Empire State Fellows Program

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Empire State Fellows Program

Overview

Overview

Applications for the 2024-2026 Empire State Fellows Class are now open.

The Empire State Fellows Program is a full-time leadership training program that prepares the next generation of talented professionals for careers as New York State policymakers. The incoming class of Empire State Fellows will serve from September 2024 to September 2026, and receive an annual salary of $85,000, plus a generous benefits package. At the end of the fellowship, a performance review process will identify Empire State Fellows that will be given the opportunity to continue to serve as leaders in New York State government after completing the program.

Engagement in the work of New York State government lies at the heart of the Empire State Fellows Program. The Governor’s Office will appoint each Empire State Fellow to work directly with a Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, or other high-level policy maker at a New York State agency or authority, or in the Executive Chamber. Work assignments offer Fellows unparalleled experience collaborating with senior officials and participating in the policy-making process.

While taking part in the work of government, Empire Fellows will participate in educational and professional development programs that will help them to serve as effective and ethical government leaders. The educational component of the Empire State Fellows Program kicks-off with an orientation course in September 2024. Educational coursework will continue on a semi-monthly basis. Meanwhile, professional development activities, including a mentoring program and regular meetings with Cabinet members and other government leaders, will enhance Empire Fellows’ collaboration with policymakers.


How to Apply

How to Apply

Applications for the 2024-2026 Empire State Fellows Class are now open.

The Empire State Fellows Program is designed to attract talented professionals from outside of State government with demonstrated leadership potential who want to refocus their careers on public service. Candidates will be selected on the basis of their academic and professional experience, demonstrated leadership potential, and commitment to public service.

To Apply:

Applicants must use the online application form to apply. A complete application will include:

  1. Professional Resume or CV
  2. Personal statement explaining your interest in the Empire State Fellows Program and why you should be selected (no more than two pages)
  3. Two letters of recommendation which speak directly to your leadership capabilities and professional preparation for the program (a link will be provided to you to share with your recommenders once you submit your online application. The letters of recommendation must be submitted by April 8, 2024 or within one week of submission of your online application).

Resume and personal statement must be uploaded into the online application before submission. All application materials must be received before 11:59 p.m. on April 1, 2024. Late or incomplete applications will not be accepted.

Applicants should possess the following qualifications:

Professionalism:

  • Creativity and strong leadership potential
  • Excellent analytical and evaluative skills
  • Strong interpersonal and communication skills
  • Excellent organizational skills, efficiency and flexibility
  • Ability to establish priorities, plan, coordinate and monitor work
  • Ability to work independently while also collaborating with a team
  • Ability to identify issues, recognize best practices, formulate options and make recommendations

Experience:

  • A minimum of five (5) years of full-time professional experience
  • Demonstrated leadership skills
  • Managerial experience is a plus
  • Applicants may come from all professional backgrounds

Education:

  • An advanced university degree (master's degree, JD, PhD or equivalent) is desirable, but a candidate with only a Bachelor’s degree may be considered if he/she has substantial professional experience
  • Applicants may come from all academic disciplines

Additional requirements:

  • Candidates must be eligible to work for New York State without employer sponsorship
  • Candidates must be available to work in Albany, New York throughout the two-year program
  • Current New York State executive and legislative branch employees are ineligible for the Empire State Fellows Program

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What qualities are the Empire State Fellows Program looking for in applicants?

The Empire State Fellows Program is designed to attract talented professionals with demonstrated leadership potential who want to refocus their careers on public service. Applicants who are members of groups underrepresented in policy-making roles in New York State government, which include but are not limited to Black, Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander persons; women; persons with disabilities; and members of the LGBTQIA community, are particularly encouraged to apply. Applicants should have an advanced degree and at least five years of professional work experience. An applicant with only a Bachelors degree may be considered if they have substantial professional achievements.

Fellows may have a variety of educational and professional experience. For example, a social justice advocate working at a nonprofit organization, a lawyer with experience at a large law firm, and an environmental scientist with experience working on climate policy, could all be strong candidates if they demonstrate superior academic and professional credentials and a strong interest in public service. Of course, applicants who have studied public administration, political science, or public policy would also be competitive. All competitive applicants will demonstrate a strong interest in a career in public policy, substantial accomplishments in a professional environment, and notable academic achievement.

