Learning as I Go


Life after college is approached by most with hesitancy and apprehension. It is daunting having to leave the campus bubble, and face adulting head on. For me, this wasn’t necessarily the case. In my eyes college prepared me well for the big bad world, and any additional confidence I had, came from support by Newman’s Own Foundation knowing that I was heading into a year-long Fellowship program. It doesn’t get much better than graduating, after four long years of study, with a full-time job lined up.

I am the Fellow placed at Newman’s Own Foundation (NOF) in Westport, CT, and I count myself lucky every day that I am placed at an organization that is not only making an impactful change in the world, but is changing people’s lives on a daily basis. I have been privileged enough to see this impact first hand, and to visit the grantees of NOF both in the U.S. and abroad. I always love telling people who I work for, and shamelessly brag about all the amazing work NOF does…and how much fun it is!

At this stage of my NOF Fellowship year, about 9 months in, I’m at an interesting place where I can look back and reflect on my experiences and everything I’ve learned so far. I can easily say that this year has been my biggest year of learning, and I’m happy to confess I’m learning as I go. The enrichment program incorporated with the Fellowship has been an amazing way to develop both my personal, and professional skills, but there’s nothing more value added than being immersed in an office culture, and having direct and purposeful impact on key projects and events.

Not only have I learned from my work experience here at NOF, by working on the Fellowship program, getting exposure to the grants making process and, from all the additional learning opportunities in the form of webinars, conferences, and online courses, I have also learned from my fellow Fellows. The amazing thing about this Fellowship program is that I’m not going through this year alone. I have 16 other amazing young, civic-minded leaders in my cohort who have become some of my closest friends. The encouragement, inspiration, and advice that is passed around this cohort of Fellows, has taught me how important it is to see and appreciate the good in the world, and what true friendship really is.

The legacy of the late Paul Newman, the founder of Newman’s Own Foundation, is still very much followed here at Newman’s Own and specifically at the Foundation, and I feel honored that I have the chance to play a small role in continuing it on. Paul always believed in luck and the “extraordinary role it plays in all of our lives” and I can’t help but believe in luck too. As a 23 year old, 9,000 miles away from my home town in New Zealand, I have experienced luck in many ways shapes and forms throughout my journey here in the U.S. But I am constantly reminding myself just how lucky I am to have this opportunity to be a Newman’s Own Foundation Fellow, and how fortunate I am to have my second home here in Connecticut, with my Newman’s Own Foundation Family.

By Caitlin Smallfield – NOF Fellow at Newman’s Own Foundation, Westport, CT.