The Excelsior Service Fellowship Program, launched by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in 2013, is an initiative to bring highly talented recent graduates of law, graduate and professional schools into government service. Excelsior Fellows bring diverse backgrounds and new perspectives to a host of policy and operational positions in New York State government. Excelsior Fellows start each year in early September and are placed within the Executive Chamber, a government agency or authority for a two-year fellowship.
The Excelsior Service Fellowship Program builds on the success of the Empire State Fellows Program which attracts early-to mid-career professionals to high-level positions within state government, as well as the New NY Leaders Internship Program that offers hundreds of college students an opportunity to work in state government. Excelsior Fellows work full-time alongside senior members of the administration and play a policy-influencing role in New York State with the opportunity to focus on the most pressing issues of the day. Although the Excelsior Fellowship Program lasts two years, exceptional fellows may continue to serve New York State after the completion of their fellowship.
Under the program, New York State has cultivated partnerships with colleges and universities across the State, who have recruited their top academic performers to serve in state government. Participating schools include:
- Albany Law School
- Baruch College, CUNY - Marxe School of Public and International Affairs
- Binghamton University – Master of Public Administration program
- Brooklyn Law School
- Buffalo Law School
- Buffalo State College
- Columbia Law School
- Columbia University - School of International and Public Affairs
- Cornell Law School
- CUNY, The Graduate Center
- CUNY School of Law
- Fordham University School of Law
- Hunter College, CUNY
- New York Law School
- New York University School of Law
- New York University - Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
- Pace University School of Law
- The Sage Graduate School
- Syracuse University - Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
- Touro Law Center
- University at Albany, SUNY - Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy
- Yeshiva University - Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
Emily Badalamente – 2018-2020 Fellow, Executive Chamber, Policy Team
MPA, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy, University at Albany, SUNY
“I have learned more in the first year of the Excelsior Fellowship program than I could have ever imagined. I’ve learned about how the State is run and how to handle myself professionally. Having mentors in the highest level of government has given me opportunities to work on projects that I am passionate about such as the Child Care Availability Task Force. I discovered a passion for economic development in NYS and the program has allowed me to explore this by traveling the State and seeing the real-life impacts of this administration’s economic development policies toward Upstate firsthand.”
Matthew Quinones – 2018-2020 Fellow (Legal), New York State Department of Financial Services, Banking Division
JD, Albany Law School
“I applied for the Excelsior Fellowship program because I already knew two things I wanted to do with my legal career. First and foremost, I knew I wanted to make a difference and work in the public sector. Second, from my experience interning with the NYS Department of Financial Services, I knew I wanted to work in financial and consumer protection law. Through the Excelsior Fellowship, both of those dreams were met. “
Sarah Main – 2017-2019 Fellow (Legal), New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Counsel’s Office
Post-Fellowship Employment: Counsel, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)
JD, Pace Law
“The most rewarding part of my Fellowship placement was acting as Counsel to cutting-edge energy programs designed to implement the Governor’s State-wide energy policy and greenhouse gas emission goals. I’m worked on precedential clean and renewable energy deployment programs that other states are looking to as an example. Being involved in NYS’s progressive clean energy initiatives has been an invaluable building block for a career in the renewable energy sector.”
Jewell B. Mason – 2016-2018 Fellow, NYS Office of General Services, Business Service Center Initiatives
Post-Fellowship Employment: Budget Examiner, NYS Division of the Budget
MA Urban Affairs, Queens College, CUNY
“Over the course of my Excelsior Service Fellowship I truly learned the complexity of New York State government operations. In the spirit of continuous improvement (“NYS Lean”), I can now see clear operational areas within NYS where I want to focus my service and career.”
Ruben Rahman – 2017-2019 Fellow, Empire State Development, Executive Division
Post-Fellowship Employment: Director, Community Development, Harlem Community Development Corporation (Empire State Development)
MPA/MSW, Columbia University
“I applied to the Fellowship because I was looking to transition from the nonprofit sector to the public sector and the Fellowship gave me a jumpstart. Switching from the nonprofit sector to State Government wouldn’t have been as easy if the Fellowship hadn’t found me an opening that was appropriate for me given my background, skills, interests, and career goals. My post-fellowship job opportunity was possible largely because the Fellowship allowed me to start at a mid-level position.”
