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FAQ: The El Pomar Fellowship


As the January 18 application deadline nears for the 2011 El Pomar Fellowship, we asked current Fellows for insider answers to frequently-asked questions about the Fellowship.

What is your favorite thing about being a Fellow?

Darcy Struckhoff, First-Year Fellow: Three things to love about being a Fellow:
1) You do something new every day. Whether you are visiting different parts of the state, meeting with community partners for programs like Empty Stocking Fund, or conducting a site visit to a nonprofit, the fellowship is never boring.
2) The community. When else do you surround yourself with such an ambitious group of peers or work for an organization that actually cares about you? Everyone is here to offer support, insight, or guidance. It’s an empowering group of people.
3) What’s better than living in Colorado? This state is awesome—hiking, skiing, climbing, camping, arts, and culture.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in the Fellowship?

D.J. Close, First-Year Fellow: One of the greatest challenges that I have faced within the El Pomar Fellowship is taking advantage of what the program has to offer in its entirety.  Because of the various programs and professional development opportunities, the strategic effort to focus on one path that truly inspires you can be unclear. Meeting such dedicated people and unique nonprofits opens more doors than can ever be explored. Finding your core passion and pursuing that path is just as important as the work we do each day.

Describe the most exciting thing you have gotten to do or the biggest opportunity you have had at El Pomar Foundation?

Samantha Maytag, First-Year Fellow: When Bill Hybl, our CEO and chairman, was asked to co-chair the Economic Development Transition Team for Governor-Elect John Hickenlooper, another Fellow and I were given the great opportunity to help him on the project.  We both studied economics in college and were thrilled to attend various economic development meetings with Mr. Hybl.  We witnessed the top business minds from across Colorado collaborating to plan a healthy future for the state.  In the end, we synthesized the discussions into a final report to be presented to the Governor-Elect and his team.  It was an incredible opportunity to mingle with elite business professionals, a group of individuals that I admire and someday hope to join.

What skill sets have you found most useful in your job?

Virginia Woodfork, First-Year Fellow: The most valuable thing I have learned since starting the fellowship in July is the importance of teamwork. In college, I was constantly working to stand out as an individual. I was graded for my effort and worked alone. Now, I am a part of a team. For me to shine or be recognized for my work, the entire team must succeed. I found it hard to fall in to the “follower” role. It is not always easier to follow, especially when you have always been a leader. Learning how to lead is important, but learning when to follow is critical to your success as a Fellow and a person.

Describe your work setting.

Jacqueline Swartz, Senior Fellow: At El Pomar we are closely connected to our history, as we have offices next to the Broadmoor Hotel and in Penrose House. The Broadmoor is a five-star hotel that the founder of El Pomar Foundation created and opened in 1918. Penrose House is the house that El Pomar founders Spencer and Julie Penrose once called home. The house is a Mediterranean-style home and features beautiful art and some antiques that originally belonged to the Penroses. Originally built on an apple orchard, the grounds continue to offer serenity to El Pomar staff and nonprofits that are able to use conference space at the house. Deer and, on occasion, bears can be seen roaming the grounds.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your time at El Pomar Foundation?

Jennifer Lichti, Second-Year Fellow: The Fellowship has taught me the importance of constantly learning and evolving as a leader, an employee, and an individual.  I have been given the opportunity to develop meaningful mentoring relationships that serve to further reinforce the leadership traits that we learn about during our professional development trainings.  When I leave the Fellowship, I will exit with confidence, knowing that I have developed tangible skills—including strategic planning, project management, grantmaking, and a greater understanding of the needs of our community. The relationships and lessons that I have gained here at El Pomar will guide me not only in my professional endeavors but also in my personal life.

Brady Nachtrieb, Second-Year Fellow: This opportunity has taught me how to work and succeed with people of different schools of thought and backgrounds that may not be similar to my own. It has also taught me to value the insight that you receive from that diverse culture, and to develop a new and improved thought process. I have also learned how to effectively manage time and expectations. In many jobs, entry-level people compete with colleagues at all costs to stand out and climb the corporate ladder. This position has taught me to balance the work that needs to get done with my personal goals and aspirations so I can offer the greatest value to the Foundation and myself as a professional. This allows me to build the necessary networks of people to make success in future endeavors likely.

Describe the support structure for Fellows at El Pomar Foundation and the relationship Fellows have with senior staff.

Brian Brown, Second-Year Fellow: El Pomar’s work environment has two layers that together make for an incredible dynamic. On one level, you have the Fellows—recent college grads whose presence eases the transition from college life to the workforce. On another level, you have the full-time staff—a talented cadre of experienced professionals, directors, and senior staff who provide stability, continuity, and wisdom. Every day, as a Fellow, you are encouraged and supported by exciting people your own age who are sharing your experiences. And every day, you interact with older people who dedicate time to show you—in their diverse ways—what it means to be a professional, a public servant, and a leader. As you build a network of friends and peers for the future, you simultaneously soak up experience and maturity from some of the best leaders in the nonprofit sector. That’s a pretty unique combination, sure to have a profound effect on just about anyone.

What’s it like to live in Colorado Springs?

Brandon Rattiner, First-Year Fellow:No matter where you end up working after school, adjusting to a life away from your friends and college is difficult. Having lived in Denver and Boston, moving to Colorado Springs made that transition even harder. By far the smallest city I have ever lived in, with a fairly like-minded population, I’ll admit I was extremely worried about moving to Colorado Springs. However, since moving to Colorado Springs, I have taken time to reinvest in myself and develop new hobbies. Activities like rock climbing, skiing, and hiking allow me to meet fun people throughout the city, while always providing me with something to do. Additionally, taking advantage of El Pomar’s resources by networking throughout the city has put me in contact with tons of nonprofit leaders and worthwhile organizations. Living here can still be frustrating and young people are sometimes hard to find, but the Springs has a lot going for it—access to beautiful mountains, fun bars and restaurants downtown, and a group of like-minded Fellows with whom to hang out. More importantly, the great Fellowship program El Pomar Foundation has makes living here worth it.

Describe what you are going to do after the Fellowship. What experiences and skills did you acquire at El Pomar Foundation which helped you to make this choice?

Lindsey Myers, Second-Year Fellow: I am going to work for Vail Valley Foundation as the Education Coordinator after the Fellowship. Before I got the new job, I had aspirations to move back to the Western Slope and give back to the small rural communities of Colorado. Without El Pomar and its region-based philanthropy, I would not have had these aspirations. The work of the Regional Partnerships gave me insight into the needs of rural Colorado, and reminded me why Colorado is such a special and unique state. Before the Fellowship and work with El Pomar, I had few goals for my future professional career beyond the fact that I wanted a good job and to stay in Colorado. El Pomar gave me the tools needed to define and meet my goals for my professional career. Some of the tools include: work ethic and time management abilities, public speaking skills, managing group dynamics, experience with working/professional relationships, and much, much more. The experiences I gained were invaluable to the progress I made in reaching my professional goals and taking the next step after the Fellowship.

Snapshot of your week?

Stephanie South, First-Year Fellow