CORO Fellows led by ILF Alumnus Kenny Chen discuss leadership with CEO Tong

Self-discovery, purpose, and accountability. These were some of the key themes that rang throughout the meeting between this year’s Coro Fellows and Ms. Chiling Tong, a former Coro Fellow and current CEO of the International Leadership Foundation. As the Fellows reflected on the journey they shared with their cohort over the past nine months, they realized that Coro had a deeper meaning and a longer-lasting impact on their lives than they originally anticipated.

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The Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs is a rigorous nine-month program that immerses competitively-selected cohorts of young professionals in impact-driven work across the nonprofit, business and government sectors in U.S. urban cities. Including these 12 Fellows from Coro Pittsburgh, there are a total of 64 Fellows that go through the program each year in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and St. Louis. As participants learn from leaders on the local, state and national levels, they are trained to engage in creative leadership, build strong connections, and create change in their urban environment.

“What brings you to this moment right now?” asked Flavia Bleahu rhetorically as she reflected on her own “purpose” and “meaning” in life. As a person who has always held herself to a high standard, she strove to discover her sense of purpose and direction and share her journey with others. Working with such a diverse group of leaders had challenged her in many ways.

“Everyone here is an overachiever,” Ms. Tong noted. “So why is it that, when you get together, you cannot get things accomplished?” This question provoked surprise and deep reflection from the cohort as they assessed their teamwork and individual contributions to the team projects. The frustration that all Fellows met as they collaborated on their projects led each of them to adapt to their different leadership and conflict resolution styles.

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Coro Fellow John Chilton McAuliff, Jepson School of Leadership at the University of Richmond
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(Left) Coro Fellow Berenise Bermudez, University of California, San Diego & Trainer Mary Parker
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(Left) Coro Fellow Nenha Young, Cornell University
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Coro Fellow Aaron King, University of Arizona & Patrice L. McKenzie, Morgan State University (right)
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Coro Fellow Prisca Akello Ohito, Carnegie Mellon University & Alex Wallach Hanson, Tufts University
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Coro Fellow Andrea Elcock ,Pennsylvania State University
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(Left) Flavia A. Bleahu, University of Pittsburgh

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Despite their differences, many Fellows found confidence and comfort through the Fellowship. “Before Coro, I scoffed at the idea of ‘leadership development,'” stated Alex Wallach Hanson. “Now I see it as a critical piece, and it is an aspect that I have control over. I am equipped with the tools to apply them and affect change.”

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Including Ms. Tong, among Coro’s notable alumni is none other than former ILF Fellow, Mr. Kenny Chen, who recently helped the City of Pittsburgh to build its Open Data portal. Mr. Chen, who has conducted and engaged in numerous service projects in the years following his fellowships, credited his success and dedication to Ms. Tong and both the ILF and Coro Fellowships.

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As she reflected on her own Coro journey along with the Coro Fellows, Ms. Tong affirmed that Coro left a long-lasting impact on her own 25 years of public service. “What I learned in that one year with Coro was more than what I learned in my three-year MBA program,” said Ms. Tong. She hopes that the current Coro Fellows will take the lessons learned through the program and apply them to their future careers and service—all while maintaining a special bond with each other.

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Photography by Eugene Lau