A Schenectadian is one of nine people named to the first-ever class of Empire State Fellows.
Nora Yates, former executive director of the Pride Center of the Capital Region, will work with senior administrators at the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.
The new fellowship program was designed to recruit young, diverse professionals into service with the state government, in the hope that they would eventually become the next generation of state leaders.
Secretary of State Cesar Perales said he suggested the idea when he and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo were “lamenting” the lack of diverse applicants.
“I said I think they think you can’t get into government, that you have to know someone, or be involved in politics,” Perales said.
So they decided to throw open the gates with a competitive fellowship program that would put nine professionals into salaried, vacant positions in state government.
“At first I said if we get 100 or 200 [applicants], it’ll be fantastic,” Perales said. “We were overwhelmed.”
More than 900 people applied. After eliminating those who weren’t qualified — applicants were asked to show they had made substantial accomplishments early in their careers, but many recent college grads applied anyway — they still had more than 450 good applicants.
Yates made the cut easily.
“If you ever talked to her, you’d know why. She’s dynamite,” Perales said. “She brings all the qualifications one would want. She’s articulate. She’s passionate.”
Since the goal is to develop the next generation of leaders, he said he had to “make a guess” as to which applicants could become leaders.
He’s confident Yates will be one of them.
“This is a woman who has leadership potential,” he said.
Yates revitalized and expanded the Pride Center of the Capital Region, a 42-year-old organization.
She also developed and taught courses as an adjunct professor in Gay and Lesbian studies at the University at Albany for six years.
She has a bachelor’s degree in French and women’s studies and a master’s in women’s studies from UAlbany. She also has a master’s in public administration from Sage Graduate School.
Cuomo said in a news release that he was pleased to recruit talented professionals into the public sector. Each fellow will work directly with high-level policy makers.
“These men and women will bring new energy, ideas, and experiences to public service, as well as helping us create a new generation of leaders to guide our state’s future,” he said.
The fellowships will last two years, and fellows may be hired afterward. Although they will be salaried, the fellowship is considered a full-time “leadership training” program.
At the end of two years, Perales said the fellows will have to apply for state jobs if they want to stay in government.
“I don’t doubt, if they turn out as good as we think they are, some agency in the state will want them,” he said. “Let’s see what happens. Let’s see if they stay and contribute.”