Leah Phillips, MAJNM/MPA '19: Why I Chose HUC-JIR and USC - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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Leah Phillips, MAJNM/MPA '19: Why I Chose HUC-JIR and USC

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Monday, May 6, 2019

Leah PhillipsLeah Phillips MAJNM/MPA '19, Los Angeles, CA

Just a couple of weeks ago, I finished graduate school (ah!). As I reflect on my experience during these past two challenging and incredible years, I cannot imagine having spent them in only one of my two incredible programs: Masters in Public Administration from USC and a Masters in Jewish Nonprofit Management from HUC-JIR’s Zelikow School of Jewish Nonprofit Management. While I learned so much from each program, it is the partnership and symmetry between them that made the experience what it was, and know I am entering the “real world” with a more well-rounded experience because of this dual degree. 

Being from Los Angeles and wanting to stay here, I knew that the USC Sol Price School of Public policy was the right place for me. I called a friend, Jillian Katz, who received her MPA from Price to ask about her experience. She immediately asked if I was doing this dual degree program, which at the time I had never heard about. My response was, “Two masters in two years?!” She shared that HUC-JIR is located next to USC (and has parking!). After speaking with my friend, the recruiter, Melissa Garai, also a graduate of the same dual degree program, and the Erik Ludwig, the director of the program – I decided to go for it. I didn’t understand what the Zelikow School would be, but I could tell I wanted these people on my team. 

These two programs complement and mirror each other in important ways. Throughout my graduate school experience, I was exposed to different opportunities, people, and resources through both the core and elective parts of each program. The MPA provided courses that were applicable to my interest in the nonprofit sector, as well as the ability to take classes outside of Price that fit my interests and career path. My cohort at the Zschool is a much smaller group than at Price and we became true partners, we have similar passions and interests but are heading in various directions within the Jewish nonprofit sector and the country. The Zelikow School works with you to find the best internship based on the type of experience and skills you’re looking to gain, for example – I wanted to learn more about development and fundraising, and that’s what I did this year at Camp Ramah in California with a fantastic professional as my supervisor. 

I am grateful for the closeness and tailored experience I received through the Zschool. With classes on leadership, collaborative communication, and Jewish wisdom. I am grateful for the diversity of classes and people that I experienced at USC. With classes on philanthropy, nonprofit finance, and human behavior in organizations. I know these are the skills and knowledge I need to be a successful nonprofit professional, especially as I begin the process of moving through the job application and interview process. The connections made in each program have been so meaningful, and I can’t wait to work alongside this talented group of peers as we tackle the public sector in our own ways and make the world a better place. 


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu