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Triad Foundation invests in Park Leadership Fellows at Johnson

Alumni join the effort to support the program

Kristin Grimm

Kristin Grimm, MBA '15, says that being a Roy H. Park Leadership Fellow was instrumental in allowing her to shift from finance to entrepreneurship at Johnson.

When Alexander Ivanov, MBA '00, graduated from Cornell's Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, he left an online legacy.

Today, the BR Venture Fund, Johnson's student-run venture capital fund, is one of only a handful of its kind in the nation. Ivanov, with John Kyles, MBA '00, set up the fund to fulfill their service leadership requirement as Roy H. Park Leadership Fellows.

"You had to find a way to give back," he says of the program. Park Leadership Fellows receive full two-year tuition awards and participate in a rigorous leadership curriculum. Each also is required to make a significant public service contribution to Johnson, the university or the surrounding community.

Establishing the BR Venture Fund at Johnson as his Park project was the best part of his business school education, says Ivanov, now managing director of equity capital markets at Citigroup: "It was our lasting and enduring impact we left Johnson."

In September 2014, the Triad Foundation and Roy H. Park Jr., MBA '63, approved a two-year renewal for the Roy H. Park Leadership Fellows program at Johnson, increasing their support to $2.18 million.

Sierra Stewart

Sierra Stewart, MBA '15, says the Park Leadership Fellows curriculum and a supportive cohort have led her to personal growth as well as enhanced business leadership skills.

Park, president and chairman of the Triad Foundation, established the program in 1997 for Johnson students who have demonstrated outstanding leadership potential.

As the number of Park Fellows has grown, many alumni have begun to support the program. In the 2014-15 academic year, 116 Park alumni gave $93,600 to the program. Their gifts will be matched, dollar for dollar, by the Triad Foundation, in a challenge that continues until June 30.

Ivanov stepped up to the challenge, making the largest gift to the program to date. He feels the Park Fellows program, which was a "unique privilege" for him, has made an enduring impact on Johnson.

"Park Fellows support each other," said Kristin Grimm, MBA '15, and said being a Park Fellow was instrumental in allowing her to shift from finance to entrepreneurship at Johnson.

The Park Fellows are "a very close-knit family unit," she says, and they encouraged Grimm through a challenging trading-floor internship in New York City last summer. Back at Johnson in the fall, Clint Sidle, director of the program, encouraged her to transfer her focus from finance to starting her own business.

"Having a Park Fellowship mitigates the risk of 'what if?'" she says.

This summer, free from school loans, she will do intensive market research for the Stitch Collection, her products and services startup, under the mentorship of two Park alumni. "At every step they're going to be guiding me," Grimm says.

Ivanov, a leader in equity capital markets, said he is guided daily by the leadership skills he gained as a Park Fellow. The program's curriculum challenged him and his cohort to understand their own personalities and differentiated leadership -- the idea that different people will approach the same problem in different ways.

"I clearly draw on those tools," he says.

Reflecting on the value of the program, Roy Park said: "The Roy H. Park Leadership Fellows represent clear successes in American society who have developed even clearer ideas on the contributions they would like to make. They come to Johnson with proven track records, provide a meaningful service while preparing for their new roles, and go back into the world to fulfill their dream and inspire the dreams of others."

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