Interview with Alumni Leaders – Full Interview

This week, we share a virtual interview with 4 Challah for Hunger alumni. Where are they now? What have they taken away from their Challah experience? How do they stay involved? 

Who’s in “the room” and what’s your connection to CfH?

Liz Smulian: I helped establish the Emory University chapter, and was president/co-president throughout my time in college. I am currently on the CfH Board of Directors as Fundraising Chair and will be the incoming Board Chair in August 2015.

Kate Belza: Founder and President, Challah for Hunger at the University of Virginia (UVa), Chapter Advisor for Elon, GW & FIU (2013-2014)

Jeff Marks: Chapter Advisor for [email protected] & [email protected], Member of the Board of Directors Fundraising Committee; [email protected], Former Chapter Co-Coordinator & Sales Team Member (2009 – 2014 during undergraduate and graduate school)

Rachel Hamburg:  Pomona College chapter founder, Chapter Advisor, member of alumni giving circle

Current job or education:

Liz: After my undergraduate degree, I continued on at Emory University to get my MPH and CHES certification. I am currently an ASPPH/CDC Public Health Fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Kate:  Program Associate, Network Initiatives at the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation

Jeff: KPMG (New York City Office) – Advisory Services Associate

Rachel: Director of Strategic Innovation at ROSIES Foundation

How have you used CfH in your resume or in interviews?

Liz: I believe having CfH on my resume demonstrates a wide variety of skills. I have shared my CfH experience with interviewers and in job applications to show leadership ability, management/organizational skills, and depth of experience in activism and communicating for causes I believe in. This directly ties in with my work in public health quite often, where I am expected to both be an advocate and a manager of programs. And, it’s usually fun to talk about in an interview setting! I spent my college years baking hundreds of loaves of challah! That’s both unique and memorable.

Kate: CfH is such a great thing to mention on a resume and in interviews, a few things I have mentioned before:  Starting and running a CfH chapter is comparable to starting a small nonprofit. I transformed an idea into a successful organization at UVa that was completely volunteer run. I was constantly innovating and developing ideas to improve the organization, whether it was brainstorming a new flavor of the week or implementing a system of pre-orders in order to make the organization more efficient.  I learned the power of working with others. By myself I could maybe cook twenty loaves of challah but with others, we baked over 3,500 loaves and donated $10,000 over the first two years (future employers like hearing big numbers J). Through CfH I held many different hats (taste tester, marketer, communicator,  visionary, baker, recruiter, etc.) and also developed a lot of skills that are super transferrable to the work environment (innovation, flexibility, teamwork, etc.)

Jeff: I felt that my role in Challah for Hunger at Binghamton was relevant to my internship application at KPMG, so I included the organization on my resume. The Principal interviewing me asked me to elaborate on Challah for Hunger after I had delivered an elevator pitch briefly summarizing my skills, experiences and interests in the position I was applying to at the firm. I explained that Challah for Hunger allowed me to effectively work with and lead sales teams by deploying strategies to increase sales strategies (i.e. selling across campus at peak times, in lecture halls, while coordinating and managing volunteer positions for sales activities across campus). I also elaborated on the causes Challah for Hunger supports (i.e. hunger relief in the local and international communities) and explained how this concept is student-led and managed at my school’s campus while expressing meaning behind my contributions to the organization as a whole. This discussion about Challah for Hunger lasted the majority of the interview. I believe my involvement with Challah for Hunger along with how I presented the organization and my role was certainly well-received by the interviewer and I’m sure it contributed to my advancement to the next round and eventually the internship offer which led to my current employment position.

Rachel: Yes, especially early on in my career when I had less “official” work experience. Running CfH was like a job with lots of skills that I found were marketable to employers.

How do you stay involved in the social justice or Jewish community if you are not directly working with them in your profession?

Rachel: Though I work in the nonprofit sector by day, I am not doing active social justice advocacy work, which is something I really enjoyed about Challah for Hunger. To do this, I volunteer with a Jewish social justice organization called Bend the Arc.

How did your CfH involvement help you figure out what you wanted to do as a career?

Rachel: It helped me to learn what I am good at and what I enjoy doing in the realm of managing a nonprofit. For me, it was learning that I enjoy being strategic, which has lead me to a job developing strategies for my nonprofit.

What are good ways to stay involved in CfH after graduation?

