From Futures Intern to Full-Time Leadership Gift Officer

Catherine Emery

The Futures in Advancement Program is a ten-week summer internship at the Rutgers University Foundation, the fundraising arm of Rutgers.  Over the 10 weeks, interns are given a professional workplace experience and an education on the many facets of development. I participated in the program this past summer and, this fall I applied and was accepted into a full-time position as a Leadership Giving Officer with the RBHS team. I truly enjoy speaking about what my experience was like because the internship has had lasting impacts on my career!

An important takeaway from the Futures in Advancement program is the great emphasis on professional growth. The Rutgers University Foundation supports the fundraising efforts of the University, and the Futures program are exposes participants to front line fundraising, data analytics, strategy and planning, revenue processing, communications, and so much more. The internship takes you through these several occupational possibilities by tasking interns with meaningful individual placements, group assignments, professional development workshops, and valuable networking opportunities. A highlight of the program is that the cohort gets to present their group project to the entire foundation at the conclusion of the summer. If you find interest in development, or in another field, the Rutgers Foundation wants to help you find success throughout your professional path.

Photo by John O’Boyle

In my experience, I was still in the process of figuring out where I wanted to begin my career and this was something that I was open about from the beginning of the program and something that was welcomed by those I worked with at the Foundation. I had received my MSW because listening to others was something that I enjoyed and valued. I wanted to make a career out of building relationships but didn’t know exactly how to break into that; I also had an interest in fundraising but was unsure if I had the skills needed to be successful in it. While working with the Principal Gifts team, I rotated through diverse fundraising departments, which allowed me to interact with crucial support teams at the Foundation. With the help of the Talent Management team, I was able to make an informed decision about my career that was based on my skillsets and interests—finding a path that would both challenge and excite me. Because of my experience, I walked away from the program ready to move into fundraising!

When I transitioned into my full-time position, I felt a unique preparation that I would not have felt if I did not have the internship experience. This isn’t just because I was familiar with the Rutgers University Foundation; it was because I learned how to present myself as a professional and navigate a workplace. I felt excitement to begin because I was no longer afraid of facing professional challenges. I had confidence in my skills. I would tell anyone to pursue the Futures in Advancement Program! The program welcomes students of all majors and creates an experience that will help them grow within their interests. This is evident among the success of the past four cohorts. Futures in Advancement is a one-of-a-kind program and I am so lucky to have been a part of it!

Futures in Advancement. 5/29/19. Photo by John O’Boyle

How Did We Get Here?

Gianna West

Week 4 of my internship is coming to an end and I have already had the opportunity to meet so many amazing professionals at the Foundation. Throughout my time here, I have noticed that no two stories are the same, yet all are worth listening to. The office is filled with so many diverse people from varying backgrounds. Even my fellow interns all come from different majors. Everyone’s upbringings, challenges, experiences, and achievements are a series of footprints that brought them to the world of advancement. And yes, the phrase “when I get older, I want to be a fundraiser” isn’t necessarily common, but it seems that the right people inevitably end up here.

The funny part about that phrase is that everyone isn’t just a fundraiser either. There are many components that work together to form the strategic planning and execution of a campaign. The Futures Interns and I recently had the opportunity to attend the Diverse Careers Speaker Series where various Foundation staff spoke about their paths to advancement. The first session’s panel consisted of Lisa English, an Associate Vice President in RBHS, Marco Battaglia, Assistant Athletic Director for Development, and Katie Mayfield, Director of Development in RBHS. Due to my own placement in RBHS, it was very interesting to learn about the career paths of staff in my unit. It was also surprising to hear about other department’s staff, such as Marco’s football background that led him to Athletic Development. After speaking about their past work experience and backgrounds, the panelists gave us beneficial advice to use in the future. They told us to find out who we are and what are our passions, identify our skill sets so that we can use them to our advantage, and to always believe you deserve success so that you will not fall victim to imposter syndrome. These words of wisdom will stick with me on my professional journey.

The second session comprised of Roberta O’Hara, an Associate Vice President in Donor Relations, Anthony Colella, Director of Visual Identity, and Candy Knaus, Director of Application Development & User Support. These three staff members spoke more about their unique positions within advancement and what exactly they do in those positions. Being an IT major and the nerd that I am, I was delighted to hear from Candy about everything that goes on in the Foundation’s IT Department. I was also amazed to learn from Roberta about how much work is done in the Donor Relations team. Even the amount of work it takes the Communications Team to make a campaign visually engaging was an eye-opener. It just goes to show that there is always more than meets the eye.

