This weekend, we hosted an Esteemed Fellows Brunch in San Francisco for current, former and aspiring fellows. The brunch brought together a cross-disciplinary group of leaders in their fields. Over a bottomless buffet of Southern-inspired comfort food at Ironside in SOMA, fellows discussed their latest projects and experiences, including innovating government services through technology, programming for an upcoming LGBT seminar series at the Commonwealth Club, and one fellow’s experience researching her new book, “Part of the Family?: Nannies, Housekeepers, Caregivers and the Battle for Domestic Workers’ Rights.” Business cards were exchanged, stories and experiences were shared, and fellows left the event with ideas and new contacts.

The Esteemed Fellows events are organized by our International Fellows Network, which is a rapidly growing professional networking organization of more than 800 current and former fellows from all over the world. We have also held events in Washington, DC, New York City and Berlin, Germany. Through the IFN, current and former fellows can connect for advice and information on fellowships, jobs, events, graduate programs and collaborative opportunities. If you are a current or former fellow and would like to get involved, please sign up for our fellowships database, and we’ll be in touch by email!

July 2014 attendees:

  • Ayushi Gummadi, Fulbright ETA to South America
  • Karen Kwok, National Urban Fellow
  • Kenneth Cunanan, Code for America
  • Michael Fernandez, Marshall Memorial Scholar
  • Ryan Johnson, Cofounder, ProFellow
  • Sheila Bapat, Butler Koshland Fellow
  • Vicki Johnson, Ian Axford Fellow in Public Policy (New Zealand)
  • Wes McGaughey, aspiring fellow/MPP-MBA candidate at Mills College
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2014 Rangel Graduate Fellows

2014 Rangel Graduate Fellows

Guest author Adam Kong provides his insights on the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Graduate Fellowship, a unique fellowship that prepares graduate students for careers in the U.S. Foreign Service. 

By Adam Kong

Diplomacy as a job? Language learning and foreign travel a requirement? The State Department’s Foreign Service is the United States leading foreign affairs agency with its Foreign Service Officers stationed in more than 270 embassies, consulates and missions around the world. The job of a Foreign Service Officer is to be on the front line of diplomacy by representing the American people, advocating for U.S. interests, and promoting security and prosperity abroad. As a result, the job attracts some of the most qualified and talented individuals in the country.

The Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program offers a Graduate Fellowship, a unique program with a mission to promote diversity and excellence in the Foreign Service. Similar to its sister programs, the Pickering and Payne Fellowships, the Rangel Program chooses twenty fellows (potentially more) in a highly competitive nationwide selection process and supports them through two years of graduate study, internships, and professional development. Each Rangel Fellow is required to complete a master’s degree at any institution of his or her choice so long as the degree is relevant to the work of the Foreign Service. During their studies Rangel Fellows go through the Foreign Service selection process and are awarded an appointment upon completion of the program. The program especially encourages members of underrepresented groups and those with financial need to apply.

What’s particularly alluring about the Fellowship is the financial benefits during the two year program. Each fellow is awarded $35,000 annually to help cover the costs of tuition and stipend. On top of that they are given a stipend during their internships and have other costs such as transportation paid for. A unique element of the Rangel Fellowship, though, are its university partners listed here. These universities have pledged a certain amount of scholarships and financial aid to any Rangel Fellow who attends their programs. This can be anything from a $20,000 annual scholarship to a full ride plus stipend. Therefore, depending on the school and their scholarship, the overall benefits of the fellowship can easily exceed $100,000. After graduating from school, Rangel Fellows are required to serve at least five years in the Foreign Service.

What makes a competitive applicant? There is no perfect mold for any application process but the Rangel Program’s website provides good advice on how to prepare a competitive application. A strong personal statement, high grades, and a passion for public service and international affairs can help make your application competitive. Most important, though, is a candidate’s desire to serve abroad as a Foreign Service Officer. The graduate study, stipend and other benefits should be second to an applicant’s real interest in joining the Foreign Service. Ideally, the best candidates are those who intend to make a career out of diplomacy and potentially be the next leaders in the U.S. State Department.

