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A Day in the Life of an Autry Fellow

A Day in the Life of an Autry Fellow

An attorney representing men and women with criminal records. The assistant director of strategic planning for the largest school system in Louisiana. An environmental policy coordinator in rural Virginia. A counselor for small businesses in western North Carolina. What do all of these people have in common? They got their professional start with MDC’s Autry Fellowship.

With this year-long, paid fellowship, recent college graduates have an opportunity to continue their learning alongside a dynamic team and in an organization with 45 years of experience advancing equity in the United States.

The Autry Year is difficult to encapsulate, and with 13 models for how to use the fellowship, it is clear that there is no best way to approach the year. In fact, each fellow’s year at MDC may be as varied as the careers they have pursued on the other end. For Ann Warshaw, now an honors attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor, the fellowship provided an opportunity to learn about outreach efforts in rural communities, a skill she relied on in her subsequent job with Legal Aid of North Carolina. During his year, Tate Helms developed a new project to teach low-income communities about the Earned Income Tax Credit. Though Tate has gone on to become a lawyer, the program remains a core area of work for MDC. For Max Rose, the Autry year has given him a chance to make an impact in his—and MDC’s—home of Durham, North Carolina. After interviewing nearly 100 local stakeholders, Max and others working on the Disconnected Youth project recently released a research report and plan to create an education-to-work system for youth and young adults in Durham.

The activities and responsibilities of the Fellow vary based on the day and the projects they decide to take on. For me, most days begin with a perusal of North Carolina news, policy blogs, and other articles on economic and community development. Next may be a quick review of my calendar—a meeting with a coworker to share the research we’ve done on prisoner reentry initiatives in North Carolina for the new project we’re helping to design, and a conference call with member organizations of the Rural People, Rural Policy initiative. I set aside time to work on my memo on education policy and how it affects rural immigrants before the call. I plan to spend the afternoon developing a set of interview questions that I’ll ask leaders in Danville, Va., next week as part of an economic development project I’m working on in the area. By day’s end, I will have made progress toward a number of goals that I set forth for myself at the beginning of the year: learning more about immigration’s impact on the South; developing the skills to lead difficult discussions with communities about issues like racial and economic disparities; and gaining a base of knowledge about policies and practices to promote economic development in our nation’s struggling communities.

Each year, the Autry Fellow has the chance to learn a variety of skills, develop new areas of knowledge, and contribute his or her own experiences to the work of MDC. As their profiles show, past fellows have pursued a variety of paths, but common to all of them is a set of core beliefs: that understanding the context and history of communities is crucial to advancing them; that building partnerships in communities is essential to creating opportunity; and that the framework of equity is a powerful tool to bring to any project for social change

Applications for MDC’s 2013-2014 Autry Fellowship are now being accepted through January 14. Top candidates will be invited to MDC for a day of interviews in mid-February. We look forward to seeing how our next fellow will work to connect people with opportunity throughout the South.