Being able to experience the Rutgers University Foundation from the inside has given me a whole new perspective on advancement and made me realize how important it is in higher education. A question was asked during the second speaker session about words that could be used to describe the work at the Foundation, and there was one answer that stood out to me: Purpose. From the outside looking in, one may not be able to see that amount of collaboration and work that goes into the running of the Rutgers University Foundation. Everyone is making an impact, and the staff who surround you are so friendly and welcoming that even if you never thought you would end up as an advancement professional, you can’t help but think you belong here too.

Rutgers Futures in Advancement. 5/29/19 Photo by John O’Boyle

Gianna West is a Futures in Advancement intern with Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences

Alumni Day: Futures Then and Now

Elizabeth Hunt

Coming into the Futures in Advancement Internship Program, I knew that I would be given the opportunity to learn and grow both personally and professionally. What I did not realize was how far this program has come in developing advancement professionals. My cohort is the fourth class in this program which started back in the summer of 2016. We recently had the privilege of meeting alumni from the previous cohorts, during one of the sessions planned for us. To me, this was the most insightful days so far, as I was able to discuss my feelings towards the internship thus far, my concerns, and my aspirations; in return, I learned what the program meant for the alumni and how their professional paths developed because of their participation in the Futures in Advancement internship.

During our time with the former Futures Interns, the conversation was a back and forth dialogue of information that drew on some very powerful lessons. I learned that many of the past interns had returned to the foundation in varying professional capacities. For example, Sean Howard returned part-time after ending the first program, and a year later became the special projects coordinator for the Talent Management Team. Another alumnus currently works at the Douglas Residential College as an advancement assistant, and another former Futures intern works in development events. I also learned that the Futures in Advancement internship allowed them to find direction in their careers, as they were not sure where they wanted to go professionally before the program. The foundation has provided countless opportunities to past Futures interns and is currently giving us the same opportunity.

Through the rest of the day, we continued discussing their experience with the internship and asking questions. Tahsin Alam, Associate Vice President for Talent Management and Organizational Development, joined the group to discuss career planning. This discussion was particularly insightful as we were able to ask questions not only to him but to the Futures Alumni as well. I learned that keeping in contact with not only Tahsin but each other, the Foundation, and alumni would allow us to build a well-rounded professional network when applying for jobs. As a result of this internship, many of the graduated alumni found professional opportunities, while those who were still in school gained resume-building experiences. Tahsin provided advice on applying for jobs and what we might expect from our first job search. For me, this was useful as I had taken a year off after I received my undergraduate degree. I was able to see what I needed to change and how to better leverage my skills this time around. Overall, I felt more professionally empowered.

After alumni day, I can honestly say that I know I made the right choice in accepting the offer to join the Futures in Advancement internship. I learned that the advancement profession can give professionals a unique skill set that can be applied in many different careers both in and out of the profession. I learned that I am capable in any career that I choose, and being a part of this program has proven this fact all along. There have been many people that have come through this program; each with a unique skill set, background, and personality. Advancement is about building relationships, engagement, and development for the future. This program has already given me the opportunity to build those connections, and I realized how important that is for many industries. I hope that throughout the next 7 weeks, I continue to grow into the professional I know that I am. Alumni Day was an extremely valuable day, where I was able to see how this internship experience will impact my future.

Rutgers Futures in Advancement. 5/29/19 Photo by John O’Boyle

Elizabeth Hunt is a Futures in Advancement intern with the Alumni Engagement Team

Everything is Connected

Hailey Lemasters

Rutgers Futures in Advancement. 5/29/19 Photo by John O’Boyle

There are very few times in which the thought of waking up at 6am on a Monday and commuting over an hour has been particularly thrilling; however, working at the Foundation has completely changed this for me. No matter how long the commute, how much traffic has conspired against me, or how groggy I may feel in the morning, walking through the doors of Liberty Plaza and sitting down at my desk is an instant pick me up.

The introduction to my unit, the “small but mighty” campaign team as my unit hosts Jessica Miller and Ingrid Cordasco like to say, quickly transitioned into a warm welcome into the huge family that is the Rutgers University Foundation and this year’s class of Futures interns. After receiving my first project to audit the Dean Advisory Boards, I quickly learned that in order to complete this assignment, I would need to meet with professionals in many different departments to strategize a streamlined process of communication and data collection. A meeting with Karen Hurst, the Director of Gift Processing and Alumni Records, opened my eyes to just how vast and intricate the hierarchical structures of the Foundation and the University truly are. Despite this complexity, there is one common goal that unifies the entire Foundation: advancement. This common goal transcends the individual initiatives of specific schools and departments, which is key for the successful launch of the next multibillion-dollar comprehensive campaign.