Is the Foreign Service right for you? If you believe that diplomacy is your calling, consider applying to the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program! The Rangel Graduate Fellowship application deadline is typically in early January.

2014 Rangel Fellow Adam Kong

2014 Rangel Fellow Adam Kong

Adam Kong is a current Rangel Fellow at Columbia University pursuing a Master’s in International Affairs. He is a former Fulbright Fellowship recipient, Gilman Scholar, and aspires to become the world’s greatest Pokemon trainer.  

© Victoria Johnson 2014, all rights reserved

Carnegie-Knight News21 Fellow Claudia Balthazar

Carnegie-Knight News21 Fellow Claudia Balthazar

The Carnegie-Knight News21 Fellowship is a unique professional fellowship for journalism students based at News21, a program headquartered at the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications in Phoenix, Arizona. Each year during the spring semester, selected fellows take part in a weekly issues seminar taught by Professor Leonard Downie Jr., the Weil Family Professor of Journalism at the Cronkite School and former executive editor of The Washington Post. The seminar immerses students in the topic to be investigated by News21 in the summer. During the summer, fellows work full time for 10 weeks, reporting and producing an in-depth multimedia project for a major news outlet. Fellows receive a $7,500 stipend plus travel expenses, and fellows can stay in university dormitory housing on ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus. This year, 27 student fellows from 16 universities will document the struggle over gun rights and regulation in America for the program’s fifth national project. We caught up with 2014 News21 Fellow Claudia Balthazar to learn more about her experience and her fellowship application tips.

1. What inspired you to apply for the Carnegie-Knight News21 Fellowship?

I majored in journalism at Hofstra University and began researching opportunities during my freshman year when I was too young to apply to fellowships. At this time I was researching and working on the skills that would qualify me because I knew that I would want to be accepted into a journalism fellowship closer to graduation since it would help me grow before fully starting my career. I was inspired to apply to the Carnegie-Knight News21 fellowship by the Herbert School of Communication at Hofstra. The school asked me if they could nominate me for the fellowship and I said yes because I loved the topic they were covering – Gun Policy. At the time of applying, I was working on the first part of my independent study on Gun Control so I thought it would be a great chance to further my research through this fellowship. Also, the opportunity to live in Phoenix for the summer would help me to grow as a person and a well-rounded journalist.

2. What have been some of the most eye-opening moments during your fellowship?

The most eye-opening moments are yet to come. We’re in week 2 right now. What I like the most are the people that I am meeting and the connections I am making. There are recent graduates and rising seniors from all over the country, including Canada. Hearing their stories and their backgrounds on our topic is very compelling. I also like staying in a new place completely different from New York and getting to know a different lifestyle. What is also great is learning about research on towns that aren’t known for gun violence and really investigating that topic. It’s also great that I am learning database journalism, which is a side of journalism that I’ve never learned before.

During the summer, fellows work full time for 10 weeks, reporting and producing an in-depth multimedia project for a major news outlet.

During the summer, fellows work full time for 10 weeks, reporting and producing an in-depth multimedia project for a major news outlet.

3. What tips would you give others applying to the Carnegie-Knight news21 Fellowship?

I really encourage people to get involved in their schools because you need that nomination to be eligible. If your school doesn’t know who you are, then it’s hard to get the nomination. Stay involved and write as much as possible. This fellowship takes the brightest students and you are competing with people all over the U.S. Definitely be yourself. There are people with so many different skills and that’s what makes applicants stand out. I think what made me stand out were my leadership skills and knowledge of the topic. Many other people were accepted for their photography or their writing or just the connections they have at their schools. And of course, keep your social media clean! Just like any other job. That counts.

Claudia Balthazar is a journalism student at Hofstra University with a concentration in Political Science. She is President of Hofstra University’s Association of Black Journalists, a staff member for WRHU – Radio Hofstra University, and a contributing writer for numerous publications.