The diversity of applicant qualifications reflects the needs of our state government, which seeks talented leadership for agencies as varied as the Department of Environmental Conservation, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Labor, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Children and Family Services. Once Fellows are selected, their skills, interests and experiences will inform their assigned role in New York State government.

What are the eligibility requirements for the Empire State Fellows Program?

Individuals who are eligible to work for New York State without employer sponsorship, residing anywhere in the world, are eligible to serve as Empire Fellows, so long as they can work in Albany, New York throughout the two-year Fellowship. Individuals currently employed in the legislative or executive branches of the New York State government are not eligible to apply. Empire State Fellows must have a minimum of five (5) years of full time professional experience. The most competitive applicants will have an advanced university degree (master's degree, JD, PhD or equivalent); however, a Bachelor's degree in combination with other relevant experience may be accepted in lieu of an advanced degree.

Is a candidate’s political affiliation a consideration in selecting Empire State Fellows?

No. Empire State Fellows are selected on a non-partisan basis.

How do I apply for the Empire State Fellows Program?

Applications for the 2024-2026 Empire State Fellows Class are now open. Applicants must use the online application form to apply. A complete application will include:

  1. Professional Resume or CV
  2. Personal statement explaining your interest in the Empire State Fellows Program and why you should be selected (no more than two pages)
  3. Two letters of recommendation which speak directly to your leadership capabilities and professional preparation for the program (a link will be provided to you to share with your recommenders once you submit your online application. The letters of recommendation must be submitted by April 3 or within one week of submission of your online application).

Resume and personal statement must be uploaded into the online application before submission. All application materials must be received before 11:59 p.m. on April 1, 2024. Late or incomplete applications will not be accepted.

What is the best approach for handling recommendation letters?

Applicants are required to submit two recommendation letters from individuals they know well who can describe their background and achievements

  • At least one recommendation should come from an individual who has supervised you in a professional environment and can speak to your work experience and accomplishments
  • All recommendation letters should address the question of why the applicant would be a strong addition to the Empire State Fellows Program and how the applicant’s personal, educational and/or professional experience prepares him or her to confront the increasingly complex policy challenges facing the New York State government
  • Recommenders should be identified in the online application; once you submit your application, a link will be provided to you to share with your recommenders. They will use that link to submit their letter of recommendation electronically.

Who will review applications and select Empire State Fellows?

All applications will be reviewed by the New York State Center for Recruitment and Public Service. A panel of judges will interview the most promising applicants, and finalists will have a second interview with selected senior members of the Governor’s administration.

What is the Empire State Fellows Program schedule and selection timeline?

Applications for the 2024-2026 Empire State Fellows Class are now open. Applications will be reviewed in April and preliminary interviews will be conducted in late April and May. Finalist interviews will be conducted in June. Candidates selected for placement in the Empire State Fellows program will receive offer letters in July, which will be contingent on the applicant completing a full background check.

Applicants will have one week to confirm their participation in the program and to complete the paperwork required for the background check. Background checks should be completed by the start of the program.

Empire State Fellows will begin work in Albany, New York in September 2024. The first full week of work will consist of an intensive orientation seminar, which will introduce Fellows to state government operations and current policy issues. After the one-week seminar, Fellows will resume full-time work in their assigned roles.

Empire State Fellows commit to serving in their roles for the duration of the two-year Fellowship program. Empire State Fellows will participate in the educational program throughout the first year of the Fellowship. Fellows will participate in professional development events throughout the two-year Fellowship.

What is the Empire State Fellows Educational Program?

The educational component of the Empire State Fellows program opens with a week-long session that introduces Fellows to New York State government. Some topics to be covered may include:

  • Constitutional and Legal Context of New York State Government
  • State Agency Operations and Intergovernmental Relations
  • Budget Policy and Budget Process
  • State-Local Relationship
  • Communications and Press
  • Ethics

After completing the week-long seminar, Fellows will begin full-time work. Throughout the first year of the Empire State Fellows Program, Fellows will attend semi-monthly seminars on weekday evenings. In between class sessions, Fellows will dedicate between one and two hours per week to academic reading and exercises. The semi-monthly classes cover topics relevant to the policy process and State operations.

How are Empire Fellows assigned to state agencies and can I pick the department or agency to which I am assigned?