Our University did not achieve the prestige it carries today by the work of individuals operating on their own. Akin to a kaleidoscope, many shapes and colors are constantly shifting, but a beautifully complex mosaic always remains. Work in advancement impacts nearly every aspect of the student experience at our University. Foundation staff work and coordinate with each of the University’s 29 individual schools daily. As Jess Miller has said to me on more than one occasion, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” As I continue in my internship, I am excited to see how the different units, boards, councils, and teams come together to launch our University’s next comprehensive campaign.

Rutgers Futures in Advancement. 5/29/19 Photo by John O’Boyle

Hailey Lemasters is a Futures in Advancement intern with Campaigns

A Look at Rutgers-Newark

Being a Futures in Advancement intern for Rutgers-Newark has been life-changing for me. It has been refreshing to learn about all of Rutgers-Newark’s great initiatives to improve higher education and especially the city of Newark. I have learned that Rutgers-Newark is the most diverse university in the United States, and an incredibly unique anchor institution. Although I have only been an intern for a short time, I feel so connected to this city; I am moved by Rutgers’ strong commitment to be a part of Newark, and seeing how it has immersed itself in the community. For example, as part of the 2014 strategic plan, Rutgers-Newark helped create an extremely creative and collaborative public space called ExpressNewark in the historic Hahne & Co. building. The intention of this space is to highlight and foster the community’s diverse, innovative, and creative culture. Additionally, ExpressNewark houses Rutgers’ Institute of Jazz Studies, which has the largest collection of Jazz artifacts in the world; I hope I get to explore this collection soon. Among the many exciting things about Rutgers-Newark is its Honors Living-Learning Community (HLLC). The HLLC challenges the traditional model of an “honors college” by emphasizing social justice and creating future community leaders through a holistic assessment of students. The HLLC allows people from different walks of life to be a member of the Rutgers-Newark Community despite their test scores.

If it were not for the Futures in Advancement program I would have never taken the initiative to explore Newark or learn about how revolutionary Rutgers-Newark is, I would not have met some of the most inspirational and accomplished individuals I have ever come across, who I now consider my role models. I am so thankful to have this opportunity for my professional and personal growth.

I think any Rutgers student, should consider being a part of this program because you get to not only learn about non-profit work and what it looks like for higher education, but so much more about Rutgers University that you would not learn otherwise.  I feel it is so important for every student to know the role advancement plays for the institution and their education. By being a part of the community’s development initiatives, student have the opportunity to be an agent of positive change and strengthen the sense of community. While I am not a student at Newark, being a part of this program has certainly motivated me to be more active in my community and made me realize how truly passionate I am about non-profit work and social justice. Ultimately, the Futures in Advancement program has changed my life because it has presented me with a new and exciting career path, and work worth doing.

Rutgers Futures in Advancement. 6/4/18 Photo by John O’Boyle
Rutgers Futures in Advancement. 6/4/18 Photo by John O’Boyle

Tasnim Bhuiya is a Futures in Advancement intern with Rutgers-Newark

It’s Academic

Before beginning the Futures in Advancement internship program, I was not really aware of the non-profit sector of higher education. I knew students receive scholarships, researchers obtain funding, and buildings are named after people, but I never stopped to think about how these things came to be. After two weeks as a Futures intern and meeting everyone at the RBHS (Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences) unit, I started to find out what advancement in a higher education setting is about. As someone who is pursuing a career in higher education, this connection between advancement and academics piqued my interest, and I wanted to learn more. On June 19th, our first Speaker Series covered how academics and advancement at Rutgers are tied together – perfect timing!

During this session, we first heard from Dean Peter March, the Executive Dean of Arts and Sciences, and Tracy Elliot, Associate Vice President of Development at SAS. Through our discussion with them, I learned about the importance of faculty in advancement work. Dean March described our faculty as unique due to their entrepreneurial spirit and devotion to their students. To make their visions for enhancing students’ education a reality, faculty and the development team work together to get support from alumni and friends of the university. Without the faculty’s passion or the development team’s expertise, these initiatives could not grow and thrive.

Next, we heard from Art Certosimo, Chair of the Board of Overseers, and Nevin Kessler, the Foundation President. Art’s journey from a Rutgers alum who had lost contact with the university to his current position as Chair was inspiring and eye-opening. He stressed the significance of Rutgers alumni connections with each other, with faculty, and with Rutgers itself. I saw how Rutgers students’ relationships with faculty can be so impactful even many years after graduating. This connection and appreciation for faculty can be the tie that brings alumni back to the university. It can also be the motivation for (in Art’s words) an alum’s “joyful responsibility” to give back to Rutgers.