© Victoria Johnson 2014, all rights reserved

2013-14 New Sector RISE Fellow Allie Jones

2013-14 New Sector RISE Fellow Allie Jones

New Sector Alliance’s Residency in Social Enterprise (RISE) program is an 11 month fellowship for emerging leaders committed to careers in social impact. The program consists of a full-time position at a host site nonprofit organization as well as intensive professional development activities and trainings in all aspects of the social sector. In addition to participation in New Sector’s Social Impact Leadership Curriculum, each fellow is matched one-on-one with a mentor, who provides valuable input to support host site project success, personal and professional development, career planning, and more. RISE fellows receive a stipend and benefits totaling roughly $30,000 in value.

This year, New Sector RISE has expanded to Minneapolis-Saint Paul, the “Twin Cities,” adding a new cohort to their existing programs in San Francisco, Boston and Chicago. Applications are now open for the Twin Cities cohort! To learn more about this extraordinary opportunity, we interviewed Allie Jones, a current RISE fellow in San Francisco.

1. What inspired you to apply to New Sector Residency in Social Enterprise?

I found New Sector’s model of professional development and training sessions paired with a capacity building project at a host site placement to be a great opportunity to explore my interest in the intersection between business and social impact. I had previously been involved in several roles in the social sector and wanted to further understand how to implement impact efficiently and effectively. Additionally, I was inspired by the New Sector cohort model and vast New Sector Alumni network, which is a true testament to the high quality of the fellowship.

2. What are some of the benefits of the fellowship?

The scope of my work at my host site, First Place for Youth, as a Policy Associate is to build the organizational knowledge about the impact of First Place’s programs and best practices for replication. A typical day at First Place for Youth ranges from researching policy initiatives to analyzing data with the Evaluation and Learning Department. A current project involves an internal data evaluation of how parenting clients succeed in program with a written report to contribute to the public policy dialogue on early parenthood and teen pregnancy.

One of the best components of the program is the cohort experience. Each fellow has their own host site placement, but we are able to come together weekly to discuss, learn and problem-solve any challenges we are experiencing with our projects or in regards to professional development. Each individual has unique experiences and backgrounds, yet we are united by a common passion for social change.

The Boston RISE cohort participated in New Sector's unique Social Impact Leadership Curriculum

The Boston RISE cohort participated in New Sector’s unique Social Impact Leadership Curriculum

3. What application tips would you give to aspiring fellows?

New Sector Alliance is an exceptional opportunity for individuals committed to the social impact and want to grow as leaders. New Sector Alliance strives to include a diverse group of fellows, yet there are several key characteristics the program looks for in its candidates: humilty, comfort with ambiguity, an interest in intellectual challenges, a team attitude and ambitiousness. My advice to those who are applying to New Sector Alliance’s RISE program is to clearly articulate why New Sector Alliance is an important stepping-stone for a career in the social sector. Be sure to reflect on previous experiences and your future aspirations so you can be clear why New Sector Alliance is the best opportunity for your career path.

Allie Jones is a San Francisco Bay Area Residency in Social Enterprise Fellow 2013-2014 serving at First Place for Youth in Oakland, California. She received her B.A. in Environment, Economics, and Politics from Scripps College. Prior to her undergraduate studies, Allie served as a Corps member with City Year New York. In her free time, she enjoys running, gardening, reading and traveling.

© Victoria Johnson 2014, all rights reserved.

The James Madison Fellowship Summer Institute group with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The James Madison Fellowship Summer Institute group with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The James Madison Graduate Fellowship is a unique award that provides academic funding for secondary school teachers interested in becoming subject matter experts of the American Constitution. Each year, the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation choses one fellow from each state for a $24,000 award towards graduate study leading to a master’s degree. After receiving the master’s degree, each Fellow must teach American history, American government, or social studies in grades 7–12 for one full year for each academic year of funding received under a fellowship, preferably in the state from which the recipient won the fellowship. A major component of the James Madison Fellowship is participation in a four-week Summer Institute on the Constitution in Washington, DC entitled “The Foundations of American Constitutionalism.” Taught by constitutional scholars, this Institute provides coursework on the principles, framing, ratification, and implementation of constitutional government in the United States. Kymberli Wregglesworth, a 2011 James Madison Fellow from Michigan, discusses her fellowship experience and fellowship application tips. 

