A Note from the President & Executive Director – Winter 2018

Princeton University in the winter

As a board member and volunteer in the Princeton area for the past several years, I had always looked forward to January and the opportunity to interview applicants for the Project 55 Fellowship. This year, I had the privilege of conducting the interviews as a staff member and it gave me a deeper appreciation not only for the countless hours the staff and our volunteer alumni interviewers spend reviewing applications materials and asking thought-provoking questions, but also for the potential impact of this, our flagship program, to transform the applicants and our partner organizations. As I marked the nine-month anniversary of assuming the Executive Director role, I told every applicant I interviewed that it is (still) one of my favorite parts of the job. This year we invited about 120 Princeton University seniors to interview for over 70 placements with many longstanding partner organizations as well as several new exciting opportunities. Students took time from their busy Reading Period and exam schedules to trek in the cold and snow to our office at 12 Stockton Street. Our staff is joined by AlumniCorps volunteers as we assess which placement might best fit each candidate’s skills, passions, career goals, and specific interests. The energy of these young people is palpable and contagious, not only in our interview rooms but throughout the office. In the midst of tumultuous domestic and international news, the earnest determination of these students gives us a sense of hope for the future.

One applicant I met with is a Dreamer who has already had a profound impact on her communities. Incredibly smart, caring, and capable, she is passionate about college access and is already an accomplished poet and artist. Another demonstrated great empathy and sensitivity while reflecting on the impacts of the Swim Team scandal last year and lit up when describing his thesis research. He met with successful asylum seekers to the US who are here because of persecutions for gender identity. We met a young woman determined to be a pediatrician who remained resilient and positive despite losing her mother to breast cancer while our applicant was a Princeton undergraduate. I spoke at length with another applicant about arts as cultural narrative, storytelling, and personal expression.  This brilliant senior from a family of educators believes strongly in the ability of theater to develop empathy. As I listened to the students share their passions and future plans, I was reminded of why we do what we do and why we seek to mobilize these soon-to-be-Princeton graduates for the public good.

AumniCorps ED Kef Kasdin ’85 (center, in blue with sunglasses) and other members of Rachel’s Network near the current Mexico-US border wall, November 2017.

I thrive on the personal interactions with our community and January was just the icing on the cake of a busy fall making connections in our network. In keeping with our Bold Idea Initiative’s focus on immigration issues, in November I traveled to the Mexico-US border with Rachel’s Network. As the Board Chair of Rachel’s Network, I liaised with grassroots leaders working for fairer outcomes for immigrant populations and safer, healthier environments for border communities. You can learn more about the trip on Rachel’s Network blog, here: https://rachelsnetwork.org/borderlandstrip.

In October I traveled to the Bay Area with our Director of Programs and Strategy, Caryn Tomljanovich. We met with current and prospective partner organizations, and the Area Committee hosted a get together with volunteers and Fellows in Oakland, CA at NewSchools Venture Fund.

As February approaches and our Fellowship candidates interview with the partner organizations to which we will have referred them, we switch focus to our Emerging Leaders program, which concludes with Closing Celebrations in New York City (February 13) and Washington, DC (February 15).  It’s amazing how time has flown since we selected these 32 high potential young managers last spring and kicked off the program in June.  The Closing Day and Celebration allows for reflection on and sharing of their experiences with each other, supervisors, family, and the broader AlumniCorps community, which welcomes them to continued learning, impact, and transformation. The Program builds capacity for these dedicated and self-aware leaders, both in themselves and for the nonprofits they are preparing to run.

Each opportunity to engage with our program participants and committed volunteers brings a renewed sense of purpose and energy to the work that we do at 12 Stockton. If you are reading this Shared Effort newsletter/ blog, then you are considered a part of the great ‘fishnet’ that is the AlumniCorps family. Here’s to another year of mobilizing people, organizations, and networks for the public good.

AlumniCorps Welcomes New Executive Director, Kef Kasdin ’85!

On behalf of the Princeton AlumniCorps Board of Directors, Board Chair Liz Duffy ’88 and the Executive Director search committee are excited to announce that Kef Kasdin ’85 has been hired as the next Executive Director of Princeton AlumniCorps.  Kef has immediately transitioned from serving as Interim Executive Director to this new role. 

Kef began working with AlumniCorps as a volunteer in 2010 after reading about the organization in the Princeton Alumni Weekly.  She piloted and led the expansion of AlumniCorps’ ARC Innovators program, which provides opportunities for experienced professionals to do meaningful pro bono projects in the nonprofit sector.  She oversaw the expansion of the program from a pilot in New Jersey to full-fledged operations in New Jersey, New York, and Washington, DC, as well as a doubling of the number of ARC Innovator annual projects.  Kef joined AlumniCorps’ Board in 2012 and became active in all of AlumniCorps’ programming. She was instrumental in developing two strategic plans for the organization, including the most recent plan approved in February 2017, as well as a campaign plan approved in June 2017. Kef was elected Board President in May 2016 and has served as Interim Executive Director of AlumniCorps since the departure of former Executive Director Andrew Nurkin in mid-April 2017.  

Kef has a breadth of nonprofit board leadership experience.  She is currently Board Chair at Rachel’s Network, a vibrant community of women at the intersection of environmental advocacy, philanthropy, and women’s leadership, and she has previously served on other nonprofit boards including Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County and Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Kef also created and has taught the introductory course, “Foundations of Entrepreneurship” at Princeton University, where she has mentored 50 Princeton undergraduates each semester, inspiring them to launch innovations that can create value and make a difference in the world. Earlier in her career, Kef held senior leadership roles at 3Com Corporation (a data networking company) including a term as general manager of a $1B division. She became a technology-startup consultant in the late 1990s, a venture capitalist in 2000, and a founding general partner of Battelle Ventures, where from 2003 to 2015 she led the firm’s investments in clean energy and started several companies based on U.S. Department of Energy Lab technologies.

Originally from Israel, Kef grew up on Long Island. She holds a B.S.E degree in operations research from Princeton University, with a certificate in science and policy from the Woodrow Wilson School, and an MBA from the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University.  Kef’s husband Jeremy, also Class of ’85, is a Professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton and their twin daughters, who both graduated from Princeton in 2014, are pursuing careers in the nonprofit and government sectors.

The search committee included AlumniCorps Chair Liz Duffy ’88 and board members Dale Caldwell ‘82, Kirk Davidson ’55, Debra Kushma ‘80, and Andrew Protain ‘08. According to Duffy, “Even though Kef served as interim executive director, she went through the application process along with several other highly qualified candidates. Kef not only had the deepest understanding of Princeton AlumniCorps and Princeton among the finalists, but she also had the broadest leadership experience and very savvy insights about what it will take to move the organization to the next level of impact and sustainability. We are confident that under Kef’s leadership, we will both realize the aspirations of the strategic plan and have a successful capital campaign.”

Kef commented, “I firmly believe AlumniCorps has an important part to play in expanding our society’s collective capacity to address the world’s most pressing challenges. I look forward to helping us fulfill our new mission: to mobilize people, organizations, and networks for the public good; and to helping to secure the resources to ensure Princeton AlumniCorps’ next quarter century is as impactful as its first 27 years have been.” Kef can be reached at kkasdin@alumnicorps.org or 609-921-8808 x2.