Liz: There are so many ways to stay involved in CfH after graduation! First, stay in touch with your fellow leaders and volunteers from your chapter, and with CfH participants at other chapters if you’ve met anyone else. Challah for Hunger has a way of bringing good people together, and your friends from your chapter and friends you made at Summits will go on to do amazing things. It’s an awesome network to stay in touch with, so keep those relationships strong after graduation. Second, you can stay involved with CfH by volunteering for the national office. You can be a chapter advisor and share your wisdom with current chapters; you can volunteer to help plan Summits; you can volunteer to be on a committee of the Board of Directors (want more experience in fundraising, board governance, or non-profit finance? We have committees for you to volunteer with!)! There are so many ways to help our national CfH office continue to grow and thrive. Third, you can plug into our CfH alumni network– look up the Facebook group and join our newsletter listserv. We’re often advertising jobs, spotlighting alumni, and hosting events/meet-ups in various cities. If you love hosting, you can even host a meet-up yourself! Finally, we want you to be involved in CfH after graduation in a way that is meaningful to you, so we’re always open to hearing ideas you have for projects that you feel passionately about. You may have cool, unique skills to contribute to the organization and we love collaborating and starting new things. The moral of the story is–there are so many ways to stay involved and I encourage you to reach out to Elana, Carly, and myself if you’re interested in getting involved post-graduation in any capacity.

Kate: Give back and become a chapter advisor – My first year out of school I was a chapter advisor. It was an awesome experience and helped me transition from a student leader into an involved alumni. I got to hear lots of fun things happening in the three chapters I was advising, give them advice based on things I had learned when I was still in school and give back to an organization that had given me so much!

Give back and join an alumni giving circle – Last year I took part in a giving circle with a few other CfH alumni where we collectively decided how to give away a pooled amount of funds to hunger fighting organizations across the country. It was an incredible experience where I got to blend my love of giving and connection to Challah for Hunger!

Jeff: There are a great many ways that you can stay involved in CfH post-graduation, and if you enjoyed it in college, I highly recommend it. I interviewed to become a Chapter Advisor because I enjoyed coordinating the sales and marketing/publicity functions of my chapter as a student, and wanted to provide my insights and perspectives to future chapter leadership teams post-graduation. I’ve just completed my first year as a Chapter Advisor and feel as though I’ve been able to offer insights and also help chapter leaders handle challenging situations with their respective organizations. I’m excited to continue my involvement as a Chapter Advisor for the upcoming 2015-2016 academic year.

In addition, I’ve been involved with Challah for Hunger’s Board of Directors Fundraising Committee for over a year, and have had a variety of interesting experiences so far including assisting with corporate sponsorship and partnership templates, participating in monthly meetings to discuss the fundraising function’s overall strategy, and helping with various fundraising campaigns such as the Giving Tuesday Campaign leveraging social media after Thanksgiving.

If there is something that you’re interested in doing, or if you have skill sets you feel would be valuable in some capacity, or you are just interested in exploring your interests and continuing involvement with Challah for Hunger, I highly recommend reaching out the national office to let them know of your skills and interests and to see how you can get involved.

Rachel: I loved being part of the Giving Circle and attending CfH events when they happen in my city. I was also lucky enough to get to bake with the London CfH chapter when I lived there after college!

What advice would you give to these graduating seniors?

Liz: You are, by virtue of being Challah for Hunger future alumni, an amazing person. You’re creative and passionate, but you’re also organized and able to bring people together to do good. Bring your passion, sense of fun, and your community organizing skills to whatever career path you’re starting out on. You will do good things in this world, and you should be confident to leave your alma mater, keep growing as a person, and strive to always do what is good and right. I hope you also keep your aprons close by and dazzle your future coworkers and friends with your baking skills from time to time!

Kate: Bake Challah and bring it into your next gig! – I realized that I really missed baking challah so I started baking challah and bringing it into work every so often. It’s a great way to make friends around the office and my coworkers love the weeks I send out a survey asking what flavor I should bake. Only problem I’ve faced is my co-workers want it more often than I have time to bake it, so beware of that! Your CfH experience doesn’t have to end when you leave school. There are lots of ways to stay involved as an alumni!

Jeff: The advice I’d give to graduating seniors is to continuously expand your knowledge and abilities and try to continue to break out of your comfort zones. When you enter the working world, it sometimes becomes easy to settle into your job and new life situation. It’s important to make the best out of everything that you do, but also to gain other perspectives and learn more about yourself and what else is out there. Getting involved and volunteering in Challah for Hunger or other Jewish/social justice initiatives may impact you in a way that you would not expect. The more involved you are, the more opportunities you have to make friends, network, gain new skills and perspectives, and to explore and learn things about yourself that you may have not known previously. Good luck and let me know if I can help you in the future!

Rachel: Don’t get too attached to one way of thinking your life/job should be. Take opportunities, take risks, stay true to your heart and values, be an active participant in deciding the course of your life, but while also seeing where the journey takes you. I always thought I knew how things would go. They’ve gone totally differently, but it’s lead me to a more fulfilling life than I could have imagined!



Rise with Challah for Hunger

Rise with Challah for Hunger