Joelle Held
Excelsior Service Fellow

NYS Office of Children and Family Services, (NYC Regional Office)

Joelle Held

Joelle Held believes that we all have a duty to leave the world in a better place than when we arrived. To her, this means dedicating a portion of her life to not only serving the public, but to improving public service systems.

Throughout her busy career working in compliance and operations for private equity firm TowerBrook Capital Partners, Joelle led efforts to increase the diversity of applicants, led engagement efforts and provided technical assistance for grantees of the firm's foundation, and developed an in-house art program. She also found time to participate in pro bono activities for organizations like KWT Neighbors, Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute, Held Studios, and Short Walls Gallery.

Joelle accomplished all this, even while completing a Master's degree in Public Administration at Baruch College. She was recently recognized for her achievements and selected to participate in the Excelsior Service Fellowship program by Governor Cuomo. The inaugural program allows 80 talented graduates from colleges, universities, law and professional programs the opportunity to work in policy and operations for one of 41 state agencies or authorities.

The Washington State native said she was thrilled to find out she was selected, and appointed to the NYS Office of Children and Family Services. "I've always wanted to work with, and advocate for, children," Joelle explains of her interest in the fellowship.

"There are infinite and meaningful ways to get involved and really make a difference in the life of a child—whether it is through volunteering on the front line for a non-profit and helping kids individually, or influencing systemic policy changes at a governmental level that affects a larger group. This resonates with me for different but equally important reasons."

Her past experiences have certainly helped prepare Joelle for her fellowship. "I spent years as a nanny, tutored inmates in the AmeriCorps GED program at the King County Jail in Seattle, WA and worked with public and charter schools raising funds to enhance programming," she says. At the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, Joelle has led a research and gaps analysis for child welfare preventive services, as well as other projects focused on policy improvement or increasing timeliness of investigations and report submission.

Joelle recalls there were many topics discussed in her classes at Baruch's School of Public Affairs that gave her a framework for her present fellowship. "Policy, management and research courses are completely relevant to the work. Although, I should have paid just a bit more attention to statistics! The use of meaningful data is extensively being used in government to make system wide-improvements, with particular attention being paid to outcomes."

As for the future, Joelle would like to focus on continuing improving programs where children are concerned. "Before the end of my fellowship, I'd like to see, and be a part of, significant progress on increasing the quality of educational programs and services for youth in the juvenile justice system."

Written by Celene McDermott