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 Spotlight: Suzanne Chipkin

Why did you join the Princeton AlumniCorps community and the Emerging Leaders program? We posed that question to Suzanne Chipkin, Associate Manager, Young Lions at the New York Public Library and 2013-14 Emerging Leader.

Suzanne Chipkin
Suzanne Chipkin

I became interested in the Emerging Leaders program when a former colleague told me great things about his experience. After three years at iMentor, I was looking to connect with people at other organizations and develop my own career—I needed to broaden my horizons. With Emerging Leaders, I found a diverse, accomplished set of people. I was looking to move to a management role and develop other skills.

To me, the peer coaching was the highlight of the program. Being coached by my fellow Emerging Leaders—individuals who knew me well but were outside of my organization—helped me reflect, process challenges, and brainstorm solutions. On the other side, being a coach helped me to understand my peers better and allowed me to get an inside look at other organizations and teams.

I loved the guest speakers, and I learned so much from hearing their stories. One of the biggest lessons I took from these talks is the idea that careers seldom take a linear path. My experience with the Emerging Leaders program has helped me to clarify my career goals, take on more responsibilities professionally, and focus on what matters most to me. I switched jobs shortly after completing Emerging Leaders. While I didn’t have staff management           experience, the skills I gained in the program helped me to stand out in the interview process.

I plan to stay in the nonprofit sector for my career. I care about a lot of issues, and there are so many great nonprofit organizations making an impact. It’s exciting that Emerging Leaders is preparing young leaders across the sector—you need help getting the skills and experience. I support Princeton AlumniCorps because its work to strengthen the sector resonates with me. The AlumniCorps community is special!

Interview with Princeton AlumniCorps’ New President Kathy Miller ’77

Kathy graduated from Princeton in 1977 with an independent major in Healthcare Resource Allocation: The Economics and Politics of Healthcare.  After working full time for several years, she returned to graduate school part-time and obtained a Master’s in Urban Affairs and Public Policy from the New School for Social Research as a NYC Mayor’s Graduate fellow.  Kathy has worked in healthcare since graduation, becoming a hospital assistant executive director in 1983 and holding successive leadership positions in ambulatory care services and hospital administration and planning since that time.  She has worked with the NYC public hospital system, several voluntary teaching hospitals and most recently served as Vice President for Clinical and Community Health Programs at Public Health Solutions, an independent non-profit public health corporation providing services and research in the areas of women’s health, obesity prevention and nutrition, family services and HIV in New York City.  Kathy is now running her own independent healthcare consulting business. She has participated in AlumniCorps for years as both a partner agency and as a mentor for NYC fellows in the Project 55 Fellowship Program. She joined the Board of Directors in 2007 and was elected President of the Board in December.

 

How/why did you first get involved with Princeton AlumniCorps? What has kept you engaged over the years?

About eight years ago, when I first began working at Public Health Solutions, I was looking for smart, inexpensive help in the office. I went onto the University website, and that’s when I saw a reference to Project 55 fellowships. The next thing I knew, Chet Safian ’55 and Steve Houck ’69 were on my doorstep telling me about PP55 and convincing me it would be a great match. I had already recruited two students at the time, and Chet offered to make them fellows. In addition, he convinced me that I should be a mentor. Part of what really sold me was when, the following year, I went through the whole PP55 process and was amazed at the candidates; they were well screened and well matched with my organization’s needs. Later, I got involved with Jim Gregoire’s initiative to start public health fellowships.

As an alumna, I was personally really excited to find a community service opportunity that related back to Princeton. My own class tends to be more internationally focused when it comes to service work, and I wanted to participate in something that gave back to Princeton. It was a perfect fit for me in that sense. I was later asked to be on the Board, and the rest is history.

 

What is your background regarding nonprofits/volunteering? How have you demonstrated “Princeton in the Nation’s Service”?

I have spent my entire career working in nonprofits—especially in healthcare—which was my major. I have always felt that there was a certain need for capable, intelligent people in the sector, and it has given me a lot of personal satisfaction to give back. I spent my first ten years out of school working in public hospitals in New York City in a variety of roles. I then moved into the voluntary hospital sector in NYC, working in large medical centers, primarily doing work with community based ambulatory care and programs that were essentially safety net healthcare programs. When I moved to Public Health Solutions, I continued to work on these programs but also got involved with research and specialized in maternal/child  and reproductive health.

Upon leaving Public Health Solutions I began exploring my opportunities and realized there was a tremendous need for people adept at helping organizations to develop and implement strategies to deal with the changing landscape of healthcare regulations today.  I am now working for two clients in that role.  One is the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, where I’m directing a project to provide their member organizations with tools to survive and thrive as the world changes around them; funding which has traditionally come from grants is now being transformed to Medicaid/state sponsored insurance. The second is a large NYC network of ambulatory care sites where I will be working with the leadership team to improve their quality of service and improve the health of the population they care for by making better use of technology and the patient information it can provide.