1. What inspired you to apply for the James Madison Fellowship?     

I began a Master’s Degree in American History and Government at Ashland University through a grant and wanted to be able to complete it without taking out loans. Being a high school teacher, I knew that would be impossible without finding some additional funding. Their program recommends the Madison Fellowship to all of their students, and once I realized that it would fully fund my studies, I decided to give it a try. I was also interested in the expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC for a month and the intensive study of the Constitution. Being a civics teacher, I knew that studying with the scholars the Madison Fellowship brings in each year would benefit my teaching and therefore, my students.

The first time I applied I really didn’t know what I was doing, so I wasn’t too surprised when I was denied. The second time I was named as an alternate and several Madison Fellows I know said that I would likely be chosen the next year if I applied again. I did and was chosen in 2011. If you really want a specific fellowship, you shouldn’t give up just because you haven’t been chosen the first or even the second time you apply.

2. How has the fellowship experience influenced your current work?

I have become a scholar of the Constitution and this has helped me to be a better teacher to my civics students. I was able to learn so many things about the Founding period, the Constitutional Convention, the men involved and the variety of competing ideas, and I can now use that information to have a more complete understanding of the entire era. My performance in the Summer Institute (a month-long stay in Washington, DC to study with some of the most esteemed scholars of the Constitution) has interested me in the possibility of pursuing a Ph.D. when I am finished with my Master’s Degree. That may not be a possibility until I complete my high school teaching career, but I will be actively seeking out opportunities to continue my constitutional education.

3. What do you think made your fellowship application stand out?

Applicants are judged against other applicants within their home state based on their commitment to teach American History or American government. Prior knowledge of teaching the Constitution is also looked at heavily, as there is a long essay on the application that stresses the importance of teaching the Constitution in today’s society.

I feel that my application stood out because I have been teaching civics for several years and could express the importance of teaching about the Constitution in my essay. Additionally, I was a classmate of several Madison Fellows at Ashland University, and got a good deal of advice from them on how to complete a quality application. I also had a current fellow write a letter of recommendation for me, as the Selection Committee looks to their current and past fellows as a major source of new applicants.

Kymberli Wregglesworth is a 15-year veteran high school teacher at Onaway High School in Onaway, Michigan, which is also her alma mater. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Political Science from Alma College, Alma, Michigan, and a Master’s Degree in Education from Michigan State University. Kymberli is now in her last semester at Ashland University in Ashland, Ohio and will be writing her thesis on the formative years of Alice Paul. She is married with a 9-month-old daughter and in her spare time, she enjoys downhill skiing, officiating competitive cheer, and directing the Miss Onaway Scholarship Program for teen girls in her community.

ImageSponsored by New Sector Alliance

New Sector’s Residency in Social Enterprise (RISE) Fellowship program is an intensive, 11-month Fellowship for emerging leaders and recent college graduates who are committed to the social sector.

Minneapolis-Saint Paul, the “Twin Cities,” will join Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago as the RISE program’s 4th location. Fellows will be selected from a highly competitive pool and matched with a nonprofit organization in the Twin Cities to serve full-time completing projects that allow organizations to more effectively achieve their missions. Each project is designed to make a lasting impact beyond the Fellow’s service term. Throughout their service term, Fellows participate in New Sector’s training program by engaging in the Social Impact Leadership Curriculum, which covers a wide range of topics that build the skills and tools for effective social sector leadership.

In addition, each Fellow is matched with an individual mentor who provides support for host site projects, professional development, and career planning. Mentors include management consultants and nonprofit leaders.

You can read more about the New Sector fellowship experience in ProFellow’s interview with Allie Jones: Insights on the New Sector Residency in Social Enterprise (RISE)

Compensation and Benefits

RISE Fellows receive a stipend and benefits totaling roughly $30,000 in value, along with a certificate of completion of New Sector’s training curriculum. Compensation includes:

  • Living stipend of $19,000
  • Health-care coverage with no financial contribution from the Fellow
  • An end-of-year $5,550 Segal AmeriCorps Education Award*, distributed upon successful completion of the program and good for outstanding loans or future educational expenses at any accredited institution in the United States (*pending Americorps approval)

How To Apply

New Sector is looking for candidates who are collaborative, who are passionate and who want to accelerate their professional development through high-impact service.