Being able to listen to and talk with these amazing speakers was an honor and a wonderful opportunity to learn more about a side of higher education that I knew very little about. Students, faculty, staff, and alumni all play an important role in advancement. I will keep the wisdom from these speakers with me as I continue on my journey with Futures and fulfill my own joyful responsibility to Rutgers.

Rutgers Futures in Advancement
Rutgers Futures in Advancement. 6/4/18 Photo by John O’Boyle

Janelle Raymundo is a Futures in Advancement Intern in Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences

Alumni Day 2018

On Alumni Day, my cohort of Futures in Advancement Interns had the opportunity to meet with interns from the previous two cohorts. We all enjoyed breakfast and coffee as we got to know one another. Through activities and anecdotes, the alumni were able to offer valuable advice to me and the other interns. This provided us a new perspective while helping us better understand our roles at the Rutgers University Foundation.

The alumni that we got to meet gave us valuable information that will help us throughout the rest of this internship, and in our professional careers. Each alumnus shared advice regarding the program, development as an industry, and life in general. Many of the alumni talked about the value of the final cohort project. The project is not just about delivering a finished product, but learning to work in groups with different people. This process instills a strong work ethic that is important in the professional field. Some other lessons that were shared with us by the alumni was to keep things professional and build your network because you never know when you may need it.  Another alumnus talked about the importance of fundraising and the role it plays in a student’s everyday life. Donors are the inciting force that help push university programs towards excellence. Another alumnus took a different spin on what they learned about development during their time as an intern. She stressed the importance of understanding development, because as interns we are actually given a chance to immerse ourselves in it. Many other students will never learn the complex nature of development, which is so integral to many professional career paths.

The opportunity to hear the stories of past alumni was invaluable and helped me realize the true value of fundraising. Development is about much more than just reaching a dollar amount. It is about fostering relationships, funding ground-breaking research, building scholarship funds that change student lives, engaging people of all age groups, and advancing the future of an organization or institution. Thank you to all the alumni for helping me realize this.

Rutgers Futures in Advancement
Rutgers Futures in Advancement. 6/4/18 Photo by John O’Boyle

Andrew Hanna is a Futures in Advancement Intern in Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences

Red Envelopes Get a Bronze

We are proud to announce that one of our very own, Yingxing Huang, a former Futures in Advancement intern is the Bronze winner of the Circle of Excellence Innovative Alumni Programs award for her proposal for a Rutgers University Branded red envelope to be given to alumni donors to celebrate the Chinese New Year. Yingxing was an intern in the Donor Relations Office during the summer of 2016. She then went on to work as a Part Time Development Assistant for the Rutgers-Newark Advancement team.

The idea for the envelopes came to Yingxing when she was speaking to her mother who was telling Yingxing that she had to go purchase red envelopes to give out for the holiday. As a result of this conversation, Yingxing thought that it would be a great idea to create red envelopes with the Rutgers brand in honor of the Chinese New Year. It is tradition for older generations and married couples to give red envelopes with gold Chinese characters to their children and other unmarried people as a sign of good fortune during the Chinese New Year. She wanted to give these envelopes out to Rutgers Alumni in China as a token of gratitude for their generosity and to remind them that Rutgers will always be with them.

This idea turned into reality, when Nancy Cantor, the Chancellor of Rutgers Newark and Irene O’Brien, the Vice Chancellor for Advancement visited Chinese Alumni in China and handed out these envelopes to the Alumni. The envelopes were passed out in groups of eight, a symbol of good fortune in the Chinese culture, which was appreciated by the recipients. It Is this ingenuity and creativeness within the advancement field that we hope to foster in every intern that goes through the Futures in Advancement internship. Congratulations to Yingxing for her amazing accomplishment.



From the November | December of 2017 edition of CASE Currents:

“Pushing the Red Envelope: A Chinese New Year custom becomes a new Rutgers tradition” details the work of former Futures intern Yingxing Huang to present and work on a dynamic initiative with the Office of the Chancellor at Rutgers-Newark.


