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For Alumna Molly Hellauer, ‘Fordham Still Feels Very Close’

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Next week, on June 16 and 17, graduates of Fordham’s Lincoln Center-based schools will gather virtually for the annual Block Party celebration. Organized by the Office of Alumni Relations, this year’s event will feature school-based reunions, an alumni panel on Broadway’s fall reopening, health and wellness sessions, and more.

Molly Hellauer, who studied communications and political science at Fordham College at Lincoln Center, plans to be among those tuning in.

Though she graduated in 2016, Hellauer said her ongoing connection to the University has made the time fly. “Fordham still feels very close. It doesn’t feel like five years at all, but it is nice to have that community as a resource five years later—and I know it will continue to be a resource 10 years, 15 years from now.”

Staying Connected Through Service

Hellauer immersed herself in the Fordham community as a student, serving on the Campus Activities Board and volunteering as both an orientation leader and captain prior to working as an orientation coordinator for two years. Each of these activities helped her learn “a great deal about professionalism,” she said, and inspired her to keep the Fordham connection going after graduation.

She joined the Young Alumni Committee in 2016, and last year led its social justice subcommittee, which organizes service projects for recent graduates. In recent years, they have worked with the Bronx Is Blooming to plant new trees and clean up parks, and with Socks in the City—a nonprofit founded by Cat Fernando, FCLC ’20—to get socks and other supplies to New Yorkers experiencing homelessness.

Before the pandemic, that meant organizing a day for young alumni to go out in small groups and distribute supplies. “It’s also really about building connections,” Hellauer said. “So, they’re not just giving things to folks; they’re talking to them, learning about their lives, hearing their stories, and making them feel heard.”

In the past year, the subcommittee embraced remote service work, joining a Socks in the City initiative to order supplies and have them shipped to a central location for volunteers to distribute. And Hellauer helped organize a Zoom-based letter-writing campaign, during which alumni gathered virtually to write letters and holiday cards to people living in nursing homes.

“We all just figured it out and were able to keep people engaged, and that’s just a really good feeling,” she said. “Obviously, I would rather do things in person, but I’m just really impressed with everyone’s adaptability.”

Putting Her Fordham Education to Work in Politics and Public Relations

Giving back to Fordham and its local communities may keep Hellauer quite close to the University, but she has indeed spread her wings since graduating. The summer following her senior year, she was awarded a Students for a New American Politics PAC Organizing Fellowship. Run by Yale University students, the political action committee provides a stipend for fellows to work as grassroots organizers for progressive candidates running for Congress. Hellauer was sent to Rochester, New Hampshire, to work on Carol Shea-Porter’s campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives.

To Hellauer’s surprise, she was placed with another Fordham Ram working as a field organizer in the state’s 1st Congressional District. “It was a very exciting time to be working on a statewide national campaign—and it was doubly exciting because New Hampshire is a very politically active state,” she said. She was able to learn “a lot about campaigns and electoral politics, and it was just a really exciting way to spend your first summer out of college.”

Once the fellowship concluded, Hellauer went into public relations. Today, she’s the manager of communications and research for the Office of the President at Columbia University—a “really good fit” for her, she said, in part because it allows her to draw on the skills she picked up as a student leader and orientation coordinator at Fordham. 

What are you most passionate about?
For my entire life, reading has been one of my absolute favorite things to do—definitely because it is a pleasant and relaxing activity but also because I get excited about how much there is to learn from a new book. After finishing—or often even while still reading—a great work of nonfiction, I have to immediately go down a “Wikipedia hole” to learn more about the figures or events covered in the book. But even in works of fiction that we might not consider as instructive, I learn so much about how to improve my own writing and how to be a person moving through the world.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
That you don’t have to do everything right on the first try. Personally and professionally, I always find myself fighting off embarrassment after making a mistake when doing something for the first time—even and especially when I am alone in my own kitchen screwing up a new recipe, despite there being no one around for me to be embarrassed in front of. It helps me to take a breath and ask myself: Why would I be expected to get something perfect when I’ve never done it before? It’s wonderful when you turn out to be a natural at something new, but learning where you may have veered off course and how to do something better the next time is valuable, too.

What’s your favorite place in New York City? In the world?
There are so many corners of the city that I’ve missed visiting during the pandemic. If I had to choose a favorite, I’d have to say the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I used to love visiting during their late-night hours on Saturdays. It’s a favorite because I like to pick a certain section deep in the museum and immerse myself in it. I love the feeling of being so far removed from the city outside, but it’s also an experience that is quintessentially New York.

In the world, definitely Cape Cod, Massachusetts. My family has been spending summers there for most of my life. My absolute favorite day is spent on a beach in Cape Cod in the sunshine with a book, with dips in the ocean in between chapters. As I’ve grown older, I’ve enjoyed visiting at all times of year, not just summer—it’s a very special place that has something wonderful to offer year-round.

Name a book that has had a lasting influence on you.
My favorite books as a child were in the Eloise series by Kay Thompson. I love her spirit and independence. Eloise was always able to have a good time on her own, but she was also glad to take others (humans or animals) along for the ride. And, looking back on it now, I think she may have had an influence on my desire to one day live in New York City.

Who is the Fordham grad or professor you admire most?
Most of my best friends are Fordham grads, and I admire and look up to them all for their intelligence and passion for doing good—qualities that were instilled in us all at Fordham.

The professor I admire most is Christina Greer, who I had for several courses in political science as a student (the thrill of seeing her on MSNBC has not grown old in the five years since I graduated, for me or my parents). I appreciate how she is able to communicate political concepts to students—no matter their major—and make them eager to know and do more outside the classroom. She [helps people]understand the issues and how they directly affect our lives. She cares a great deal about each and every student, and it shows.

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