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.

 

 

We Needed the Best: Partner Organization Spotlight

Safer Foundation is one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit providers of services designed exclusively for people with criminal records. They focus on helping their clients secure and maintain jobs because they understand that employment offers the best chance at successful re-entry. Sodiqa Williams ’05 has been Associate Vice President,  Policy and Strategy since 2014.

sodiqa-newWhy did you hire a Princeton Project 55 fellow?

As an alumna of the Princeton Project 55 program, I know the tremendous opportunity there is for a Princeton graduate entering the world of public interest. I started my career in public policy and politics eleven years ago as a Fellow for the then-Lt. Governor of the State of Illinois, who later became Governor. I wanted to afford the opportunity to another Princeton graduate to learn and work at one of the nation’s leading organizations in reentry and workforce development. In order to truly turn this nation around, we need the best and brightest working on critical criminal justice issues.

Also, I understand the tremendous talent and work-ethic of those who enroll in the PP55 program as an intern or fellow. I knew that in order to get Safer’s vision materialized we needed the best, and that was a PP55 Fellow.

What projects is your fellow working on?

Asawari came to Safer to lead our newly created Safer Policy Institute.  The Policy Institute provides weekly updates to synthesize the most important of the latest in the criminal justice system, and when possible, uses this synthesis to assess Illinois’ position and advance action. It is also a forum to mobilize action on impactful legislative developments. With Asawari’s leadership and excellent writing abilities – I suspect due to her in-depth knowledge of policy analysis and journalism – the Institute is quickly establishing Safer locally and internationally as a reliable source that can contribute to an advocate’s efforts in criminal justice and reentry policies. In addition, it is effectively re-directing the discourse on criminal justice reform to focus on reentry.

Asawari’s role, however, has not been confined to the Institute. She is now an integral part of the Policy and Advocacy Team. She has drafted testimony and high-level recommendations for state commissions, county boards, and government officials. Asawari also has been key in pushing legislation at the state level. We are currently working to push HB 5973, legislation that codifies for Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR)’s licensing purposes EEOC guidance on employing people with criminal records. It does so for the high growth professions of cosmetology, funeral services, accounting, real estate and roofing. EEOC guidance encourages consideration of mitigating factors such as time since commission of an offense, its nature and gravity, bearing upon job sought and evidence of rehabilitation. HB 5973 states that a conviction record directly related to the practice of a profession. If this legislation is enacted, I can confidently say Asawari played a big part in our success.

Asawari is also working on an initiative funded by JPMorgan Chase to engage health care employers in a national discussion about promising new opportunities to recruit and employ people with conviction records. While the industry has historically been closed to this population, the initiative aims to expand and diversify the pipeline of applicants seeking health care employment to meet the significant demand for qualified workers.

What is the value to your organization of having a Princeton Project 55 fellow?

Asawari has brought tremendous value to Safer; there are now two brainy people who are excellent writers! Before she arrived, I was able to do some great innovative work but now she is helping me with research and drafting of policy documents. Now our ability to make significant substantive impact has tripled.

In particular, I am ecstatic to have a Princeton Project 55 fellow like Asawari because I know I can trust her when I delegate a project. She not only provides exactly what I asked for but also an excellent work product. With our fast-paced environment and small staff, matched with very high expectations from senior leadership, it is critical that I have someone on my team who can keep pace with us as we are repeatedly called for our advice and guidance, as we continue to advocate for policies allowing equal employment opportunities for all, and as we develop new opportunities in high-growth industries.

Asawari has done such a fantastic job Safer has made her an offer to become our Public Policy &  Legislative Affairs Coordinator at the end of her fellowship in 2016.

What is the impact on your beneficiaries of having a Project 55 fellow?

The impact can be seen now and will be seen for many years into the future as we continue to open historically closed doors  in high-growth industries such as healthcare, remove barriers to employment opportunities, and recommend to top government officials and agencies cost-effective, evidence-based practices that will reduce recidivism and save taxpayers’ dollars.

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

Having a Princeton Project 55 Fellow is the best short-term and long-term investment organizations can make not only to build up their internal capacity, but also to make significant positive impact. These Fellows are the best and brightest who lend their intelligence, skills, drive and determination to advance critically important causes.

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

Princeton AlumniCorps Welcomes New Executive Director, Andrew C. Nurkin

On behalf of the Princeton AlumniCorps Board of Directors, President Kathy Miller ’77 and Chairman John Fish ’55 are thrilled to announce the hiring of Andrew C. Nurkin as the next Executive Director of Princeton AlumniCorps.

Andrew joins Princeton AlumniCorps after four years on the staff of the Pace Center for Civic Engagement at Princeton University, where he developed and managed public leadership and civic action programs that engage undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, staff, and alumni. He previously served as the Executive Director of Fine By Me, an organization dedicated to promoting equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people on campuses and in communities across the country. Andrew has also worked as an organizer with national campaigns to end poverty and comes to Princeton AlumniCorps with extensive experience in mobilizing individuals to take shared action on issues of public concern. Originally from Atlanta, Andrew holds a M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, a MFA in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a BA in English from Duke, where he served a three-year term on the Board of Trustees. He also volunteers as a writing instructor at Garden State prison.

