Weitz Fellows return to campus for Milestone Reunion
Four of the five Weitz Fellows from the 2016 cohort will be back on campus for the August event.
It has now been over five years since the Carleton class of 2016 walked across the commencement stage—but after pandemic delays, they, along with the classes of ’70, ’71, ’95, ’96 and ’15, are finally returning to campus for a special Milestone Reunion, August 5-7.
Four of the Carls coming back for their first ever Reunion experience are part of the 2016 cohort of Weitz Fellows. Eager to celebrate with the rest of their classmates, they’re also ready to reconnect as a cohort, reflect on their fellowship experience and share how they’ve been since they last saw each other.
“It feels like it’s been a long time, because by now we’ve been out of college longer than we were at Carleton,” says Sophie Buchmueller ’16 (former fellow for the Joslyn Art Museum), “but it also feels like it hasn’t been that long at all.”
Libby Ferris ’16 (Service Learning Academy at the University of Nebraska Omaha), echoes Buchmueller’s statement, expressing that “it feels both like five to six years is too long and too short for where I’m at now compared to then.”
The too long/too short paradox is a running theme amongst the fellows. Eleanor Dollear ’16 (Nebraska Appleseed) says she feels “ancient” but that “it really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.” Christian Kreznar ’16 (OpenSky Policy Institute), who is unfortunately missing Reunion this year for his childhood best friend’s wedding, says it “feels weird, surreal,” and Clare Hiyama ’16 (Women’s Fund of Omaha) asks, “How the hell has it been that long? It sounds longer than it feels.”
It has been almost seven years since they started their fellowships in the summer and fall of 2016, and the Weitz Fellowship Program is still going strong, having added more fellows and different organizations over the years. Established by Wally Weitz ’70 P’96 P’99 P’02 and Barbara Weitz ’70 P’96 P’99 P’02 over a decade ago, the program provides one-year, paid positions for Carleton graduates at nonprofit organizations in Omaha and Lincoln, Neb. The jobs include benefits and funding for professional development and grant practical learning experiences in community engagement, fundraising, marketing and policy work for students interested in arts management, nonprofit management and/or social change.
An important element of the fellowship is the built-in support system each fellow receives when they move to Nebraska, made up of the cohort of other Carls and the Weitz family as well as their new colleagues. The 2016 class still values that community bond, which has extended beyond just one year for some.
“I had really great supervisors, I still keep in touch with a handful of them, and the Weitz family was very generous with us,” Dollear says. “Plus, I didn’t really know Sophie and Clare in college and now they’re two of my best friends.”
Dollear and Hiyama are roommates in Chicago now, with Buchmueller living just down the street, so they see each other quite often.
“Sophie and I also lived in Minneapolis for a year, right after we were in Omaha,” Hiyama adds, “but I feel like the year of being in Nebraska together was really what solidified both of those friendships. We actually talk about our experiences in Omaha a lot.”
Hiyama, Buchmueller and Ferris lived together in Omaha, and met up often with Dollear and Kreznar, both based in Lincoln, creating a “nice, pretty self-contained social unit” according to Kreznar. But of course, social support isn’t the only goal of the Weitz Fellowship. The program’s main objective is to gain excellent workplace experience and make professional connections, and this group certainly achieved that.
“I had a great experience with the relationships at the organization,” says Hiyama. “Everyone was super supportive of me learning a lot while I was there. They really wanted me to have a good experience with them.”
“I really, really liked it. I learned so much from the people at Appleseed,” adds Dollear. “I also had no idea what I wanted to do after college, so it was good [for figuring that out].”
Buchmueller, the only 2016 fellow working in the arts, encourages current Carls interested in the field to apply for the program, given how important this type of experience was for her career journey.
“I think the Weitz Fellowship was a great entry point into working in the arts,” she says. “It’s a rare opportunity, in that the museum world and the art world are very competitive, and a lot of similar opportunities are unpaid. Having this allowed me to get my foot in the door and I feel like that’s something graduating seniors should be aware of when applying to these fellowships.”
Many of the fellows expressed that it was a great way to ease into the workforce as recent graduates and not get overwhelmed with their first “adult” job.
“Thinking about it now, it just makes me feel really grateful for the fellowship,” says Hiyama. “It was a really supportive environment to go into right out of college, and I think since then it’s kept my standards high for the work cultures and spaces that I go into.”
“It was a perfect year right out of college,” adds Buchmueller. “It was a great way to dive into life after Carleton… Still on training wheels a bit but moving to a city that was definitely bigger than Northfield but not overwhelming. And then both at the Joslyn and with the larger cohort, I feel like everyone was really excited about the program and helped us succeed.”
During their time in Nebraska, every fellow discovered at least one thing that is still useful to them—even if that one thing was deciding against a certain career path.
“It informed me that I didn’t want to work in policy,” Kreznar laughs. He still works alongside it though, utilizing his skills as an editor in New York City at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he works on publishing foreign policy analysis.
Similar to Kreznar, Dollear learned after her time with Appleseed that she did not want to work in policy directly, but will work adjacent to it now.
“I was like, I’m definitely not going to law school,” laughs Dollear, “and Appleseed does more policy-level stuff, but I was on their field team, so I was working with individuals more than actual policy formation. I just loved that, and although I didn’t really know what social work was at the time, I definitely knew I wanted to continue working directly with people affected by different issues, especially poverty… And now, I just earned my master’s degree in social work and I’ll be a social worker for Chicago public schools, starting right after I get back from Reunion.”
“My position also allowed me to develop entry level skills that are difficult to get in college,” adds Ferris, who currently lives in Plano, Texas and serves as the associate director of patient experience client services at PRC, Inc., an organization based out of Omaha which she’s been with since finishing her fellowship in 2017.
“This fellowship was my first experience working in a museum,” says Buchmueller, “and it cemented my desire to work in the art world. I just graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago after completing a dual master’s program in art history and arts administration, and now I’m working at Corbett vs. Dempsey, a gallery in Chicago.”
Hiyama works at the Chicago Women’s Health Center as a sex educator, contracting with city public schools, and her time with the Women’s Fund prepared her well for that role.
“One of the things that the Women’s Fund does is called the Adolescent Health Project,” Hiyama explains, “which creates space and training for people who do some type of work related to sexual health. I learned a ton through those trainings, and I think that really helped me get the job I have now.”
Reunion will be a perfect opportunity for the former fellows to share these stories with the rest of their class, and they’re all excited to be back at Carleton, seeing people and the campus for the first time in years.
“I think it’ll be funny just to be in the dorms,” Dollear says. “I think we’ll feel like first-years again, because we’re in Goodhue, but mostly I’m excited to hear what people are up to. It’ll be cool also to see the changes to the campus, because there’s always a lot going on.”
“I have a circle of people that I’m in close touch with from college, but there are lots of people who I see only very small bits of their lives through social media, and it’ll be fun to hear where their lives have taken them,” Hiyama adds. “Also, my professional world is still evolving, so I’m always curious to hear about anyone else who’s in the sexual health and education arena. There are lots of different ways to be involved in this field. I don’t always know what those are, because a lot of them are being created now, so if that comes up [at Reunion] that would be really exciting for me.”
The college is thrilled to welcome all six attending classes of Carls back to campus for “a little taste of a Carleton weekend again,” as Buchmueller puts it. As for this class of fellows, their success post-graduation and post-fellowship should be especially encouraging to the current cohort of Weitz Fellows, who start their positions soon, as well as current students interested in applying for upcoming fellowships. Happy Milestone Reunion!
Erica Helgerud ’20 is the news and social media manager for Carleton College and a former Weitz fellow (2020-21) for Opera Omaha.