Presidential Fellowship Alumni Bring Leadership Skills and Experience to Diverse Professional Careers
They work for top financial firms and attend top medical schools. They craft programming to create educated and imaginative leadership in Israel and coordinate national events for developmentally impaired children. They are rabbis, lawyers and teachers across the country. And they all have one thing in common. They are alumni of Yeshiva University’s Presidential Fellowship in University and Community Leadership.
The Fellowship, founded by YU President Richard M. Joel in 2004, offers graduating students with ambition, enthusiasm and a record of academic excellence the opportunity to affect change from within the university community, putting their skills to work in departments that range from the Yeshiva University Museum and the Office of the General Counsel to the Office of the President. Each fellow is mentored by a senior member of his or her department, and weekly graduate courses, as well as on-site visits and other training activities, expose the group to multiple aspects of leadership.
While they have all moved on to the next stage in their personal and professional lives, former fellows still feel the impact of the program. On June 16, alumni from each of the seven cohorts gathered at the YU Museum for a reunion that celebrated not only their time as fellows, but the careers and lives they have built since.
“We wanted to bring you together to reignite the inspiration, but also to look back at where you’ve gone over these years and think about where and who you are,” said Rabbi Josh Joseph, vice president and chief of staff and director of the Fellowship, to the group, noting that the program currently has 99 alumni. “You’re bringing us into the next generation.”
At the reunion, President Joel highlighted one characteristic that all members of the Fellowship, regardless of their specialty or later careers, shared. “You were attracted to this Fellowship because you want to struggle with the meaning of the word ‘leadership,’” he said. “It’s about what you see and what you make happen, not just what is.”
Alumni have used their Fellowship training to secure leadership positions across a diverse spectrum of profit and non-profit organizations. Rebecca Stone, a 2005-2006 fellow in the Office of University Life, felt the Fellowship’s educational component helped her identify and hone her strengths as she transitioned from the role of student to professional. “I really felt supported by the seminars, where we focused for instance on emotional intelligence,” said Stone. “That gave me a lot of insight into myself, my abilities and where I needed to go.”
As a fellow, Stone worked closely with the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) corps to develop programming for students in Honduras and organized events to raise university awareness of social justice concerns such as the genocide in Darfur. Her efforts with AJWS eventually led to a position in major gift fundraising. Stone is currently the director of community engagement at Encounter, an organization that aims to inform Jewish Diaspora leadership on the intricacies of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the ground up.
“The Fellowship really set me out on this path and empowered me to get clarity about what I was passionate about and where I could make a difference,” she said. “It enabled me to think strategically about the organizations I think are important and unique and to see myself as a real leader who could choose any path.”
That empowerment is one of the Fellowship’s legacies for many alumni, along with the development of foundational business skills and an enduring connection with senior staff who cultivate their talents.
“It was my first full-time job after college and it was helpful to have a relationship with a mentor who could guide me through those steps,” said Raffi Rosenzweig, a fellow in the Office of Communications and Public Affairs during the 2007-2008 academic year. “I also very much appreciated having access to Josh Joseph, who always took the time to meet with me and was helpful in discussing my next move.”
Rosenzweig is a current participant of the Legacy Heritage Teacher Training Fellowship. Coordinated through the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration’s Institute for University-School Partnership, the Legacy Heritage program places its fellows in Jewish day schools across the country and facilitates study for a Master’s degree in education over the course of three summers.
As a teaching fellow, Rosenzweig has led Bible and Jewish history classes at Yavneh Academy in Dallas, Texas. In the fall he will begin studies at Harvard Law School. His Fellowship experience made him confident he could succeed in a variety of fields: “Professionalism is helpful in any field, and even though the structure of my job now is different than it was in the Fellowship, that background still applies,” said Rosenzweig. “My time in the communications department also helped me hone my writing skills, which are useful in any job.”
For Esther Goldstein, a 2009-2010 fellow in the Office of the General Counsel, the professionalism and close relationships she cultivated as a fellow played a critical role in obtaining a position at Goldman Sachs. “I definitely think it gave me confidence,” she said. “I knew my mentor believed in me and he encouraged me every step of the way.” Originally headed for law school, Goldstein realized she was interested in exploring the financial world during her Fellowship. Her mentor, Avi Lauer, vice president of legal affairs and general counsel, as well as Joseph and Elysia Stein, the Fellowship’s coordinator, coached her through the interview process.
“In my interview with Goldman Sachs, I explained the leadership component of my Fellowship and they were very interested in my experience,” Goldstein said. “It wasn’t just a job. It taught us how to manage time, how to manage work, how to interact with other people in the work place.”
Equally important to these alumni are the camaraderie and connections fostered between fellows. “The Fellowship created friendships that have been with me for the last six years,” said Eli Hagler, a 2006-2007 fellow in the Office of Student Affairs on the Wilf campus. “It creates a bond, whether you were a fellow three years ago or will be one two years from now. There’s a whole network of support.” Hagler is earning his master’s degree in business management from Baruch College. After working as YU’s assistant director of undergraduate admissions, he now serves as assistant director at Yachad, where he has organized fundraising marathons and national shabbatons. “The attention to detail, learning how to run an event and the pieces that go into it—that all came from the Fellowship,” said Hagler.