Prospective fellows must be nominated for the Excelsior Service Fellowship program through their law, professional, or graduate school’s Career Services Office or Fellowship program liaison. Please see our list of partner schools to determine eligibility. To be nominated, fellows must receive their graduate degree (i.e. MPA, MA, MBA) or advanced degree (i.e. JD, PhD) during the academic year prior to starting the Fellowship program. There is no direct application process to the Excelsior Service Fellowship.
The selection process for the Fellowship consists of several steps, and may vary slightly by school. First, students submit their application materials to their school’s career services office or Fellowship program liaison. Next, the school’s Fellowship selection committee reviews the application materials, interviews the candidates, and selects a predetermined number of candidates for nomination to the Fellowship program. The school then forwards its nominees’ application materials to the NYS Center for Recruitment and Public Service. A final interview with staff from the Center determines whether or not the nominee is selected; once selected, the candidate will be considered an Excelsior Service Fellow pending acceptance of their placement and completion of a required background investigation.
Who is eligible to apply for the Fellowship programs?
The Empire State Fellows program is designed to attract working professionals with demonstrated leadership capabilities who want to refocus their careers on public service. Applicants should have an advanced degree and at least five years of professional work experience, although an applicant with only a Bachelor’s degree may be considered if he or she has substantial professional achievements. 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 gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender persons, are particularly encouraged to apply. Empire Fellows may come from a variety of professional arenas, including the nonprofit sector, the hard sciences, education or law. However, current New York State executive and legislative branch employees are ineligible for the Empire State Fellows program.
The Excelsior Service Fellowship is targeted towards recent graduates of New York State law, professional and graduate schools. Candidates must have received their graduate degree (i.e. MPA, MA, MBA) or advanced degree (i.e. JD, PhD) from one of the Fellowship program’s partner schools in the academic year prior to starting the Fellowship. Unlike the Empire State Fellows program, there is no direct application process for the Excelsior Service Fellowship. Instead, candidates are nominated by the partner schools for the program on an annual basis.
What is the compensation for the Fellowship programs?
Both fellowships are two-year, full-time programs with generous salary and benefit packages. Empire State Fellows receive an annual salary of $72,765. The salary structure for the Excelsior Service Fellowship is in two tiers: Excelsior Fellows with less than three years of post-collegiate work experience are paid $55,000 annually, and Excelsior Fellows with three or more years of post-collegiate work experience are paid $60,000 annually.
How do the Fellowship placements differ across the programs?
While Empire State Fellows and Excelsior Service Fellows may be placed at the same Executive branch agencies or offices, and may even work on the same policy initiatives, the level of work differs across the programs.
Given that Empire State Fellows generally have more professional experience, they work directly with Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner-level executives on pressing policy initiatives and projects. Excelsior Fellows generally work on the operational or legal aspects of important policy initiatives, reporting to directors of specific departments or managers of projects.
What is the application process for the Fellowship programs?
The application and selection processes for the Fellowship programs are separate and quite different. Applicants for the Empire State Fellows program apply directly to the program. The deadline to apply is March 15; application instructions can be found on the Empire State Fellows webpage. Applications are reviewed by the NYS Center for Recruitment and Public Service and finalists are interviewed by a panel of judges convened by the Governor.
Prospective fellows must be nominated for the Excelsior Service Fellowship program through their law, professional, or graduate school’s Career Services Office or Fellowship program liaison. Please see our list of partner schools to determine eligibility. There is no direct application process to the Excelsior Service Fellowship. Detailed selection information can be found in the “How to Apply” section.
Nominated Fellows are placed in any number of Executive branch agencies, authorities, and the Executive Chamber. Placements may be in Albany, New York City, or elsewhere in the State; however, the majority of placements are in the Capital Region and nominated Fellows must be willing to move to Albany. The NYS Center for Recruitment and Public Service works with nominated Fellows to determine their ideal placement based on their professional experiences, career goals, and areas of interest. Available positions vary from year to year based on agency needs and budget limitations.
