Fellowship Offers Unique Development for Next Generation Leaders

A group of 29 diverse early career professionals completed the Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service in May, equipped with plans to take up leadership in their roles and to strategically develop careers in public service. The fellows’ graduation comes just as the Bridgespan Group has released a survey of 225 nonprofits showing that while nonprofit directors and senior staff see developing future leaders as critical for continuing to fulfill their organizational missions, only 42 percent agree that they invest sufficient resources in leadership development, and less than a third have development plans for individuals.

More than 200 fellows have participated in the Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service (FELPS) since it was established in 2005 by NYU Wagner Dean Ellen Schall to offer professional and leadership development to next generation leaders across the government, nonprofit and philanthropic fields.

Through twice monthly sessions in the evenings, fellows evaluate and refine their leadership skills and practices, craft a career plan based on personal assessments and professional goals; deepen their understanding of public service organizations; and build a unique network of mentors and peers.

Senior-level public service executives serve as guest speakers, offering candid insights from their own career trajectories and lessons learned along the way. This year's speakers included:

  • Jennifer Jones Austin, senior vice president of Community Investment at United Way New York City;
  • Khary Lazarre-White, co-founder and executive director of Brotherhood/Sister Sol;
  • Courtenaye Jackson-Chase, senior advisor to the Chancellor at the New York City Department of Education;
  • Liesl Gerntholtz, director of the Women's Rights Division at Human Rights Watch; and
  • NYU Wagner Dean Ellen Schall.

In addition, the FELPS curriculum includes a series of readings and journal reflections, self-evaluation activities, facilitated small group discussions to foster peer learning, and informational interviews.

One 2012 fellow noted, “As a young professional with a demanding job, it can be difficult to find the time for professional soul-searching and self-examination. FELPS really helped me to step back and examine my career and personal goals in a meaningful way.”

Mentorship is another key component of the program, and Fellows meet in small groups and one-on-one with Career Guides and Alumni Guides, who serve as mentors throughout the course of the fellowship. This year's Career Guides included:

  • Stacey Gillett, deputy chief of innovation for the NYC Department of Education;
  • Jeannie Kwon, director of Communications and Strategic Initiatives for MTA Capital Construction;
  • Jack Schnirman, city manager for the City of Long Beach;
  • Alexandria Sica, executive director of the Dumbo Improvement District; and
  • Leticia Smith-Evans, civil rights attorney at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

At the fellowship graduation on May 16, New York City Council Member Gale A. Brewer, Dean Ellen Schall and 2012 Fellow Sydney Thomas, a program assistant in the Office of Financial Empowerment at the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, offered Fellows encouragement and reflected on the importance of public service.