June 30, 2014 is the recommended application submission date. Rolling applications accepted afterwards. For more information and to apply, visit:

2006 Knight Fellow in Community Journalism Markeshia Ricks

2006 Knight Fellow in Community Journalism Markeshia Ricks

In 2004, the University of Alabama established the Knight Fellowship in Community Journalism to create an academic and experiential Master’s program in journalism similar to a teaching hospital. Made possible by a $1.5 million gift to UA from Knight Foundation and $750,000 from Consolidated Publishing, the parent company of The Anniston Star, the fellowship chose promising journalists annually through a highly competitive, national selection process. Knight Fellows received full tuition scholarships and a stipend for the one-year, three-semester program. According to the UA News, fellows would attend classes and problem-solving seminars called “grand rounds” – and also work as interns during their third semester. Markeshia Ricks, a 2006 Knight Fellow in Community Journalism, discussed her unique fellowship opportunity at the University of Alabama.

1. What inspired you to apply for the Knight Fellowship in Community Journalism?

I was inspired to apply for the Knight Fellowship in Community Journalism for a few reasons. First, it was an exciting venture. The Community Journalism (COM-J) program was born out of a partnership between the University of Alabama and The Anniston Star, and it was being watched very closely by the news industry for its potential as a new business model and its potential for enhancing the teaching, learning and practice of journalism. I wanted to be a part of that first class. Second, I was in my fifth year as a reporter and I was asking myself some very tough questions about whether I wanted to continue in the field, and if I did, what I wanted my journalism practice to look like. The COM-J program promised to be a place to study journalism’s role in shaping, influencing and even creating community and that was very appealing to me. The fellowship also provided tuition and living expenses for a year so that I could earn a master’s degree without incurring debt. Last, since I was coming from a newsroom, I was concerned that a traditional classroom setting would breed more theory and very little practice. The COM-J program was just the opposite because classes were held in a newsroom, and that was appealing to me.

2. What is a typical week like for a Knight Fellow?

From classes taught by Rick Bragg to delivering the newspaper, there was no such thing as a typical week for a Knight Fellow in Community Journalism. In addition to a weekly format of classes and paper writing, the first class produced an award winning news series about the Alabama National Guard. The program married the best of both worlds for a group of news junkies of varying backgrounds who were interested in thinking deeply about journalism and practicing it.

3. What tips would you give applicants to the Knight Fellowship in Community Journalism?

Unfortunately, the Knight Fellowship portion of the Community Journalism graduate program at the University of Alabama is no longer offered, but admitted students can apply for graduate assistantships and paid summer internships. The Community Journalism graduate program is open to journalism professionals and recent college graduates. While the program is still a 1-year program, students can also expect to spend more time at the University of Alabama’s main campus in Tuscaloosa, where they complete two semesters of coursework and spend three months in experiential work placements at The Anniston Star. I would encourage applicants to demonstrate they have a passion for journalism and community. An applicant’s professional samples and personal statements should reflect that the applicant understands that journalism is more than being a passive observer, but that it has a role to play in maintaining our democracy and shaping our communities.

Markeshia Ricks is an award-winning journalist who has written for The Tuscaloosa News, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, The Anniston Star, The Montgomery Advertiser and Air Force Times. She is currently a freelance writer and editor living in Alexandria, VA.

© Victoria Johnson 2014, all rights reserved.

International students studying in the U.S. often ask us about fellowships they may be eligible for. Unfortunately, there are few academic fellowship programs in the U.S. open to non-U.S. citizens. However, there are several U.S. universities that offer generous financial aid and full tuition scholarships to admitted international students. In addition to the universities listed in our series of articles on How to Fully Fund Your PhD, a recent article provided a list of U.S. universities that offer generous financial aid to international students, including universities offering full tuition merit scholarships and “need blind” universities that meet 100% of admitted students’ financial need.

Full Tuition Merit Scholarship Schools

These universities offer full tuition scholarships to international applicants based on student merit. Students apply for these scholarships at the time of their application.