Upon reviewing applicant skills and agency needs, the panel of judges will recommend that each fellow be appointed to work closely with a particular policymaker within the New York State executive branch. Final placement decisions will be determined by senior staff in the Governor’s Office. If the applicant accepts the recommended placement, the Governor will appoint the applicant as an Empire State Fellow serving in that role. Although agency needs will ultimately determine fellow placement, the panel of judges will duly consider each applicant’s preferences, experience, and skills in determining how they could best serve our state.

Are Empire Fellows provided compensation and benefits during the Fellowship?

Yes. Empire State Fellows are full-time, non-competitive, New York State employees. Fellows will receive an annual salary of $85,000, plus a generous benefits package.

Does the Empire State Fellows Program provide housing during the Fellowship?

No. Fellows are responsible for their housing arrangements.

Are applicants required to undergo a security and background investigation?

All accepted Empire State Fellows must submit to a prospective employee background investigation conducted by the New York State Police and the NYS Center for Recruitment and Public Service. All Fellows' appointment and continued employment in the Fellowship is contingent upon this background investigation.

Can an Empire Fellow remain in their placement after the Fellowship?

The role of Empire Fellow lasts only two years. However, upon completion of the two-year Fellowship, each Empire State Fellow’s performance will be evaluated with the expectation that successful Fellows will continue to serve in a full-time role within New York State government.

Where can I direct additional questions?

If you have additional questions, please email us at [email protected].


Carey Gabay Fellowship

Carey Gabay Fellowship

Applications for the 2024-2026 Carey Gabay Fellowship will open soon.

Carey Gabay Fellowship Program

The Carey Gabay Fellowship is a paid two-year, full-time legal Fellowship program created in honor of Carey Gabay, a former assistant counsel in the Governor's Office who was killed in 2015 by an act of gun violence.

The Carey Gabay Fellow is appointed every two years to work in the Governor’s Counsel’s Office. The selected Fellow works directly with the Counsel to the Governor and their staff on issues such as violence prevention, economic equality, and community development – policy areas that Gabay championed throughout his career.

The incoming Carey Gabay Fellow will serve from September 2024 to September 2026 (specific dates dependent on selection timeline and completion of background check) and will earn a salary of $85,000 per year plus a generous benefits package. The Fellow also participates in an educational program along with participants in the Empire State Fellows program throughout the first year of their Fellowship, including bi-weekly evening classes and other career development sessions.

The successful applicant should be a bar-admitted attorney who, like Gabay, is committed to public service, hails from an economically disadvantaged background, and most importantly, embodies the integrity and kind-heartedness that distinguished Gabay personally.

How To Apply

A complete application requires the following:

1. Professional Resume or CV

2. Personal statement explaining your interest in the Carey Gabay Fellowship and how you embody the characteristics Gabay portrayed during his career.

3. Two references (name, title and phone number), who can speak to your leadership skills, leadership capabilities and professional preparation for the program.

Late or incomplete applications will not be accepted.

The selected candidate must submit to a background investigation conducted by the New York State Police and the NYS Center for Recruitment and Public Service. Fellowship appointment is contingent upon this background check.


LGBTQ+ Fellowship

LGBTQ+ Fellowship

Recruitment for the LGBTQ+ Fellowship occurs biennial. Applications will be accepted in 2025.

Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Edie Windsor LGBTQ+ Fellowship: The New York State LGBTQ+ Fellowship was established to support the ongoing efforts in the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer. The LGBTQ+ Fellow is awarded every two years to an individual who has demonstrated a commitment to social justice, a track record of working on LGBTQ+ equality, civil rights and diversity, equity and inclusion issues, and a strong interest in a career in public service.

The Fellow serves in the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer in the Governor’s Executive Chamber and assists the Chief Diversity Officer in optimizing New York State agency diversity and inclusion goals, increasing BIPOC representation across New York State agencies, and continuing to build the State's leadership as a model employer for New Yorkers of all gender identities and sexual orientations. In collaboration with internal and external stakeholders, the Fellow also works to advance LGBTQ+ equity across New York State government, including providing policy and content expertise, project management, community engagement, event planning, strategic communications, and legislative tracking.

The fellowship is named after LGBTQ+ leaders who have—with their courage, tenacity and perseverance—raised awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and made a lasting difference in the LGBTQ+ community. The fellowship lasts for two years and is named in recognition of three New York leaders: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera for their movement leading advocacy on behalf of the transgender community in New York and Edie Windsor for her advocacy and groundbreaking work in successfully challenging the federal defense of marriage act.