 

What is the most important thing you look for when supporting an organization or serving on a nonprofit board?

The most important thing I look for, after affirming that I believe in the mission of an organization, is the vision of the leadership. Strong leadership has a vision of where it wants to go as well as the management skill to move the organization forward.

 

What role do you think AlumniCorps plays in the broader Princeton community and in communities around the country?

AlumniCorps plays a key role in bringing alumni together in the common pursuit of public interest opportunities. This is important for several reasons. First, when alumni are brought together through a program, connections are made, and amazing partnerships and bonds are formed which otherwise may not have been. For instance, in Chicago, Paula Morency ’77 and Tom Allison ’66 have recently begun working together on developing the Community Volunteers program, and have together discovered common interests and passions to channel into their community. When alumni meet other alumni in this way, it is really compelling, and “Princeton in the Nation’s Service…” is really brought to life.

The other important aspect of   AlumniCorps’ work is intergenerational as alumni of all ages can connect to one another and to their common heritage as Princetonians. This is exemplified within the Board and also in the structure of AlumniCorps’ programming (recent graduates are paired with mentors of older classes, for example). While the alumni community is strong on its own, AlumniCorps excels at leveraging initial alumni connections into relationships that can contribute meaningfully and effectively to civic engagement, all the while strengthening the bonds of the alumni community in the process.

 “When alumni are brought together through a program, connections are made and amazing partnerships and bonds are formed which otherwise may not have been.”

What do you see as some of the challenges and opportunities you will encounter in your upcoming term as President? And what is your hope for the future of Princeton AlumniCorps?

I think the challenges and opportunities are very similar. We are really striving to increase the engagement of alumni from classes of the ’60’s, ’70’s, ’80’s, ’90’s, and ’00’s to create a strong, alumni-driven organization to include graduates of all ages. The challenge is reaching those alumni who graduated before Princeton AlumniCorps (then Princeton Project 55) became an institution. Another challenge is conveying the mission of the organization and how it is relevant for ’60’s and ’70’s graduates. We have to be strategic in considering all the ways they can participate that might match up with their current passions, interests, and desires.

Our opportunity lies in expanding our outreach, involving more classes, and helping to grow more programs. With the addition of Emerging Leaders and Community Volunteers, AlumniCorps has created many more outlets for alumni to get involved. These two new programs enable us to work not only with individual alumni but also to partner with class service projects that utilize AlumniCorps’ experience and skills. Through these partnerships, we can help officers and class members refine and implement their visions.

My hope is that AlumniCorps would become known in the alumni community as an organization that provides both individual alumni and class leadership with opportunities to be efficiently, effectively, and jointly engaged in civic service.


Is there anything else you would like to share as incoming President?

While we continually seek donations to make our programs possible, and ensure that AlumniCorps has a sound financial base moving forward, our primary goal is to engage alumni in ways that incorporate their time and talent.  There are many ways an alum can give to the organization: with their time, their money, their potential connections with other sources of funding, volunteer opportunities, mentoring opportunities, or opportunities to be trainers for Emerging Leaders, etc. There is a broad array of ways to be involved and contribute to AlumniCorps. While money is always greatly appreciated, it is not the only thing for which we are looking.

 

Emerging Leaders Program Expands Beyond DC to NYC

Nonprofit professionals working in New York along with their peers in Washington, DC can now take advantage of the hugely successful Emerging Leaders professional development program, thanks to a very generous grant from the Rita Allen Foundation. An expansive network of nonprofit organizations and executives combined with an innovative curriculum, Emerging Leaders uniquely prepares organizations  to address the growing leadership gap in the sector, identified by many in the field, including the Bridgespan Group.

Through highly effective, in-depth knowledge sharing, peer community building, and skills improvement, Emerging Leaders creates a cohort of aspiring nonprofit executives early in their careers while they are still committed to the sector. Current participants are thrilled with the far-reaching impact of the program as it enables them to accelerate their growth and contributions more rigorously and quickly than they otherwise could.

Emerging Leader Kyndall Parker ’06 states, “The lessons I’ve learned from Emerging Leaders have made me a better manager, direct report, and peer and put me in a position to have been recently promoted to Senior Director of Operations.” The program runs for 8 full-day sessions over 8 consecutive months and is open to all university graduates who meet the application criteria. The application deadline is March 15th.

Please note that there is an application fee of $20. This fee is waived for Princeton Project 55 Fellowship Program alumni. The nominal participation fee of $350 for each applicant who is accepted may be covered by employers.

 

For more information about Emerging Leaders or to apply,

visit www.AlumniCorps.org.

Have questions?

Contact EmergingLeaders@AlumniCorps.org