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!

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.

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.

Interview With Bill Burks ’55, A Founder of Princeton AlumniCorps


Bill Burks ’55 is one of the founders and an active supporter of Princeton AlumniCorps. Bill majored in biology at Princeton, and earned his M.D. from Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. After a five-year surgical residency in New York City, Bill served two years in the Army Medical Corps, including a year as a trauma surgeon in Vietnam. He practiced general and vascular surgery in Princeton from 1966 until his retirement in 1998. Since 1993, he has been a Trustee of the Princeton Area Community Foundation, and served as Chairman for nine years (1997 to 2005). He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Princeton Healthcare System. 

Q: How and why did you get involved with Princeton AlumniCorps? 

BB: I joined Princeton AlumniCorps (then Princeton Project 55) in the beginning in Washington, when Ralph Nader’s speech really hit a responsive chord in many of us. It was such an attractive concept for us to use our contacts to assist new graduates, who were eager and enthusiastic, into worthwhile career pursuits.

Q: What role do you think Princeton AlumniCorps plays in the Princeton community and in communities across the country?

I think the key benefit of the PP55 Fellowship Program is the opportunity to get extraordinary people into community service and volunteerism, and the benefits that then flow into the organization and communities. Students also benefit, as it gives them the opportunity to work with a mentor and a chance to experience a lot more in the early stages of their career than they might have done on their own.

Q: You were a founding member of Princeton AlumniCorps – then Princeton Project 55 – in 1989. How do you think the organization has changed in the past 22 years? 

BB: I think the organization has changed dramatically but without losing sight of its original mission. After the first couple of years I wasn’t so much involved but there were a very hard-core group of classmates who supported the concept and made it work. The organization has become an important part of Princeton University’s mission and it has been strongly supported by Presidents Shapiro and Tilghmen.

The concept has spread to other colleges and the membership and leadership has changed to include other classes. Princeton AlumniCorps has evolved into a self-sustaining organization and is raising endowment funds to sustain it long term. Its effectiveness with young people is unquestioned and many PP55 interns have become very successful in their careers and their involvement in civic causes.

Q: Towards the end of your career, and since retiring, you’ve been very involved with the Princeton Community Foundation, can you share a little bit about that?

 BB: I started working with the Princeton Community Foundation in 1993 when I received a call from a ’55 classmate recommending the organization to me. When I retired from my surgical practice in 1998, I had become Chairman of the Community Foundation Board and since then I have worked there 4-5 days a week. The Foundation works to promote philanthropy in central New Jersey by building permanent endowment as well as flexible funds which support not-for-profit organizations. We continue to grow with over $75 million in assets and are making over $3 million in grants per year.

Q: What are the most important things you look for when supporting an organization or serving on a nonprofit board?

BB: I have always enjoyed working with people and feeling productive. I loved my surgical practice and it was emotionally rewarding. With respect to community service I look for organizations which stimulate my interest and where I think I can make a difference. When my children were in school I served on their school boards for 10 years; during my years of surgical practice I served on the hospital Board and recently have had the opportunity to go back on the board as Princeton is building a new hospital and the changes are fascinating. And my work with the Community Foundation has been a genuine pleasure as I believe totally in the concept and have learned a great deal about the not-for-profit world.

Q: Princeton AlumniCorps just placed our newest class of 54 PP55 fellows. What advice do you have for them?

BB: As I think the new fellows would already be aware, the fellowship program is an incredible opportunity for them to realize some of their goals and to be more productive straight out of college. It’s a unique way for them to use the gifts that they have been given much earlier in their careers, a chance to make new contacts, and for many fellows, an opportunity to secure longer-term employment at the end of their fellowship year.

New fellows should realize the opportunity that has been given to them and make the best use of their talents to stimulate their partnering organizations. It is a two way relationship, and organizations also have the chance to get a lot out of these kids, who are creative, hard-working and wonderful.

Q: What is your hope for the future of Princeton AlumniCorps?

BB: When Princeton Project 55 was first established, I don’t think we realized its full potential. At that stage, we had been out of college for about 30 years, and many of us had children at college or some recent graduates. Our hope was to give our children the best, and we asked: How can we give them the best start? How can we give them the opportunity to best use their talents?

I think the original premise of Princeton Project 55 is so solid, and I trust that the organization will continue to grow and evolve with this in mind. My hope for Princeton AlumniCorps is that they will play a significant role in maximizing the incredible talent pool of university students who avail themselves of this opportunity.