The Fellow has the opportunity to network across New York State agencies, with elected officials and industry partners and to participate as an Empire State Fellow in educational and professional development programs, including a week-long orientation session and biweekly evening classes that will help them to serve as an effective government leader and strengthen the network of LGBTQ+ policymakers and leaders in New York State. The salary for the LGBTQ+ Fellowship is $85,000 plus a generous benefits package.


Meet the Fellows

Meet the Fellows

2023-2025 Empire Fellows

Daniel Glenn Dobies

Daniel Dobies Empire Fellows

Daniel Glenn Dobies (we/us/ours) is the Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Edie Windsor Fellow placed in the Executive Chamber with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, where we further the diversity and inclusion efforts of New York State. A New Yorker through and through, Daniel was born and raised in Buffalo, and had called New York City home for the last 15 years until moving to the Capital Region for this opportunity. Prior to state service, Daniel was a lawyer specializing in criminal law, which most recently included working with the transgender community residing in DOCCS facilities. After over a decade in the law, Daniel went back to school in the deep pandemic to pursue an MSW and worked with the queer community through Callen-Lorde. Daniel holds a Juris Doctor from Berkeley Law at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master of Social Work from the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College.

Angela West

Angela West Empire Fellows

Dr. Angela A. West is placed at The Department of Civil Service, Office of Diversity and Inclusion Management. Angela brings a wealth of professional and personal experience that includes nearly 15 years in higher education leadership and classroom instruction, dedication to multiple civic service organizations, grant and budget management, and over 25 years’ experience working with diverse populations in for-profit and non-profit organizations, and state, local and federal agencies. Angela is passionate about diversity and inclusion initiatives and is a strong advocate for services provided to under-represented and vulnerable populations. As an Empire State Fellow, Angela aims to assist New York State Government with continuing to move the needle on Diversity and Inclusion efforts. Angela earned a Master of Social Work from SUNY Albany, a Master of Divinity from Virginia Union University School of Theology, and a Doctor of Management in Community College Policy and Administration from University of Maryland University College with a dissertate focus on the under representation of African American Leadership in the Community College. Angela is a former Rockefeller College Center for Women in Government, Women in Public Policy Fellow, and a current adjunct professor at SUNY Schenectady County Community College.

Charles Hailer

Charles Hailer Empire Fellows

Charles Hailer is placed in Empire State Development in the Governor’s Office of Semiconductor Expansion, Management, and Integration (GO-SEMI). Charles brings a mix of communications and international experience to his transition to state service. Prior to joining the Empire State Fellows program, Charles completed his Master’s of International Affairs from Rockefeller College at UAlbany and was named a 2022 David L. Boren Fellow through the National Security Education Program. He has worked, studied, and travelled extensively throughout Turkey and parts of the South Caucasus and is an advanced Turkish speaker, his writing on Turkish politics has been published by E-International Relations. Charles started his career after graduating from Fordham University in New York City where he spent over a decade working in marketing and communications roles at firms like the Tribeca Film Festival and Viacom as well as non-profits like BRIC Arts Media. Outside of his professional and academic life, Charles has extensive volunteer experience working with new Americans as an adult literacy tutor at the Brooklyn Public Library and had an op-ed on upstate refugee resettlement and economic development published in the Albany Times Union. In 2019, Charles moved to the Capital Region where he currently represents his community on his local library’s Board of Trustees. He is passionate about equitable and inclusive economic development and is excited to help bring opportunities to New Yorkers and help the Empire State become a global leader in the semiconductor industry.

Ocesa Keaton

Ocesa Keaton Empire Fellows

Ocesa Keaton is placed in the Council on Children and Families. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Clark-Atlanta University and obtained her Master of Social Work from Syracuse University. She is a licensed social worker that has over twelve years of experience advocating for and alongside communities that have been historically underserved to advance equitable policies and programs. Prior to becoming an Empire State Fellow, Ocesa led several important initiatives, including a New York State anti-poverty initiative that worked with community members, grassroot organizations and policy officials to form collaborative partnerships to center neighborhood voices in the creation of community centered programs. Ocesa is deeply committed to equity work, and she believes policy can be a tool for advancing social justice and equity.

