Photo: TPF Fellows

TPF Fellows Program Adapts to COVID-19 Disruptions

Posted on October 26, 2021 by Joni S. Steinberg, PhD., consultant with The Patterson Foundation
In May 2019, The Patterson Foundation (TPF) welcomed a single inaugural fellow into its new Fellows Program. The program for aspiring philanthropic leaders on their way to launching careers was to be timed like clockwork. Every year, in late May, graduates from Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy were to begin their one-year tenure at TPF. They were to end their fellowship a year later, waving goodbye as a new fellows cohort entered.

But in spring 2020, the pandemic disrupted those timing plans. Responding to the new conditions of COVID-19 realities, TPF refreshed its intended timetable, becoming more flexible in scheduling the procession of its small cohorts. TPF Fellows programming also evolved, assessing what worked, adapting as needed, and innovating to create a new path departing from planned timeline milestones.

The flexibility in start and end dates resulted in fellows overlapping across cohorts, creating unexpected synergies that we now appreciate as greatly enhancing their rich experience.

From the outset, the overlap in tenure softened the learning curve for incoming fellows as they received guidance from Hannah Saeger Karnei. The new fellows benefited from their peer sharing the foundation's practices, lessons learned in handling responsibilities, and insights into TPF's work. The benefits worked strongly in both directions as our inaugural fellow grew to be a leader and role model for incoming fellows.

Incoming fellows have also benefited from having a tour guide to understand and experience community life. On a more personal note, the first three fellows bonded in the experience. They have developed meaningful friendships, sharing joys, successes, and challenges. Peer support has played out across a broad set of dimensions, including collaborating on launching a TPF Fellows alumni network, TPF Beyond, brought together by their common commitment to TPF values and goals.

As the 2021/22 cohort arrived on different schedules, they benefited from peer support opportunities.

Prompted by COVID-19 disruptions, we didn't lose our intent. As a result of remaining flexible, evolving, and innovating, the overlap of fellows across cohorts in this blossoming program has turned out to be beneficial rather than disruptive, producing synergies valuable to our fellows' professional growth as well as their contribution to TPF and the region.

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