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1. How is planning a career in Jewish experiential education different than planning a career in formal Jewish education?
Not incredibly different actually. A common misconception is that Jewish educators who work in environments where experiential approaches to learning are most prevalent don't need as much training. (i.e. The misguided question of “why do you need graduate training to be a camp counselor or youth director?”) This misconception is dangerous as it wrongly infers that a career path in Jewish experiential education isn't real or legitimate.
    On the contrary, Jewish experiential educators need a rich understanding of pedagogy and Jewish content knowledge similar to all other Jewish educators. In addition, experiential educators must gain firm grasp, be able to apply and reflect on how people learn experientially. Experiential educators also often rise to leadership roles (for example, Camp, JCC or Hillel director, trip leader, service-learning coordinator) and as a result require advanced training in leadership, management and administration. Thus, in a planning a career, experiential educators also need field experience and mentorship to help them reflect and learn from their experiences. To be a summer camp, Hillel and youth group staff are great laboratories for emerging educators to experiment and grow professionally.
    A mix of academic study and relevant field-work is essential for all Jewish educators. Ultimately, individuals must identify and follow their passions, expand and nurture their network of contacts and seek professional development opportunities that fit their needed areas of growth in order to successfully plan and advance their career. We will discuss these points further during our roundtable at Youthcon!   

 2. You have worked as a human resources (HR)  professional, how did that help you prepare for your current involvement in experiential education?
    Great question! My job at the Davidson school is to design and implement experiential learning programs for graduate level students and in service professionals. This requires a lot of administration including recruitment of staff, mentors and of course students, creating and reviewing contracts, setting and implementing budgets, presentations and correspondence with colleagues and partner organizations, working with lay leadership and facilitating professional development workshops, just to name a few.
    Many of these tasks would also aptly describe my HR professional roles both within and outside the Jewish organizational world. HR professionals, like experiential educators, must pay close attention to detail, know how to work well with a diverse set of constituents, be able to multitask and prepare for the unexpected, employ a customer service attitude, and be able to set priorities while not losing sight of your institution’s overall mission, whether it be servicing your staff or educating Jewish youth and adults!    
    Last but certainly not least, I know what it is like to be on the other side of the desk reviewing a candidate's resume and at a job interview. Knowing what to look for has helped me educate both experiential learners and educators in the skills they need to be successful in the workforce and the techniques that will help find their ideal professional role.

 3. What are you most looking forward to at YouthCon?
    I love meeting new people, learning new things, sharing experiences and being challenged by peers and leaders. I hope and frankly expect all to be a major component of Youthcon. It is so important that the Jewish community as a whole work together to further professionalize the field of Jewish experiential education. These educators and leaders are among the most important individuals to our shared future. They create, transform and inspire all Jewish learners, and this should not only be celebrated, but supported through networking and shared learning. I applaud Youthcon for organizing this conference to do just that!

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Mark has worked as a human resources (HR) professional, Jewish programmer and experiential educator for nearly a decade. Prior to JTS, Mark served as asst. dir. of HR for Episcopal Social Services and HR and volunteer programs manager for NYC's 92nd Street Y. Mark also served several years as song leader, Judaic director, and staff-in-training director at the JCC Camp Wise Overnight Camp in Cleveland, Ohio, . Mark has a BSc from McGill U. in Montreal and an MPA in Nonprofit Management and MA in Hebrew and Judaic Studies from NYU.

Follow him on Twitter: @msy226nyc

Visit his website: http://www.jtsa.edu/davidson

 


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