Tue. Apr 16th, 2024

New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado today announced the 2016-2018 class of Empire State Fellows. The prestigious program, now in its fifth year, recruits mid-career professionals from the private and private sectors to cultivate the next generation of New York State government leaders and policy-makers. Eight new Empire State Fellows, chosen for their professional experience, leadership potential, creativity and commitment to public service from a highly competitive field of candidates, now begin a two-year fellowship.

“I’d like to welcome these talented and brilliant professionals to New York State government,” said Secretary Rosado. “Their extraordinary cultural and professional diversity, new energy and fresh ideas will inject State government with the leadership necessary to accelerate economic growth and build attractive, livable communities for generations to come.”

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo Cuomo appoints each Empire Fellow to work directly with a Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, or other high-level policy-maker. Each Empire Fellow works at a State office or agency, such as the Department of State, the Department of Health, the Department of Labor, or in the Governor’s Executive Chamber.

During their two-year fellowship, Empire State Fellows both teach and learn, by bringing diverse and modern perspectives into the governing process, and through participation in education and professional development. Empire Fellows complete a unique, interactive curriculum developed by the Rockefeller Institute of Government in consultation with Cabinet-level officials. Once placed and paired with a mentor, Empire State Fellows must continue educational coursework in addition to their regular employment.

The Empire State Fellows program continues its tradition of selecting outstanding leaders from different backgrounds to enter public service and make contributions to the wide spectrum of State government. Members of the new class bring expertise from various professional fields, including community service, not-for-profit management, education, and the legal profession. Since the program’s inception, over 25 Fellows have gone on senior roles in State government. In these roles, graduated Empire State Fellows have helped shape the state’s Superstorm Sandy housing and building initiatives, assist Puerto Rico reshape its Medicaid program, and helped move the State’s behavioral health services from a fee-for-service system into managed care.

“The Empire State Fellows Program has given me a tremendous opportunity to participate in State government at the highest levels,” said Jonathan Lang, Project Coordinator at the New York State Department of Health. “There is no other program that will give you that kind of access to leadership, combined with the hands-on experience working with some of the best and brightest in public service. Every day here at the Department of Health, I get to work with an extraordinary team as we transform one of the largest Medicaid programs in the country into a national model for healthcare excellence.”

The 2016-2018 Class of Empire State Fellows

Thomas E. Baines – Thomas joins the Empire State Fellows program after a career in housing and development working directly with State and Federal funding. Working for a private developer in the City of Buffalo, he began his career managing all facets of affordable housing. Thomas then served as the Executive Director of the Batavia Housing Authority where he was responsible for all fiscal and day-to-day operations. At the pleasure of the Mayor, he also served as the Director of Administration and Finance for the City of Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency where his primary duties were to overseeing the fiscal operations of the agency, as well as ensuring the appropriate use of all Federal Entitlement Grants. Thomas received his Bachelor’s from SUNY Oneonta and M.B.A. from Medaille College in Buffalo, N.Y. Placement: Office of General Services

Terrence Byrd-El – Terrence joins the Empire State Fellows program with 17 years of human service and community development experience. He is a passionate, committed, and ethical member of his community and he brings extensive knowledge, leadership and expertise working with communities of poverty. Most recently he served as Workforce Development Coordinator at CenterState CEO Contractor, assisting over 200 individuals access employment or training opportunities. He began his career working with various community-based organizations as a case manager, program director, and program developer. His most recent work was in Community Economic Development, with a focus on workforce development. He is an active citizen in the Syracuse community, participating in various anti-poverty initiatives, speaking with youth throughout the community and serves as a researcher for the Street Addiction Institute in partnership with Syracuse University. Currently, he is completing his Doctorate in Executive Leadership from St. John Fisher College; he holds a Master of Science in Community Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University and a Bachelor of Arts from the State University of New York at Albany in Sociology. He is also a member of the International Economic Development Council and working towards becoming a Certified Economic Developer. Mr. Byrd-El takes pride in being a public servant and considers himself a “Servant of Humanity.” Placement: Department of State

Camilla Campisi – Camilla joins the Empire State Fellows program after more than a decade of advocacy and policy experience with a variety of international organizations. Most recently, she was a UN Representative with the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) in New York, where she led the organization’s peacebuilding program. Prior to QUNO, she was an Advocate with Refugees International (RI), based in Washington, DC. While at RI, Camilla carried out multiple assessment missions to a variety of countries in Africa and Asia, with a particular focus on advocating for the protection and humanitarian needs of refugees and internally displaced people. Before joining RI, she was the Field Relations Manager for InterExchange Au Pair USA, a nonprofit cultural exchange program. Camilla also has experience working on refugee resettlement with the International Organization for Migration in Geneva and the International Rescue Committee. Camilla has a Bachelor’s degree in French from Rutgers University and a Master’s degree in International Relations from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University. Camilla was born in Sweden and grew up in New Jersey. She also speaks Swedish and French. Placement: Department of State

