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New Fellows Trade In Sandals For Suits


Ben Jourdan and Jeff Hopfenbeck

Photo: First-year fellows Jeff Hopfenbeck, Sabrina Ragaller, and Ben Jourdan at El Pomar’s Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun

For thousands of 2011 college graduates, the transition from college life into the workforce has proved to be a difficult adjustment. Trading in textbooks, backpacks, and flip-flops for employee handbooks, briefcases, and business attire can be quite a shock. Luckily for first-year fellows, El Pomar has made this transition a smooth one. When new fellows arrive at the picturesque Penrose House for their first day of the “real world,” El Pomar greets them with a structured three-week orientation program.

Orientation helps introduce first-year fellows to the skills, tools, and relationships necessary for success during the fellowship program. Through meetings with senior staff and second-year fellows, first-years learn about the foundation’s grantmaking, join program staffs, and receive assignments within the Regional Partnerships. Fellows attend sessions on subjects as varied as El Pomar history and office know-how, and everything in between. By the end of orientation, the new fellows have a clear grasp of how they fit into the El Pomar puzzle.

For second-year fellows, orientation provides the opportunity to polish their presentation and public-speaking skills. Second-year fellows are assigned the responsibility of developing mini “boot camp” sessions on topics important to the Fellowship. For example, second-year fellow Samantha Maytag gave new fellows a lesson on the importance of “managing up.” Managing up is the process of working intentionally with those higher up in an organization to communicate effectively, anticipate needs, and obtain the best possible results for all involved.

“Managing up was a new concept to me,” said first-year Fellow Sabrina Ragaller, “But I feel like it's a great way to describe our work as first-year fellows for the next year. It provides the freedom to take initiative while still following the guidelines given by the second-year fellows.”

El Pomar understands that new fellows come from different backgrounds and life experiences, and that educating fellows from the ground up is an essential part of constructing an effective and efficient team. Orientation allows first-year fellows to work together in order to understand how they add to the team dynamic of El Pomar. Small projects given to the first-years, such as planning an internal event, allow fellows a hands-on opportunity to learn the working styles of their colleagues.