Carleton College (Northfield, Minnesota): Full Tuition Scholarship: Up to six full scholarships covering Carleton’s comprehensive fee, including tuition, room and board, and up to six partial scholarships with a maximum value of one-half of Carleton’s comprehensive fee. Carleton gave 26 international students aid last year totaling $2,589,268.

Hope College (Holland, Michigan): Full Ride International Scholarship: Hope identifies selected freshman applicants from developing and third world countries to be considered for one full tuition and full ride (tuition, room, board, and activity fee) scholarship each year. Please note, these scholarships are need-based scholarships. Last year, 51 international students were granted aid totaling $607,818.

Rice University (Houston, Texas): Allen International Scholarship: Full tuition scholarships provided to outstanding applicants who are foreign nationals, renewable for four years. Rice gave away $1,828,575 in aid last year to 75 international students.

University of Miami (Coral Gables, Florida): Premier Scholarship: Students considered for an academic scholarship have significant academic achievement. Last year the school gave away $3,318,202 to 118 international students.

Washington and Lee University (Lexington, Virginia): Johnson Scholarship: Winners of the Johnson Scholarship receive awards of at least tuition, room and board to attend Washington and Lee University. Students with financial need higher than this amount will have any additional need met by the scholarship. Washington and Lee gave away $3,640,194 last year to 73 international students.

Need Blind Schools Committed to Meeting 100% of Demonstrated Need

These universities ensure all admitted students have adequate financial aid to meet  their full financial need, whether that is through a partial or full tuition scholarship.

Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

Yale University (New Haven, Connecticut)

Princeton University (Princeton, New Jersey)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Massachusetts)

Dartmouth College (Hanover, New Hampshire)

Amherst College (Northampton, Massachusetts) also lists 54 universities that give away millions of dollars each year to highly qualified international students. Read more.


On June 1, we hosted our first Esteemed Fellows Dinner of the summer in San Francisco for current fellows and fellowship alumni. The dinner brought together a cross-disciplinary group of leaders in their fields. Over a family style Italian dinner at the old school Capp’s Corner in North Beach, fellows discussed their latest projects and issues, including social entrepreneurship, women and gender issues, economic pressures on the arts community in San Francisco, and fellowship experiences in Indonesia. Business cards were exchanged, stories and experiences were shared, and fellows left the event with ideas and new contacts.

The Esteemed Fellows Dinners are organized by our International Fellows Network, which is a rapidly growing professional networking organization of more than 800 current and former fellows from all over the world. We have also held events in Washington, DC, New York City and Berlin, Germany. Through the IFN you can connect with other fellows for advice and information on fellowships, jobs, events, graduate programs and international competitions. If you are a current or former fellow and would like to get involved, please sign up for our fellowships database, and we’ll be in touch by email!

June 2014 attendees:

  • Allison Leigh Holt, Fulbright Fellow to Indonesia
  • Karen Kwok, National Urban Fellow
  • Marjorie Brumme, Fulbright ETA to Indonesia
  • Napala Pratini, Fulbright Fellow to Spain
  • Sherry Ezhuthachan, ProInspire Fellow
  • Vicki Johnson, Cofounder ProFellow
  • Ryan Johnson, Cofounder, ProFellow
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2014 Harold Burson Fellow Givon Forbes

2014 Harold Burson Fellow Givon Forbes

Givon Forbes, our guest writer, was a 2014 Harold Burson Fellow and is currently a graduate student completing his Master’s degree in Organizational Communications at Bowie State University. The Harold Burson Fellowship Program was established by the LAGRANT Foundation to develop future ethnic minority leaders in the public relations industry. We learned that Givon is passionate about leveraging the resources of for-profit and non-profit organizations in solving social issues. Throughout his career, he has gained diverse experiences in non-profits, education, sports, retail, real estate, and research development. Givon provides his insights on applying to the Harold Burson Fellowship and how the experience influenced his professional and academic career. 