Kassiana Parris

Kassiana Parris Empire Fellows

Kassiana Parris is placed at the New York State Department of Health working with the Office of Health Equity and Human Rights and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. She is driven by her faith and most passionate about advancing health equity initiatives and utilizing research and data driven results making health equity a strategic priority. As a first generation American, Kassiana is committed to addressing health inequities involving racial and ethnic communities who are disproportionately burdened by chronic illness. Kassiana has years of experience in the non-profit sector serving high risk communities and previously served as the Program Director for Bowery Residents Committee (BRC) Care Coordination Mental Health Specialty program in New York City. Kassiana is also committed to a diverse and inclusive workplace which has led her to present a research proposal at the Northeastern Conference for Public Administration ‘Increasing employee morale, motivation and job satisfaction’. She was awarded the Non- Profit, Policy, Practice and Partnership award and The Walt Family Constructive Action Grant at Metropolitan College of NY to support this initiative. Kassiana is a member of the Pi Alpha Alpha Honor society, and she re-established the Metropolitan College of NY (MCNY) Alumni network serving two terms as the President of the MPA alumni network. She has also served as a member of the MCNY advisory council identifying ways to advance the college’s social justice mission. Kassiana has a NYS Credentialed Alcohol Substance and Addiction Counselor certification and holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs and Administration from Metropolitan College of New York (MCNY) and a BS in Psychology from Old Westbury University.

Cassandra Klewicki

Cassandra Klewicki Empire Fellows

Cassandra Klewicki is placed in the Department of Labor in their Policy, Research, and Strategy division. She is a journeywoman carpenter, and a member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters (Local 290) where she served as a shop steward. She is a co-founder of Tradeswomen Building Bridges, an organization with the mission of building North American representation in the global network of tradeswomen advocating for themselves. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from SUNY Buffalo and a master’s degree in Labor Studies from CUNY School of Labor and Urban studies. In her spare time, she serves on the board of directors for the Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic Action Fund, an organization she has 6 years of advocacy experience with.

Alexandra Alam El Din-Meeks

Alexandra Alam El-Din Empire Fellows

Alexandra Alam El Din-Meeks is placed within the Executive Chamber of New York State, she rotates between the Department of Agriculture and Markets, the Department of Health, and the Office of General Services. Her primary focus is on aligning food and nutrition accessibility efforts/initiatives across all state agencies, with a particular emphasis on emergency feeding and Food as Medicine. Alex has over a decade of experience working in food and nutrition access at various points along the food system. She is passionate about getting healthy food into our community and equipping our most vulnerable populations with knowledge and resources they need to make healthy choices and lead wholesome lives. Alex’s skill set is broad and includes proficiency in food policy and systems, fund development, nutrition education, program development and evaluation, and nonprofit leadership. She holds a strong commitment to improving food equity and fostering healthier communities. When she is not creating fun recipes in the kitchen, Alex loves to hike, backpack and snowboard. She holds a B.S. in Dietetics, Nutrition and Food Science from the University of Vermont and a MPH in Social Behavior and Community Health from the State University of New York at Albany.

Kennetha Glover

Kennetha Glover Empire Fellows

Kennetha Glover is placed with the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) in the Child Welfare and Community Services Division (CWCS). Kennetha is a lifelong advocate for marginalized and underserved populations and is committed to serving them through her work with local grassroots and national organizations. This duty significantly impacted her role as a Senior Project Manager, where she managed large-scale COVID-19 CARES Act projects. Kennetha is passionate about minorities and women in business and worked in a compliance capacity providing community outreach on projects, including a federal aviation project, to ensure contract goals. Kennetha enters public service with a portfolio of over 100 successfully managed projects. She hopes to use her knowledge to develop, support, and implement inclusive policies that strengthen the quality of life for communities throughout the State. Kennetha earned a Bachelor of Arts from SUNY Binghamton and a Master of Science from SUNY Albany. She has received numerous awards and recognition for her community service and academic and professional achievement, including the Albert Tillman Award, the Attorney General's Triple C Award for Character, Commitment, and Community Concern, the James C. Hackett Award, and the McNair Scholar Award.

Ezra P. Scott Jr.

