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Forging the Future of Fellowship

By Elizabeth Hoffner
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Elizabeth’s Reflection on Her Time with El Pomar and 30 Years of the Fellowship Program

When I graduated with a minor in leadership from the University of Denver, I remember feeling like I had acquired plenty of ideas and theories on how to lead, but still needed so much more practice and experience. That is exactly what the Fellowship gave me: real-world, hands-on experience. During my first year I was able to observe 2nd Year Fellows lead programs differently from each other, and I was able to take pieces and parts from their models and add them to mine. As Fellows, we also had the chance to hear from community leaders like Mike Edmonds, Chief of Staff at Colorado College, and Bob Chastain, CEO of Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, about their personal leadership philosophies and lessons learned through mistakes and experiences.

Then the day came when I was done observing. When 2nd Year Fellows departed and summer interns arrived, I had bright-eyed college students looking at me as a 2nd Year for project management and leadership. This was the moment when I could put all the things I had learned into practice. Let’s just say it may be easy to critique others and say you’ll do it differently, but when you get pulled in from the sidelines you see how hard it is to put everything you looked for into practice. I realized that each team and individual was vastly different because everyone is unique and plays to their strengths, thus I needed to manage differently in each of my programs. At the end of each day during my 2nd Year summer, my brain had never hurt so much; but I was excited to start fresh and do it all again because the Fellowship is a learning laboratory where I could come back the next day and try something new.

As I transitioned into the Deputy Director role, I felt even more thankful for the Fellowship alumni and the critical role they play in making current Fellows and this program successful. While helping 2nd Years find their next landing place, I bump into Fellow alumni in all corners of the job world. I have become so appreciative of this network and the unique shared experience that joins Fellows together. Our core values, the RITE values (respect, integrity, teamwork and excellence), will never fade with age because in uncertainty and challenge, those four things are central to the decision-making process. Fellows practice these values daily and they are like a muscle: the more they are used, the stronger they get.

When I look ahead at what the next 30 years hold, I think of the saying “age is just a number, unless you are a bottle of wine.” I believe the Fellowship will age as well as a good bottle of wine. As our alumni continue to be movers and shakers and form powerful bonds between the public, private and nonprofit sectors, this program will only grow tighter and stronger. I can also see the program constantly improving its resources as new data points emerge about what is necessary and pertinent for early-career professionals to learn and experience in a two-year community leadership program. The Fellowship will continue to adapt thanks to our engaged alumni on the front lines and in high places in the state letting us know how things are ever evolving and changing. In its first 30 years, El Pomar’s Fellowship has been a cornerstone in the Foundation’s mission to fulfill Spencer and Julie Penrose’s vision for a better Colorado for all. I am confident that in the next 30, the Fellowship will continue to proactively evolve to fit the future needs of our communities.

Class of 2018 Fellows (from left to right) Elizabeth Hoffner, Kyle Boyle, Erin Kerr and Doug Palmer pause for a rest on their Outward Bound orientation trip.

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