for drinks and conversation. Our next social event will be a baking class at Canto 6 Bakery in Jamaica Plain (one of Boston’s twelve neighborhoods) in the early spring.

This September, we hosted our first Boston area orientation breakfast: fellows, mentors and supervisors gathered to meet one another and discuss Project 55’s fellowship program during the upcoming year.

This year, the area committee hopes to forge new connections with other Princeton alumni groups in the region. The Princeton Association of New England (PANE) has an active membership and includes committees that are working to bring young alumni together for happy hours, trivia nights and other social events.

They also organize alumni to work on community service projects and have developed a mentoring program for elementary school students at the Snowden International School in Boston. PANE and Project 55 have a lot to offer one another and we hope to develop this relationship, which will surely add value to the fellowship experience in Boston.

As a former PP55 fellow at The Food Project, I am constantly grateful for the experience I had in Boston. I attended the occasional Red Sox game and headed to Harvard – begrudgingly, of course – to watch Princeton battle Harvard. But what really made my fellowship unique and exciting was the community of fellows and alumni who engaged me on issues related to work, life and the future.

“We are very focused on working with the current fellows in Boston to give them a year that will increase their professional growth, and provide them with a deep knowledge and commitment to the public interest.”
– Rebecca Nemec ’05

Obertubbesing ’73: Why Did I Join PP55?

By Carol Obertubbesing ’73
Current PP55 Mentor

I first learned about Princeton Project 55 in 1993 when I attended the first Princeton Community Service Conference organized by John Fish ’55 and Bob Loveman ’69. I was so impressed by the fellows and the dedication of all of those involved that I immediately signed up to become a mentor for one of the summer interns and, later, the year-long fellows.

In Chicago, mentors have helped fellows, most of whom are recent graduates and have not lived in Chicago before, adjust to working life and a new city. I moved to Chicago with some reluctance myself and yet have grown to love its beauty and the vibrancy of its social and cultural communities.

I try to share this love with incoming fellows through a Chicago tip sheet and by introducing my mentee to some favorite places and activities. Having worked in numerous nonprofit organizations, I also try to offer guidance when appropriate. Other mentors have offered career advice and even helped fellows with difficult personal issues such as immigration.

I have served as a PP55 mentor for over 15 years and, besides a strong belief in the mission of the organization, I have also found it personally gratifying. As a transplanted Easterner, I have learned even more about the Chicago community through conversations with my mentees about their work and through the PP55 seminars.

Some of my mentees have shared my interests in theatre or music. Others have taught me about fields, e.g. science and technology, of which I have less knowledge. All of them have stimulated my thinking and each one has been a delight to know personally.

Many of my mentees have been alumnae and it has been encouraging to see how positive their experiences as women at Princeton have been. Serving as a mentor has enabled me to get to know some of these amazing young women and to see that Princeton has been a more welcoming place for them.

I have had a few women in my life who have forever changed it for the better. I hope that the women now graduating from Princeton, particularly with their Princeton Project 55 Fellowship experience, will do this for the next generation, and I hope that in some small way I have been able to do this for the women I have known.

I am glad community service is now a more prominent part of the Princeton experience—on-campus, off-campus, before and after graduation—and that the University and its students, staff, and alumni are more committed to “Princeton in the Nation’s Service and in the Service of All Nations.” I hope to continue to be part of this effort by serving as a PP55 mentor, and I encourage you to get involved in some way as well.

I encourage all alumni—both men and women—to get involved in Princeton Project 55. Together, we can bridge the generation gap, encourage more Princeton graduates to pursue careers in community and public service, learn about and strengthen our communities, and begin to have the kind of civil discourse and civic engagement that will help us build a better world.

Carol Obertubbesing ’73 is a PP55 mentor, past Chair of Princeton University’s Committee on Academic Programs for Alumni, past President of the Princeton Club of Chicago, VP of Communications for the Princeton Club of Chicago, and recipient of the Club’s Arnold M. Berlin ’46 Award for Service to Princeton.