To read the full article and learn more about advancement work itself, go to:

CASE Currents, November | December 2017

Yingxing Huang



On the Other Side of the Table


It’s funny, sometimes, when I think about how much has changed since mid-May of 2016 when I announced to the world (aka Facebook) that I’d be taking an internship at the Rutgers University Foundation in the Summer Internship in Development and Alumni Relations (SIDAR) program. Through SIDAR, I have realized a passion that I did not recognize before: I love philanthropy. From the nuts and bolts of researching to the concept of strategic planning where the Foundation will be headed, I fell in love with development and advancement. As many say, “falling” is a trend in this field, and I’ve fallen hard. Fast forward to May of 2017, and I’ve graduated Rutgers University-Newark and have begun my role as Special Projects Coordinator in the Department of Talent Management at the Rutgers University Foundation, full time. This May, instead of nervously walking up the stairs of the illustrious Winants Hall, I was running up and down them to get us ready to welcome 10 new interns into the newly branded Futures in Advancement program. What a difference a year can make, huh?

At times it is hard to see how much has changed in that year, as I’ve taken on the role of behind the scenes of the program rather than an intern myself, I lose track of all the amazing things going on sometimes. That was refocused recently, when I saw a few of my colleagues from the inaugural year of the program. The Futures Alumni Day bought together my cohort of interns with this year’s cohort, and gave us an opportunity to trade stories and network. Futures has attracted 10 of the brightest Rutgers students I could imagine getting to know, and now I get to see them do what we did as a group last year. The Futures program is poised to continue making an impact on the Rutgers University community, and each of the interns selected. Knowing this, I couldn’t have been happier sitting around the table together.

As an alumni of the inaugural year of the program, I will of course have an affinity for the bond my cohort shared; but to see a new bond be formed around the conference room table with the new cohort, I am reminded of why this program exists. This program is designed to give people like myself, who didn’t even know they loved philanthropy, the chance to fall in love with it. As I look around at my (now) colleagues, I am reminded of the breadth of their talent and their commitment to affecting positive change at the University I love and continue to call home. I know this program has more to go and grow, it is not close to being at its apex. Yet, I sat around the table yesterday listening to both cohorts talking, and I realized that there is no greater bond to be formed than the bond among people with a shared passion and vision; that is what pushed me off the edge and into non-profit work.

So did I fall into advancement? Yeah, I would say so. Would I have it any other way? Definitely not.

Rutgers Futures in Advancement

Sean P. Howard is a graduate of Rutgers University-Newark and a proud alumni of the Futures program. Sean is currently the Special Projects Coordinator at the Rutgers University Foundation in the Department of Talent Management.

Helping the Helpers: Fundraising from a Social Worker’s Perspective

Rutgers Futures in Advancement.  6/14/17 Photo by John O’BoyleAfter almost 10 years in development, I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say “I fell into it” when asked how they entered the field. We talk about the field as a second act or say that it happened seemingly by accident.

I’m no exception.

While an undergraduate student here at Rutgers, I envisioned a career helping people through clinical social work practice. I was passionate about being of service to others. But then I started clinical work and I hated it. (Takeaway point: you can love learning about something but not actually enjoy doing it.)

I eventually found development while working in the nonprofit sector. It was there that I “fell into” development and connected philanthropy with my passion for helping people. I still remember my excitement to finally find a home for my social work education. It was electric!

Fast forward to 2016, I was given the opportunity to return to Rutgers School of Social Work not as a student but as a professional fundraiser. Much had changed since I graduated in 2005: the School had grown significantly as did my understanding of what it means to be a social worker.

I see many parallels between social work and development, one of which being that social workers effect change by assessing need, working in between systems, and providing resources. Development professionals do the same: we assess donors’ needs, work in between donors and institutions, and secure resources to have a targeted impact.

The skills I learned as a social worker—working across disciplines, managing relationships, thinking strategically, and being goal-oriented—have served me well in this profession. Yet, I envy the opportunity you each have to learn about development intentionally and with structure, not accidentally and haphazardly as so many of us have.

This is why Dean Cathy Potter and I chose to participate in the fireside chat last week and discuss the nuances of fundraising with academic leaders, which is essential in today’s higher education funding landscape. Our goal was to illuminate the good that is accomplished when a development professional truly understands an academic leader’s vision, believes in it, and transfers that same passion to donors.

I’ve mentioned passion several times in this blog because it’s that important. Wherever your path leads, be passionate. It makes all the difference. I am passionate about Rutgers School of Social Work because I see how it advances social justice through education, research, and training. I am passionate about Rutgers because it grew me, because it elevates the only state I’ve ever called home, and because it offers the hope of a brighter tomorrow. I am passionate about the Futures program and being of service to each of you because I know that, whatever field you ultimately decide to pursue, this program will give you indelible skills that you will use to do the work you are passionate about.

Don’t “fall into” development. Fall in love with it.


Erin Capone is a Director of Development for the Rutgers University School of Social Work. Erin holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from New York University, and a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Rutgers University.