In Memoriam: Longtime Supporter, John C. Sienkiewicz ’55

Princeton AlumniCorps sadly announces that John “Sink” Sienkiewicz, age 78, passed away unexpectedly at his home in Loblolly, Hobe Sound, FL on January 3, 2012. Born in Center Bridge, PA on October 8, 1933, and raised in Doyles- town, PA, John was the son of Casimir A. Sienkiewicz, a prominent Philadelphia banker and Chairman of the Central Penn National Bank and Jane Patton Sienkiewicz, a nurse. John attended The Loomis School (Loomis-Chaffee) prior to graduating from Princeton University in 1955 where he served as President of his class and remained a valued advisor throughout his life. Playing varsity football his senior year, John won the award for Most Improved Player. John served in the United States Navy from 1955 to 1957 aboard the USS Hancock rising to the rank of Lieutenant. In 1958, he joined Hutchinson, Rivinus & Co. of Philadelphia as an insurance salesman. In 1965, John became a Partner of the firm which was later acquired by Alexander and Alexander International. In time, John became President and Chief Executive Officer of International Operations of Alexander and Alexander, which was known as the largest international insurance brokerage firm in the world. After their acquisition by Aon Risk Services, John remained an active Vice Chairman. John lived most of his life in Princeton, NJ with his wife of 50 years, Patricia Davis Sienkiewicz. John was a loving, strong, and supportive husband, father and friend. His passions included golf, philanthropy, and travel. John was a member of Pine Valley Golf Club, Seminole Golf Club, and many others. He was an active member of the United States Seniors Golf Association. John was widely philanthropic, giving generously to many organizations. Most notable, was the University Cottage Club at Princeton where he served as Chairman of the Board for ten years. John was predeceased by his wife Patricia and his brother Bur Sienkiewicz. He is survived by his sons Mark and Peter, his second wife Maisie Barlow Sienkiewicz, his brother Michael Sienkiewicz and wife Marika, his sister-in-law Jone Sienkiewicz and many more family members and friends who loved him dearly. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made in his honor for student aid to: Casimir A. Sienkiewicz Scholarship, American International College, 1000 State Street – Box 10-L, Springfield, MA 01109. A Celebration of Life Service is being planned for June 2012 in Princeton, NJ.

John was a stalwart supporter of our organization, generously participating without fail in every single annual fundraising campaign since our inception. We are grateful for his enthusiastic support and send our warm wishes for peace and comfort to John’s family.

Raise Your Hand If You Eat Food. Then Take Action!

We all eat food, but few of us care to think about what systems, policies, costs, and risks are associated with bringing that food to our tables. The production and consumption of food affects every aspect of our lives as individuals, as members of a local community and as agents of a global economy.

A former PP55 fellow in Boston slices fruit at a farmer's market.

In September 2010, Gordon Douglas MD ’55 and Sheila Mahoney began a conversation about food.

The Focus on Food initiative was conceived with the goal of cultivating Project 55 fellowship opportunities for recent Princeton graduates at organizations committed to food-related issues in this country. The issues range from obesity to farm factory pollution to food safety regulation to farm worker rights—all of which may be linked to our industrial food system, which is itself a product of government policies and business practices that support the production of vast quantities of low-priced, low-grade food, whatever the costs to the common good. As diverse and numerous as the issues may be, Focus on Food recognizes four broad areas of advocacy in today’s food movement: public health, environmental sustainability, social justice and animal welfare. Alumni have the opportunity to advance the issues in any one of these areas, whether by examining policy, promoting awareness or effecting change on the ground.


Take Action.

–   Are you an experienced professional? Put your principles into practice. Become an AlumniCorps Community Volunteer and donate your expertise to a food-related nonprofit.

–   Look at your own personal and professional networks. What organizations in your community are working on the food problem? Who might take a Project 55 Fellow or a skills-based AlumniCorps Community Volunteer?

–   Are you passionate about sustainable, healthy food? Help us to organize an educational panel or event for alumni in one of our AlumniCorps cities.

–   Are you a professional working in food and public health, social justice, the environment, or animal welfare? Contact us about speaking at an AlumniCorps seminar or panel for Project 55 fellows.

–   Join the conversation. Which of the four food system issues most concern you?  How can we start a dialogue? Click here to apply for membership in the AlumniCorps Focus on Food online discussion.