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Segal fellows combine leadership skills with social justice

Published: February 7, 2014
Section: News


This week, the Eli J. Segal Citizen Leadership Program announced the 2014 recipients of the Segal Fellowship, four undergraduates and two Masters in Public Policy (MPP) students. These students will be placed in a summer internship at an organization concerned with social justice and citizen leadership, and will also receive a $3,500 to $5,000 stipend for their efforts.

After a rigorous application process, undergraduates Alex Thomson ’15, Gabby Zilkha ’16, Ameline Limorin ’16, Andrew Nguyen ’15 and MPP Students (at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management) Molly O’Donnell and Nicole Hart have been honored with the fellowship.

Zilkha reports feeling shocked when she heard she had been selected. “I actually dropped the phone…I did not believe what I was seeing. It was a really, really, really happy feeling.”

Zilkha states that when she first heard about the fellowship, she realized it would be a wonderful opportunity to engage both her major in business and her love for social justice. “I was hitting a wall with what I wanted to do for the summer and for the rest of my life when I got a bunch of emails about this program. After going to an information session and hearing Tam [the program manager at Brandeis] I knew I needed to apply,” she said. “Everything about the program was perfect. I felt like I was applying to a program that I had been preparing my whole life for.”

While Zilkha is not sure yet exactly what she wants to do with her summer internship, she knows she wants to work in the for-profit sector, perhaps as part of a socially responsible business.

For his internship, Thomson hopes to work on a political campaign or for a non-profit organization. He also wants to work on LGBTQ policy.

“I decided I wanted to be a part of the Segal program because of its commitment to forwarding Eli Segal’s passion for public service and citizen leadership. I aspire to go into public service and understood this program to be an opportunity for me to learn from other fellows and those participating in the Segal network on how to engage more deeply in opportunities that forward those goals,” he said.

In the past, Segal Fellows have held impactful internships at varying locations, such as the Center for Progressive Leadership, Human Rights Campaign, National Employment Law Project, National Women’s Law Center, Next Street Financial, People for the American Way, Special Olympics International, Teach for America and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Thomson also mentioned the intense application process, which involved four essays, two letters of recommendation and a final interview. “Through Brandeis University and the Heller School for Social Policy and Management, we receive incredible applicants and Fellows who we assist in making large-scale societal change,” said Mariel Lim, the director of the Eli J. Segal Citizen Leadership Program.

She also stated, “We use our Segal Network to find impactful internships and before the internship begins. Our staff reaches out to the Segal Fellow’s direct supervisor to ensure that our Segal Fellows will be engaged in meaningful projects.”

In mentioning the “Segal Network,” Lim highlights that the Segal Fellowship is not just about experiencing one important summer. “The Eli J. Segal Citizen Leadership Program provides a multi-generational community that supports our Segal Fellows,” she said. “Once our newest Segal Fellows return from their summers, they are expected to act as ambassadors of the Program on campus, present to the Brandeis community about what they learned, and engage in our Network … we have opportunities to do community service together, lead program initiatives and connect at social gatherings and other events throughout the year.”

There are now 69 Segal Fellows, ranging in age from 19 to over 40. They live in 15 states and also abroad. “[They] are united by their dedication to citizen leadership and desire to support one another in their efforts to change the world,” said Lim.

As they transition in the Segal Network, these 2014 recipients will receive help from many sources. “We also pair our Segal Fellows up with a personalized mentor, which we call a Segal coach. This coach meets with their Segal Fellow in person four times during the summer and acts as a sounding board to help them develop personally and professionally,” Lim said.

The fellowship is named after Eli Segal, who graduated from Brandeis University in 1964. He received the Presidential Citizens Medal, as he developed AmeriCorps and Welfare-to-Work programs. He also served under President Clinton and expanded the City Year initiative. “But he was most respected because of his dedication to supporting young people. He mentored them, broadened their networks by making introductions and encouraged them every step of the way,” said Lim. “They wanted to extend his legacy by creating a program that carried on his life mission of empowering young people.”

The 2014 Fellows are looking forward to participating in this group of high-achieving individuals, perhaps for the rest of their lives. “It is a great honor and I know that I will have a responsibility to ensure that I play my part in expanding the network,” said Thomson.

“Our mantra is, ‘Once a Segal Fellow, always a Segal Fellow,’” Lim said.

The other undergraduate Segal Fellows were not available for comment.