Andrew writes, ” Over the past four years it has become clear to me that Princeton AlumniCorps is not simply another elevation in the civic engagement landscape. AlumniCorps is doing something different and particularly compelling, and if civic engagement has now become a defining feature of Princeton, then AlumniCorps (and its earlier incarnation as Project 55) deserves a heap of the credit. You have built an entire organization devoted to maximizing the positive social impact of that unique network known as Princeton alumni, and in the process you have enriched the ways generations of graduates think about the purpose of their Princeton experience. The methods are as inspirational as the aims: intergenerational mentorship, responsiveness to community-identified needs and broader trends in the nonprofit sector, a collaborative ethic, and a humility that opens the way for energy and good ideas to become visible outcomes. The word catalyst seems apt for this organization that does indeed precipitate and accelerate change.”

AlumniCorps President, Kathy Miller ’77 writes, “Andrew has the skills needed to successfully work with our large cadres of volunteers and board members and relevant to furthering the growth of our programs through expanded alumni engagement. I am personally looking forward to working closely with Andrew in my role as President, and am confident that you will find him to be thoughtful, intelligent, articulate and sincerely passionate about the work of the organization. ”

Andrew begins at the Princeton AlumniCorps offices on Monday,  June 25, 2012. He can be reached at ANurkin@alumnicorps.org or 609-921-8808 ext. 2.

Princeton AlumniCorps Welcomes Our New Project 55 Fellowship Program Manager

Paul Nehring '10, PP55 Fellowship Program Manager

Princeton AlumniCorps is pleased to welcome a new staff member to 12 Stockton, Mr. Paul Nehring ’10. Paul will be responsible for overseeing the Project 55 Fellowship Program.

Paul joined the Princeton AlumniCorps staff in June of 2012 as the Program Manager for the Project 55 Fellowship Program. He previously worked at iMentor, on organization organization dedicated to improving the lives of youth from under-served communities through mentoring. At iMentor he managed a high school partnership and supported students as they transitioned to college. Paul originally came to iMentor as a Project 55 Fellow and brings this perspective to bear on his new role. Paul has also acted as assistant camp director for the Triangle YMCA Camp in Minot, North Dakota, and more recently, as director of the Adventure Program at Camp Heartland, a camp committed to serving children affected by or infected with HIV/AIDS. He serves as a volunteer mentor with iMentor, as an alumni interviewer for Princeton University, and as a member of the Friends of Princeton Outdoor Action. Paul is a former PP55 fellow and current Emerging Leader. He earned his B.A. in Politics from Princeton in 2010 and is a native of Bismarck, North Dakota.

If you’d like to welcome Paul to the AlumniCorps team, he can be reached at pnehring@alumnicorps.org.

An Interview with Julie Rubinger ’09, San Francisco Bay Area Coordinator

Julie Rubinger '09

Julie Rubinger ’09 recently accepted the position of Area Coordinator for the San Francisco Bay Area region of the AlumniCorps community. Julie is currently a PP55 fellow at NewSchools Venture Fund in San Francisco, CA and was a fellow at Education Through Music in New York, NY from 2010-2011.

In the following interview, Julie talks about her PP55 Fellowship experience and explains why she decided to take on a more active role in the AlumniCorps community.

Share a bit about your PP55 Fellowship Program experience: What inspired you to become a fellow?  What kind of work have you been doing?

My senior year at Princeton coincided with the Obama presidential campaign, and it was a very exciting time on campus. Politics aside, Obama’s campaign empowered students like me to believe that we can make a difference in society. I knew that as a first step in my career, I wanted to work for a social cause. The Project 55 Fellowship program provided exactly what I was looking for, and I feel very fortunate to have been placed at Education Through Music in New York City, where I helped with their fundraising efforts. At Education Through Music, I gained exposure to the public education landscape in New York City, and worked with impressive individuals at a well-run, highly impactful organization. After two years there, I moved to San Francisco but stayed within the AlumniCorps community to join the development team at NewSchools Venture Fund. Here, I’m working on building a community of investors and raising philanthropic dollars so that we can support innovative entrepreneurs around the country who are improving public education for low-income students. It was a huge change moving from New York City to San Francisco, but I immediately fell in love with the Bay Area. The welcome I received from the Princeton community, as well as my supportive colleagues at NewSchools, helped me acclimate quickly to the new city, new job, and new life in San Francisco.

What motivated you to become the San Francisco Bay Area Coordinator?

I was involved in the New York Area Committee during my second year in New York City, and I really enjoyed working with others on the committee to support the fellows and give them a great experience. I had great mentors in New York, such as Chet Safian ’55, whose service to the fellowship program I found very inspiring. The AlumniCorps community in San Francisco is smaller, but I quickly learned that there are many phenomenal Princeton alumni here in the Bay Area that are doing really interesting work, and are eager to mentor and support the fellows. Next year, I am excited to involve more alums in the activities and programs of the fellowship program, and help give the fellows a great all-around experience.