Spotlight on a Project 55 Fellow: Mandy Mazur ’08

Mandy Mazur ’08, current fellow at Lumity in Chicago, reflects on the early days of her experience as a Project 55 Fellow:


“Lumity is a nonprofit organization that helps hundreds of other nonprofits in the Chicago area operate more efficiently and deepen their community impact through a variety of training and consulting services in the areas of information technology and finance. While my background as a comparative literature major did not directly equip me with the skills and knowledge for my fellowship (you may wonder, how does a command of Dostoevsky’s work relate to the setup of an online donation tool?), I have certainly applied the creativity and critical thinking skills those years of poetry-reading and paper-writing have honed. Plus, navigating entirely new and unfamiliar territory is incredibly rewarding—it forces you to adapt and reinvent your current capacities.”

Mandy has embraced the new skills she is learning in her position at Lumity, “As the Program Associate in External Affairs, I have worked on marketing-related projects, in addition to IT and website work. I have helped set up an online donation tool to enable effortless giving from our donors and facilitated the purchase and configuration of a donor database that is integrated with an email campaigning tool. I also manage relations with various partner organizations and gather client and consultant information to highlight success stories.”

Mandy also reflects on the support she has received through Project 55’s Fellowship Programs:

“The engaged alumni community has made my transition into this new world incredibly smooth. I have already received buckets of advice and encouragement from mentors, through email exchanges, lunch dates and seminars. Invaluable from the start, I cannot wait to see where this yearlong fellowship takes me next!”

Project 55 Fellows Embark on an Exciting Year

By Stephanie Mirkin
PP55 Program Manager

Fellows discuss the field of community development with PP55 Board Member Elliott Lee '74 at the 2008 Fellowship Orientation in Princeton.
Fellows discuss the field of community development with PP55 Board Member Elliott Lee '74 at the 2008 Fellowship Orientation in Princeton.

The summer of 2008 was an exciting time for the 68 new Princeton Project 55 Fellows to begin their fellowship placements. For many of the fellows, this was their first time entering the “real world” of a 9-5 job and paying rent. For others, this is the foundation for a career in the nonprofit sector and public service. For all fellows, we hope this will be the beginning of a lifelong commitment to the public interest, civic leadership, and the Project 55 community.

As Project 55 begins a new program year of supporting our fellows, partner organizations, and area committees, we would like to welcome our newest class of fellows and wish them a successful year.

Project 55 Across the Nation: Regional Updates

PP55 Fellows are currently serving the public interest in these locations.
PP55 Fellows are currently serving the public interest in these locations.

Bay Area, California

Project 55 is working to energize their base in the Bay Area! John Shriver, PP55’s new Program Manager, visited San Francisco fellows, partner organizations, volunteers, and supporters from Oct. 27th-29th. John was excited to meet with Project 55’s “boots on the ground.”


Princeton Project 55 and Harvard CPIC are working together to present “On Philanthropy,” a collaborative seminar featuring The Boston Foundation. Come hear from a leader in the field at the Phillips Brooks House on Harvard campus!


It was a busy October for our Chicago group. At the Oct. 15th Mixer for current and former fellows, PP55ers had the opportunity to meet and network with professionals in their field and discuss their Project 55 experiences. On Oct. 30, PP55 Fellows were the honored guests (wow!) at the Chicago Aspire and Inspire dinner.


Feel like Connecticut fellows are out of the loop? Think again! On October 30th, fellows were on the front lines of public health as they toured the Fairhaven Community Health Center, where Sita Bushan ’08 is currently a PP55 Fellow.

New Jersey / New York

Nov. 18 was a great opportunity for fellows, mentors and nonprofit professionals to meet, greet and make connections at the second annual PP55 Connections Night!

Washington, D.C.

Think there’s a set curriculum to follow to revamp educational opportunity in the United States? Think again. D.C. area fellows, TAN Affiliates and volunteers heard from three leaders in D.C. education reform who are shaking things up and working relentlessly to provide high quality education for all children. The Education Entrepreneurship seminar on Nov.10 featured accomplished leaders from College Summit, Teach for America and D.C. Preparatory Academy.

To learn more about the many exciting PP55 regional activities taking place across the nation, contact John Shriver at