By Givon Forbes

The Harold Burson Fellowship came at the perfect time in my life. I turned 26 in the fall of 2013 and was beginning to question whether I had chosen a career that best fit me. I was entirely appreciative and grateful for the success that I had achieved in my career to that point. But that question dominated my thoughts. After careful deliberation, I decided that the most responsible choice that I could make would be to take a step back, return to graduate school, and re-explore all options that existed.

I had received my undergraduate degree in Business Administration; however most of my previous positions necessitated strong communications skills as well. Therefore, I decided that attending Bowie State University’s Organizational Communications program would further develop that skillset and would offer the flexibility to return to similar work or enter an entirely new field with the requisite qualifications.

While I was completing my application for the program, I was also searching to find communications scholarships and fellowship offerings. During my search, I came across The LAGRANT Foundation (TLF). TLF is a non-profit organization, founded by the magnetic Kim Hunter, that is dedicated to increasing diversity in the advertising, marketing, and public relations fields. They offer scholarships, workshops, and internships. However, one program in particular intrigued me, their Harold Burson Fellowship program.

The program was created in partnership with Harold Burson, one of the founding fathers of modern PR and Founding Chairman of Burson-Marsteller (BM). Fellows selected for the program are placed at a BM office where they are exposed to the culture and experience of working at a global communications firm. The program offered exactly what I was looking for at the time, an opportunity to explore. Additionally, it was a great fit for me because the fellowship was short term so that I would still be able to continue my graduate coursework.

The application process was an intense one and, amongst other things, required a meaningful personal statement. Writing the personal statement was dually beneficial as it also helped to narrow my focus and outline my career goals. After completing and submitting the application, I followed up regularly with Ericka Iniguez, the incredibly patient program manager.

After waiting anxiously for a couple of months as they reviewed applications, I received notification that I had been advanced to the next stage. I completed a round of phone interviews, both with LAGRANT and Burson-Marsteller personnel. I waited, even more anxiously, until February when I was informed that I had been selected as 1 of 2 fellows for the 2014 fellowship program and would be placed at Chicago office of Burson-Marsteller. I was both humbled and ecstatic.

Givon and his fellowship supervisors in Chicago, IL.

Givon and his fellowship supervisors in Chicago, IL.

In March, I arrived in Chicago to begin the fellowship and was predictably greeted by a snowstorm. However, there was no type of precipitation that could damper my enthusiasm. I was assigned two supervisors that would guide my fellowship experience, the impossibly friendly Stephanie McGuane and incredibly cool Eric Benderoff. They encouraged me to explore and made sure that each day was filled with something new, whether it was a client meeting, campaign brainstorm, or simply an informative discussion.

It was only a short amount of time, but I learned a great deal and was exposed to so much. I completed client work for a popular casual restaurant, a legendary food company, and a new innovative, tech start-up. I participated in new business pitches, cross-agency briefings, and client presentations. I was able to explore the various practices within Burson including Consumer/Brand Marketing, Healthcare, and Technology as well delve into their sub-groups like Corporate Social Responsibility and Fan Experience.  I was able to speak with leaders from Burson’s partner companies like the chic Proof Digital, the strategic Penn Schoen Berland, and the unique Direct Impact.

However, my main project was to work with a group developing a new initiative within the company.  We were working on creating an ambitious, yet a potentially highly rewarding new business approach.  The project provided me the opportunity to work closely with the dynamic Erica Swerdlow.

Another unforgettable highlight during that time was attending a panel with accomplished industry professionals as they discussed the issue of diversity in the field. Following the event, I was able to connect with each of the panelists who were surprisingly accessible and unexpectedly helpful. The insightful Oscar Suris, down-to-earth Andy Polansky, and thoughtful Kathy Cripps all offered their unique perspective and thoughtful advice to me.

My fellowship experience transcended all of my expectations. I was exposed to a new city, countless new career possibilities, and most importantly new friends and mentors. It was a journey that I could have never predicted, yet it was one that I am entirely grateful and thankful for. I am still exploring to find the best fit for me here in this world, but the skills, knowledge, and friends I have gained from this experience has given me the confidence that I will find my place.

Follow the LAGRANT Foundation website for information on their next call for applications. 

© Victoria Johnson 2014, all rights reserved.