A group of fellows smiling and dressed warmly standing on a beach- Nick, Joyce, Lauren, Erika, and Annie

Shared Knowledge, Experiences and Titles: Navigating the Fellowship as a Cohort

During the last few months of senior year, I made sure to internalize and grow comfortable with the fact that my first job out of college would neither be perfect nor easy. Regardless of what might come next, I knew this next chapter would require a transition out of the lifestyle I’d enjoyed for the past 16 years as a student, and I wanted to give myself grace with that thought in mind. And I must say, the past year has been full of many ups and downs as I’ve adjusted to full-time work while navigating life in a new city. 

At uAspire, a non-profit in Boston that works to make college affordable, I split my time between advising a caseload of 600 or so post-secondary students through the financial aid process and working on various capacity-building special projects within the Program department. In order to ensure I utilize my time effectively, I’ve turned to my managers many times to brainstorm ways I might strike a balance between these two sides of my work. They have been incredibly thoughtful and patient while working with me, and I now have a better sense of how to manage my workload. While sorting this out, I have also discovered that I have a great resource built in by means of the Fellowship – my cohort of peer Fellows.

I didn’t weigh the benefits of a cohort model very heavily when I was first considering this Fellowship, but so far my cohort has played a significant role in my adjustment to this chapter of life. We’re a small group scattered around the three host cities of Boston, NYC and Philadelphia, but we’re uniquely positioned to empathize with each other’s experiences in our respective organizations even if our day-to-day work varies greatly. By design, we are all learning to balance our time and attention between multiple projects in a day; the peers in my cohort understand what it’s like to toggle between multiple titles and responsibilities, manage relationships and learn to advocate under the title of an FAO Fellow. We not only discuss the various successes and challenges at our respective organizations, but also brainstorm recommendations we want to make to help shape the Fellowship for future Fellows. I was personally attracted to the Fellowship because of the range of projects I expected to tackle in the position that was available at uAspire, and the variety hasn’t been a negative experience for me by any means. It has helped immensely though, to have peers as a sounding board so we can share tips on time management, validate one another and figure out how to thrive in a constantly evolving role. 

It’s funny for me to think of how I may have experienced this past year had I lacked a group of peers to share this time with. Would I have reflected as much on my work, on uAspire or on the non-profit sector? How would I have adjusted to work amidst the chaos that is post-grad life? Though it’s difficult to know what it may have been like otherwise, I can say that the input and encouragement I’ve received from my cohort have been a positive influence in my development as a professional. My hope is that I will continue to contribute with my own learnings so that they may feel the same.




Joyce Kim ’20 is the FAO Schwarz Fellow at uAspire in Boston.