Ezra Scott Empire Fellows

Ezra P. Scott Jr. is a Niagara Falls, NY, native serving the Department of Public Service within the Executive Office, focusing on stakeholder outreach, diversity initiatives, and community engagement. Mr. Scott has vast experience as a front-line implementer and service provider in education, health and human services, workforce development, criminal justice, city government, and is a 2013 New York State Golden Gloves champion. In 2015, he was elected Niagara Falls City Councilman. Subsequently, he founded the Niagara Falls Peacemakers chapter, a coalition of community volunteers focused on community relations and violence prevention. Mr. Scott currently serves as the vice president of Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope (NOAH), an organization that amplifies the voices of the unheard in unjust circumstances. Mr. Scott earned an Associate of Arts in liberal arts and sciences: humanities and social science from Niagara County Community College, a Bachelor of Science in sociology from the State University of New York at Cortland, an MBA in human resource management and strategic management, and a Master of Science in early childhood education from Niagara University.

Emilio Tavarez

Emilio Tavarez Empire Fellows

Emilio Tavarez is a queer immigrant from the Dominican Republic, an experienced social worker specialized in macro-practice, and an award-winning author for his contribution in Latinx in Social Work Vol. II. He previously served as the Director of Advocacy, Policy, and Research at Hunger Free America, where he lead a team of advocates and organizers in support of federal public policies that would end domestic food insecurity. Emilio received a work permit under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program established by President Obama though executive order, and since then Emilio spent over a decade providing casework services to low-income, immigrant, and LGBT communities through the non-profit sector. He also serves as board president for the National Association of Social Workers, NYC Chapter (NASW-NYC) with the goal of inspiring more social workers to consider careers in management and policy advocacy. As a new Empire Fellow at the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), Emilio hopes to help NYS create the most compassionate social services system in the US.

Nancy Holt

Nancy Holt Empire Fellows

Nancy Holt is placed at the Department of Environmental Conservation. She has over 15 years of experience working on issues at the intersection of science and policy. This includes experience working for the federal government, as well as the private and nonprofit sectors. Most recently, she focused on ways to help scientists lend their skills to key challenges facing New York City. Born and raised in The Bronx, Nancy holds a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley and a B.A. in Chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania.

2022-2024 Empire Fellows

Elizabeth Furth

Head shot of Elizabeth Furth, Empire Fellow

Elizabeth Furth is placed in the Department of Labor in their Policy, Research, and Strategy division. She has over ten years’ experience working in Harlem at a syringe exchange and social service organization, first as a harm reduction counselor, and later in quality improvement and program evaluation. For four of those years, she was the chief labor organizer for the union drive at her agency. Elizabeth is a lifelong Brooklynite, who is in the middle of completing her Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology, from the CUNY School of Public Health and Health Policy.

Sarah Gorry

Head shot of Sarah Gorry, Empire Fellow

Sarah Gorry is placed at the Office of Addiction Services and Supports. As an Empire State Fellow, she supports projects within the Office of Health, Wellness, and Medical Direction. Sarah began her career with AmeriCorps advocating for people living unhoused in Buffalo, NY. Through her experience in the Housing First field and as a Harm Reduction consultant, she began to explore the intersections between drug policies and housing instability. This led her to pursue post-graduate work studying policies that expand access to evidence-based harm reduction services and addiction treatment. Sarah holds a BS in Psychology from Appalachian State University and a MS in Addiction Policy and Practice from Georgetown University.

Kerline Destin

Head shot of Kerline Destin, Empire Fellow

Kerline Destin is placed at the Department of Health, in the Division of Family Health, working on the Birth Equity Improvement Project to reduce maternal health disparities and improve health-birthing equity for African American women. She is passionate about developing comprehensive programs and healthcare initiatives to improve the quality of care for patients. Kerline has over 14 years of experience working in the non-profit sector, serving high-risk communities. She served as a community liaison in developing outreach initiatives through public speaking events and presentations. Kerline graduated from Long Island University with a Master's in Public Administration.

Maya Noonan

Head shot of Maya Noonan, Empire Fellow

Maya Noonan is placed at the Department of Health, working with the Office of Health Equity and Human Rights as well as with the Senior Advisor to the Commissioner. Before the fellowship, Maya was the Manager of Professional Programs at Planned Parenthood of Greater New York, where she implemented organizational capacity building projects for government and nonprofit agencies looking to improve access to sexual and reproductive healthcare. Maya is based in New York City and has worked both domestically and internationally as a direct service provider, a classroom teacher, and as a policy analyst focused on gender equity. She also has extensive experience in developing curriculum and experiential learning programming. Her interests are in health equity, and in particular, advancing policy initiatives that address social determinants of health. She holds a BA in Anthropology from Barnard College, and an MPA in Health Policy and Management from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service.

