January 25, 2017

Rutgers University–Newark (RU-N) has launched a new initiative to strengthen relationships within Newark, while unearthing and developing untapped talent in staffers across the university.

In summer 2016, five RU-N employees will begin a two-year fellowship with Leadership Newark, a program designed to cultivate leadership through immersion in public policy and engagement with social and political issues in Newark and Greater Newark. Under RU-N’s agreement, Leadership Newark will accept five new employees into the fellowship each year.

“If we look at our strategic plan, it emphasizes our partnership with the city of Newark, and to be a real partner you need to understand the city,” said Bil Leipold, assistant vice chancellor for human resources at RU-N.  “We’re looking for emerging leaders who want to invest in Newark and invest in Rutgers University–Newark.”

Current RU-N employees who were in the fellowship have touted and demonstrated Leadership Newark’s effectiveness in the development of leadership skills, civic engagement, and strong professional and personal networks, Leipold said.

Their praise prompted RU-N officials to seek ways for other staff members to gain these experiences, which led to the partnership with Leadership Newark as a professional development opportunity under RU-N’s strategic initiative of “Staffing for the New Mission” – which focuses on staff development, wellness, and growth.

“Each class in [Leadership Newark] is a think tank on how to resolve some of the important issues that Newark faces,” said Celia King, chief executive officer of Leadership Newark.

King said that during the fellowship’s first year, a cohort of approximately 30 Leadership Newark fellows will learn about the city’s history and future, and gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities in Newark and similar urban environments. To effectively tackle issues such as prisoner reentry, health care administration, and education reform, fellows visit prisons, hospitals, and schools to engage directly with stakeholders, she said.

Equipped with a newfound grasp of public policy, the fellows will spend their second year serving as consultants for nonprofits in a community leadership initiative. The fellows will have six months to complete their consulting projects and are expected to provide practical solutions that the nonprofits can implement to advance their missions.

“Rutgers University–Newark and Leadership Newark want to make individuals the strongest and the best individuals that they can be,” King said. “Information and learning are the backbone for an educational institution and for this program, and that is where we are completely aligned.”

King’s words ring true for many Leadership Newark alumni, including Christopher Phillips, assistant director for clinical administration at Rutgers Law School.

During Phillips’s fellowship from 2013 to 2015, he worked with the City of Newark providing guidelines for the city’s Model Neighborhood Initiative, an initiative focused on transforming Newark neighborhoods into prosperous and empowered communities. Phillips actively took leadership roles that prepared him for his current position and ignited his passion for Newark, he said.

Phillips emphasized that Leadership Newark also creates lasting relationships with fellow alumni – many of whom are employed in public and private organizations in Newark – as well as a bevy of networking and development opportunities.

“I would implore anyone who cares about Newark and who works here to get involved, because the more the city is represented, the more the university is represented, and the stronger this network is – the better it is for everyone,” Phillips says.