Sample Fellowship Placements – may not be representative of future placements:
Legal Placements (law school graduates only)
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Office of the Chairman
Empire State Development, Legal Department
Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, Bureau of Public Affairs
Department of Financial Services, Insurance Division
Executive Chamber, Governor’s Office, Policy Team
Office of Children and Family Services, Division of Legal Affairs
Division of Human Rights, External Relations
Homes and Community Renewal, Legal Department
Port Authority of NY/NJ, World Trade Center Department
Division of Human Rights, Prosecutions Unit
NYS Energy Research & Development Authority, Policy Development Unit
Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs
Office of Temporary & Disability Assistance, Employment and Income Support Programs
Department of Agriculture and Markets, Counsel’s Office
Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, Person Centered Supports Waiver Unit
Department of Financial Services, Consumer Protection & Financial Enforcement Division
Office of Victim Services, Division of Administration
Department of Environmental Conservation, Counsel’s Office
Department of Motor Vehicles, Division of Field Investigation
Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, Counsel’s Office
Executive Chamber, Governor’s Office, Women’s Affairs
Department of Public Service, Office of General Counsel
Who is eligible for the Excelsior Service Fellowship?
Candidates must possess a graduate degree (i.e., MPA, MA, MBA) or an advanced degree (i.e., JD, PhD) from one of the Fellowship program’s partner schools. Prospective Fellows must receive their degree during the academic year prior to starting the Fellowship program (i.e. December or May/June graduation), and be nominated by the partner school for the program. All Fellows must be eligible to work for New York State without employer sponsorship.
How much does the Excelsior Service Fellowship pay?
The salary structure for the Fellowship is in two‐tiers, based on years of full-time post-collegiate work experience:
- Fellows with less than three years of post‐collegiate work experience are paid $55,000 annually
- Fellows with three or more years of post‐collegiate work experience are paid $60,000 annually
Additionally, all fellows receive a comprehensive benefits package including paid leave, health, dental, vision, and other benefits. Fellows are also eligible for any annual salary increases provided for in the current negotiated Management/Confidential labor agreement.
Where and how are Fellows placed?
Fellows can be placed in any number of executive-branch agencies and authorities across state government. Placements may be in Albany, New York City, or elsewhere in the State; however, the majority of placements are in the Capital Region and nominated Fellows MUST be willing to move to Albany. The NYS Center for Recruitment and Public Service works with nominated Fellows to determine their ideal placement based on their professional experiences, career goals, and areas of interest. Available positions vary from year to year based on budget considerations, agency needs and the Governor’s policy priorities. The Center for Recruitment and Public Services matches nominated Fellows with appropriate agency placements based on all of these factors.
How long is the Excelsior Service Fellowship?
The Fellowship is a two year program which begins in early September. Fellows are required to commit for the full two years once they accept their placement in the program.
What kind of work do Fellows do?
Fellows who possess a Juris Doctor degree and wish to pursue legal work are placed in legal positions within agency counsel’s offices or legal services departments. The actual type of legal projects vary by agency, but may include statutory interpretation, drafting contracts and memos, drafting policy guidelines, investigations and enforcement, and providing general legal advice to the agency or department.
All other Fellows have the opportunity to work on projects which advance the operational aspects of large policy initiatives within their assigned agency or department. Placements vary widely, but may include program implementation, drafting policy memos, data analysis, research and community outreach. Fellows are provided with a job description from their assigned agency along with their offer letter describing their expected responsibilities.
What is the timeline for applying to the Excelsior Service Fellowship?
While the application timeline may vary slightly by school, the following is a general outline of the nomination and acceptance process for the Fellowship program:
- Late January – early February: applications due to partner schools
- Mid to late February: interviews conducted by schools
- March 1: nominations from partner schools due to the NYS Center for Recruitment & Public Service
- March: final interviews conducted by NYS Center for Recruitment & Public Service
- April 1: nominees notified of selection as a Fellow
- June 10: placements finalized and shared with incoming Fellows
Will I get a full-time job after the Fellowship?
While there is no guarantee of employment after the two-year fellowship, exceptional Excelsior Service Fellows may continue to serve in an appointed or competitive role. Historically, more than 50% of Fellows who completed the fellowship were offered permanent positions with the State.
Are there opportunities for professional development during the program?
Yes. The Excelsior Service Fellowship includes a Professional Development component that spans the two years of the program and aims to provide training, networking and leadership development opportunities for Fellows. The curriculum includes approximately five Professional Development courses per year, covering a range of topics from an introduction to New York State government, to ethics, to teambuilding and facilitation. The Professional Development courses are mandatory for all Fellows.