For the past 15 years, a leadership development program for aspiring young urban professionals who want to integrate their faith and working lives has helped more than 50 Grove City College alumni get a solid start on their careers.
Pittsburgh Fellows provides a living and working community for about 15 recent college graduates each year. The goal of the program is to help them fully integrate faith, work and life in the context of intentional Christian community as they gain valuable profession experience, connect with leaders in the Pittsburgh business community and participate fully in the life of the local church.
Fellows work in placements with the program’s business partners, which run the gamut from big corporations with hundreds of employees to small businesses with a handful, live together in apartments, earn graduate credits and participate in worship and ministries at St. Stephens Anglican Church in Sewickley, Pa., which is chief sponsor of the nondenominational Pittsburgh Fellows ministry. The program runs from Labor Day to Memorial Day.
Fellows are paid market rate in their placements, where they work four days a week. On Fridays, they take classes at Trinity School for Ministry, an Anglican seminary in Ambridge, Pa., and come out with a leadership/professional development certificate and 12 graduate school credits.
Chris Nan ’16 joined Pittsburgh Fellows after earning a Business Administration degree from Grove City College. “I realized early on in college that navigating the transition from college to professional life would be overwhelming – the fellowship made sure that I didn't need to do it alone,” he said. “Joining the Fellows program out of school was one of the best decisions I made to ensure that my career got the jumpstart it needed.”
Nan’s fellowship job at UPMC led to a permanent job at the health care giant where he was responsible for planning, organizing and executing the human resources department’s strategic projects. He earned an MBA in Strategy and Operations from the University of Pittsburgh and he’s currently working as a business analyst for the Grant Street Group, a Pittsburgh software development firm. “The fellowship gave me the skills, connections and most importantly, the confidence I needed to pursue workplace excellence and Christ-like living in all that I do,” he said.
Ken Smith ’84, an assistant professor of Entrepreneurship at Grove City College who serves on the Pittsburgh Fellows board, says the program provides a bridge between college and the working world in areas that many new grads really struggle with.
“Professionally, they get nine months of work experience that helps them sort out what type of work they want to do, and they hear first-hand about experiences the other Fellows are having and they learn from interactions with Fellows alums and mentors,” he said. “Socially, they have the opportunity to live in community with the others making that step into the real world. And spiritually, the program includes a commitment to serve and worship at St. Stephens, which helps them stay connected to a church community as they transition.”
After completing the program, Smith said most Fellows remain in the region, which benefits from the contributions of hard-working, community-oriented and faith-focused young people.
Smith has been involved with the Fellows program in a variety of ways since Grove City College alum C. Fred Fetterolf ’52, a Pittsburgh business icon who served as president of Alcoa, approached him in 2006. “Fred made a compelling pitch for the need to methodically raise up Christ-centered business leaders in the Pittsburgh community,” said Smith, who was CEO of a prominent Pittsburgh management consulting firm at the time. “We agreed and took on a Fellow from the first class.”
Many Fellows are graduates of Christian colleges in the region, but Grove City College leads the pack with 58 alumni going through the program. Eight recent graduates will be starting their fellowships in the fall.
Graham Filby ’20 just completed his fellowship. He was placed with business consulting firm CASTUS and is now working there full-time as an analyst. The political science major said Pittsburgh Fellows provided opportunities to develop new skill sets and network with business leaders. “At my company, I appreciate that my bosses consistently give me opportunities to independently run with projects and ideas. I definitely feel that I have grown professionally over the past year,” he said.
Filby said the program really emphasizes community. “Fellows literally do everything together. During a typical week, fellows attend business roundtables, lectures and other events. I have lots of memories cooking big meals and just hanging out with other Fellows,” he said.
An independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Pittsburgh Fellows’ goal is to impact the city through the development of values-driven, ethical business leaders who will work to transform culture for the glory of God. It is part of the Fellows Initiative, a network of similar programs around the country that share values and support one another through service and an annual conference for fellows networking.