Episode 28: Graduate fellows follow dreams, take on world

The four women that I talked with in this episode are exactly the types of people I’d be honored not only to work beside but to have in charge. And there’s a good chance they will be. Quadira Coles, Vanessa Gutiérrez, Wilmarie Feliz and Akanksha Anand are graduate students at John Jay College and are already making a difference. They are each nearing completion of a Masters program and are recipients of fellowships coordinated by the Prisoner Reentry Institute (PRI). Combining theory and practice, the Tow Policy Advocacy Fellowship and the Pinkerton Community Graduate Fellowship are student development initiatives of PRI. These fellowships give graduate students the opportunity to participate in honest to goodness, substantive, boots on the ground work with professionals in the field. The Tow Fellowship (funded by the Tow Foundation) focuses on policy advocacy and the Pinkerton Fellowship (founded by the Pinkerton Foundation) focuses on juvenile justice, with graduate fellows placed at sites where they can develop clinical skills. Fellows complete year-long placements with local nonprofit organizations while taking coursework and participating in additional professional development to complement their fieldwork experiences.

While each of these women has her own backstory and perspective, the commonalities are evident: They all knew what they wanted to pursue from a young age, are all challenging the status quo, are committed to and passionate about social justice and human and civil rights, and they all find their work challenging but highly rewarding. They’ve been in school for a looooong time and deserve a break but probably aren’t going to take one. They’re striding along a professional path where they’ll continue to learn and grow and contribute to a better world and improved lives for the people with whom they interact. Three of them are graduating in May and one in December – they’re ready for whatever comes next.

Quadira (MPA program) is doing her fellowship at the Legal Action Center. She is featured in “The Next Generation of Women in Politics and “Tow Fellow Selected for Political Leadership Training Program.” Vanessa (ICJ) is placed at Sanctuary for Families. Wilmarie (Forensic Mental Health Counseling) is at Getting Out and Staying Out (GOSO). Akanksha (Forensic Mental Health Counseling) has a fellowship with The Bridge.

Read about the other past and current fellowship recipients and learn more about the opportunities and application process on the Prisoner Reentry Institute site. For more information about Masters programs offered by John Jay College, see the Graduate Studies list of programs.

(Photos by Arpi Pap, http://www.papstudio.com/)

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