Cameron Rasmussen is a Program Director at the Center for Justice at Columbia University, an organization committed to transforming the criminal justice system in America. He manages a range of programs, from hip hop workshops for teens at Riker’s Island to a student-driven national conference on mass incarceration.
In 2014, he was looking for an opportunity to grow as a leader, and joined our first cohort of the Avodah Fellowship for professionals working in the social change field. The Fellowship experience brought a new sense of understanding to both himself and his work: “It took me a step further in terms of being connected to both my history and my identity as a Jew, deepening my desire to understand what that history means to me, and how it impacts my work.”
After completing the Fellowship, Cameron took his experience one step further. Seeing an opportunity to bring new leaders into planning the annual Beyond the Bars conference. Cameron created a program called the Beyond the Bars Fellowship, and he modeled it after his experience in Avodah.
The Fellows come from both Columbia University and the wider community; many of them have been directly impacted by incarceration. Joining together for regular learning and community-building, they lead the planning of the Beyond the Bars Conference, drawing more than 1,500 participants to focus on mass incarceration, one of the most pressing issues of our time.
When we created the Avodah Fellowship, we sought to strengthen the work of leaders like Cameron, but we never expected that it would happen like this. It’s the perfect surprise and an incredible outcome – when an Avodah alum uses their experience us to inspire and empower others. Our work has always been about building capacity for social change, and we’re proud to have helped Cameron.