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Revson Fellowships Give Civic Leaders Time to Reflect and Connect

The year-long program helps Filipino journalist Anthony Advincula connect
the dots in his journey from immigrant to community advocate
Anthony Advincula
Anthony Advincula

When Anthony Advincula moved to New York from the Philippines in 2001, he faced the same set of challenges most immigrants face: finding a stable job and establishing himself in a new country. While pitching story ideas to papers in the United States and Philippines, he worked odd jobs and cleaned homes before landing the job of editor-in-chief at Filipino Express, a weekly newspaper in New Jersey. Now, the editorial and communications director of Independent Press Association-New York, Advincula is making sure the voices of ethnic and community publications that serve New York’s numerous immigrant communities are heard.

Columbia University’s Revson Fellowship program will give him the opportunity to plan how he can best accomplish that goal by providing him with a challenging academic community within which to grow and broaden his network. The fellowship, Advincula says, is “a period of reflection; it’s about academic pursuit and self-enrichment rolled into one.”

Investing in Communities with Leadership

The Charles H. Revson Fellowship has been an important bridge between Columbia and New York City for nearly 30 years. Each year, 10 fellows are accepted into the program, which allows them to take a one-year break from their careers to study at Columbia and sharpen their leadership skills, reinvesting that knowledge into the organizations and communities they serve after they complete the program. In addition to tuition, they receive a stipend, health insurance and access to University resources for the fall and spring semesters.

Help Wanted:
Justice Seekers

Bettina Damiani, a Revson alumna and director of Good Jobs New York (GJNY), says being a Revson Fellow gave her an opportunity to step back from the daily rigors of her job and contemplate ways to ensure New York City development projects are more equitable than they have been historically. At GJNY, she works to bring more transparency and public participation to the allocation of subsidies to large economic development projects in New York.

“This [program] allowed me to broaden my horizons about my work and sometimes challenged me to strengthen my expertise,” said Damiani. “More importantly, it broadened my idea of community by introducing me to a cohort of justice seekers that I otherwise would not have met.”

Predominantly mid-career community leaders, this year’s fellows come from a wide range of civic groups, the New York City Fire Department; New Yorkers for Parks; and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, among others.

During the school year, fellows pursue individually tailored programs of study and participate in biweekly seminars developed to enhance each group’s understanding of the complex challenges facing New York City. They devote at least three days of their work-week to their studies on campus. One of the main goals of the program is to expose the fellows not only to the courses and exceptional professors at Columbia, but also to prominent city leaders and policy makers.

Giving Back to the Community

Advincula hopes to improve the ways in which he gives back to the community, particularly immigrant communities, and also to evaluate the role ethnic media plays in social change amidst the city’s shifting demographics. Being one of Columbia University’s Revson Fellows will make that mission easier. “With all the knowledge I’ll get here and the network resources,” he says, “it will be a lot easier for me to lobby the issues ethnic communities are facing across all sectors, across the board.”

Led by Sudhir Venkatesh, professor of sociology and director of Columbia’s Center for Urban Research and Policy, the Revson program is part of the University’s Institute of Social and Economic Research and Policy and sponsored by the Charles H. Revson Foundation and the Open Society Institute . Applications for the 2008-2009 academic year will be available in September and can be downloaded at www.revson.columbia.edu.

– Written by Melanie Farmer

Published: June 25, 2007
Last modified: Jun 27, 2007