Alexis Arnett

Head shot of Alexis Arnett, Empire Fellow

Alexis Arnett is placed in the Office of Children and Family Services. She holds a Master of Social Work from Fordham University and is a licensed social worker with extensive professional and volunteer experiences in the child welfare system. She is a passionate advocate for children in families. Alexis has previously worked as a supervisor for Court Appointed Special Advocates, at the Bronx Family Courthouse. She took part in spearheading several important initiatives including Pregnant and Parenting Youth and the Youth Leadership Council. During her professional journey, she has helped numerous clients navigate complex systems in many arenas including housing courts, homeless shelters, public assistance offices, and criminal justice proceedings. Her most recent experience before the Empire State Fellows was as a Women and Public Policy Fellow at the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society through Rockefeller College. As part of this fellowship, Alexis was placed at OCFS, in the Bureau of Policy Analysis. Alexis is thrilled to be able to continue her work at OCFS and hopes to use her expertise from the frontlines of child welfare services as an asset in informing the development and implementation of responsive public policy.

Patrick Yacco

Head shot of Patrick Yacco, Empire Fellow

Patrick Yacco is placed at the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. A Mohawk Valley native, Patrick arrives to state service with over a decade of experience in New York City’s non-profit sector, primarily as a fundraising and communications generalist. His areas of interest have centered on access to healthy environments, issues surrounding LGBTQIA+ and racial equity, and increasing democratic participation in state and local governments. Patrick holds a BA in Sociology and Gender & Sexuality Studies from NYU College of Arts and Science and an MPA in Public & Nonprofit Management and Policy from NYU Wagner.

Fernando Villafuerte ​​​​​​​

Head shot of Fernando Villafuerte, Empire Fellow

Fernando Villafuerte has been placed at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), where he will support the work of the Hydrogen and Clean Fuel Team. Fernando holds an MS in Materials Science from Caltech and is currently finishing his PhD thesis in the same field and at the same institution, where his research focuses on novel solid materials for electrolytes in lithium-ion and lithium metal batteries. Prior to obtaining his BA in Physics from Hunter College and his subsequent academic career and Empire State Fellowship placement, Fernando spent close to five years in the non-profit sector, from a term as an AmeriCorps volunteer to working as a paralegal assisting immigrant clients at a non-profit public defender’s office in Manhattan. As an Empire State Fellow, Fernando aims to help New York in its push to decarbonize its economy and electrical grid. Fernando hopes to leverage his scientific background towards not only assessing new technologies to help New York meet its sustainability goals, but also understanding how to craft policy that encourages more sustainable modes of living, working, and transportation throughout the state.

Maria de la Cruz Rodriguez Martinez

Head shot Maria de la Cruz Rodriguez Martinez, Empire Fellow

Maria de la Cruz Rodriguez Martinez is placed in the Office for New Americans within the Department of State. Prior to joining the Empire State Fellows Program, Maria de la Cruz completed her LL.M degree at Columbia Law School, where she was a David Polk Leadership Initiative Fellow. Maria also co-founded Nanuu, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping immigrant women participate in the workforce in the New York City area. Maria de la Cruz was for years an attorney and public officer in Mexico, her country of origin. Her interest in public policy is driven by the urgent need to bring solutions to the immigrant crisis in the United States. She strives to support the efforts of the Hochul Administration to aid the immigrant community find safety and permanency in the New York State while transitioning to community life, education and the workforce.

Sarah Peter Nelson

Head shot of Sarah Peter Nelson Empire Fellow

Sarah Peter Nelson is placed within the Executive Office of the Division of Criminal Justice Services. Sarah has an intense passion for human rights and criminal justice and has extensive experience covering crime, justice, and human rights issues. Sarah started off her career in journalism on her native eastern Caribbean Island of St. Lucia where she spent several years as a TV anchor, news editor & documentary producer. Sarah has been recognized for her work in journalism by the United Nations in her capacity as a UN journalist Fellow and is a former foreign correspondent for Reuters. Sarah has also been recognized by the Inter-American Press Association and the Foreign Press Correspondent, USA. She has three master’s and is a graduate of Columbia University, Cardiff University UK Wales, and the University at Albany. Sarah also has a background in teaching and political science. She is a former teacher in the Bronx, New York, and a former Center for Women in Government Fellow.


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