Kirk Dobson – Kirk joins the Empire State Fellows program after many years in political and management consulting in Massachusetts, New York, and most recently, Georgia. During his time consulting he has worked on various political campaigns and initiatives in various capacities, ranging from fundraising and communications to campaign management. Kirk has recently returned to New York after spending five years in the Atlanta area, where he pursued his doctoral degree in public administration with the University System of Georgia – Valdosta State University. His dissertation is titled “The Future of E-Filing in the State of Georgia,” which focuses on the planning and implementation of a Statewide electronic filing system for the State of Georgia’s judicial system. In addition to his doctoral work, Kirk received both a Bachelor of Arts (cum laude) and a Master of Arts degrees from Fordham University. Placement: Department of Health

Sita Fey – Sita is from upstate Otsego County and joins the Empire State Fellows program following a career in education. As an elementary school librarian in Cooperstown Central Schools she transformed the learning space and curriculum of the library and secured over $10,000 in local grants to integrate technology. Her dedication to education was exemplified through her interactions with students, parents, and the community. Sita was named the 2014 Rotary Outstanding Educator of the Year for Cooperstown Central Schools. Prior to Cooperstown, Sita spent 10 years working at the Creating Rural Opportunities Program with the Oneonta City School District. Her community endeavors include previous service on the local board of Catholic Charities, the City of Oneonta Commission on
Community Relations and Human Rights, and the ONC BOCES School Library Systems Council. She has a BS in childhood education from SUNY Oneonta, a MSIS from The University at Albany, and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Administration. She is currently board Vice President of Opportunities for Otsego, a community action agency. Placement: Executive Chamber

Ernest Modarelli IV – Ernest is a community activist, pedestrian safety advocate, and Hell’s Kitchen resident who comes to the Empire State Fellows Program after a career in the field of Digital Communications where he worked for The United Nations International School and on Gale Brewer’s Campaign for Manhattan Borough President. He also started a Digital Communication and Development service for nonprofit organizations throughout the Tristate area. Ernest was appointed to three terms as a member of Manhattan Community Board 4 beginning in 2010, where he served on The Hell’s Kitchen Land Use Committee, was the Transportation Committee Co-Chair, and was elected as the board’s Second Vice-Chair. Ernest served as Vice President of The Chelsea Hell’s Kitchen Pedestrian Safety Society (CHEKPEDS), an organization that advocates for pedestrian safety improvements throughout New York City. He was elected to the Manhattan Democratic County Committee in 2014 and was a candidate for Judicial Delegate. He sits on the Board of Directors for the Academy of St. Joseph of the Palisades and is a member of the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club. He earned his Masters and Bachelor’s Degrees in Public Administration from The City University of New York, John Jay College. A New Jersey native, Ernest moved to New York City in 2002. Placement: Executive Chamber

Hanna Reyes – Hanna joins the Empire State Fellows program following her role as Confidential Stenographer for New York State’s Executive Chamber. During her time with the Chamber, Hanna assisted on the implementation of the Governor’s Ethics, Risk and Compliance State-wide initiative. While obtaining her Master of Science from the King Graduate School-Monroe College, Hanna conducted research on re-entry and wrote her master thesis entitled: Role of Social Service Programs on Successful Reintegration of Ex-convict Mothers into Society. Hanna was formerly a Rhetoric co-instructor for Binghamton University’s Michael J. Boyd Educational Opportunity Summer Program, and an English-Social Studies Tutor/Counselor for La Guardia Community College’s upward bound program. Hanna is a McNair Scholar, a volunteer for the Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) and is a CASA Jr. Board member. She has an Executive Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Fordham University, a Master of Science from the King Graduate School-Monroe College and a Bachelor of Arts from Binghamton University. Placement: Executive Chamber

Kimberly Wedderburn – Kimberly joins the Empire State Fellows as a recent graduate of Fordham University School of Law and a former Special Education teacher. Kimberly began her teaching career as a New York City Teaching Fellow and received her Master’s Degree in Special Education from Brooklyn College. Kimberly taught both special and general education high school students in English and Social Studies classes. She also served as the Services for Students with Disabilities Coordinator and Testing Supervisor for the College Board, and designed the curriculum and taught Introduction to Law and SAT Preparation courses. Kimberly worked as a public school teacher while attending law school in the evening. As a law student, she interned with Samsung Corporation’s Legal Compliance Department in Seoul, South Korea; she was a Judicial Intern in the Superior Court of New Jersey; she completed an externship with New York City Conflicts of Interest Board; and she worked as a Law Clerk for the Law Office of Sybil Shainwald. Kimberly received the Archibald R. Murray Public Service Award for her dedication to public service law and was a staff member of the Environmental Law Review. Kimberly earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Professional Writing from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is originally from Brooklyn, NY. Placement: Department of Labor

The Empire State Fellows program is one of the three parts of Governor Cuomo’s New NY Leaders Initiative that prepares a new generation of leaders to serve in State government. The Excelsior Service Fellowship Program brings highly talented recent graduates to serve throughout the State government, and the New NY Leaders Internship Program offers hundreds of college students an opportunity to work in State government. For more information, go here.

Applications for the 2017-2019 class of Empire State Fellows will open this December. For more information regarding the Empire State Fellows program, go to here.



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