Tilelli Leadership Fellowships Prepare Graduate Students for Careers in Higher Education, Organizational Development

By Mary Allen, Director of Communications
Widener University archway

The generosity of a Widener alumnus who served as chair of Widener’s Board of Trustees has made leadership fellowships possible for two graduate students. 

Students Danielle Davis and Joy Nissen are serving as the 2021 recipients of the Gen. and Mrs. John H. Tilelli Leadership Fellowship.

Joy Nissen headshot in front of brick wall
Joy Nissen

Nissen is in her second year of a five-year program in pursuit of a clinical psychology doctorate degree and a master of business administration, also known as the PsyD/MBA dual degree program. Davis is currently in her last year at Widener’s Center for Education, pursuing a higher education leadership doctoral degree.

Both women plan to use the knowledge gained through the fellowship to pursue careers in organizational development and higher education. 

The fellowship is offered through Widener’s Leadership Institute, which offers programs that prepare students to lead with intent, strive for their aspirations, motivate those around them, and become strategic leaders who can shape a positive vision of the future. The institute is a gateway to leadership programs that range from undergraduate leadership certificates and a minor in leadership studies, to lifelong learning opportunities for learners of all ages, professional programs and cutting-edge research. 

Danielle Davis headshot in front of white wall
Danielle Davis

As a Tilelli fellow, Nissen is conducting research through Widener’s Organizational Development Services office to assess the effectiveness of the office’s executive coaching services. Nissen is working alongside Hal Shorey, director of Organizational Development Services, to conduct pre, mid, and post tests to understand changes in a coachee’s motivation to lead, leadership self efficacy, and other internal outcome goals. Shorey also teaches in Widener’s PsyD program. 

“My interest in leadership and organizational dynamics led me to pursue the dual PsyD/MBA degree, extern at ODS, and ultimately apply for this scholarship,” Nissen said. “It is a wonderful opportunity to advance my interest in leadership, which lives at the intersection of my work in psychology and the MBA program. I am very grateful to the Tilellis for this fellowship experience.” 

Nissen earned her undergraduate degree through the Peace and Conflict Studies program at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. She grew up in Taiwan with dual citizenship and relocated to the United States at the beginning of her undergraduate studies. 

As a Tilelli fellow, Davis is continuing work she began managing military and veteran student affairs matters, assisting Widener student veterans and their families as they strive to achieve academic and personal success. Davis is also supporting the Widener Reads tutoring program in Chester-area public schools, which she managed through the university’s Center for Education last year. The fellowship experience is helping her to develop strategic planning, leadership development, project management and student engagement skills as she plans for a career that includes leadership in education policy reform. 

My commitment to policy reform and education inspired me to pursue a doctoral degree in higher education leadership at Widener University. This fellowship is allowing me to broaden my skill set and prepare for an impactful career. I thank Gen. and Mrs. Tilelli for this experience. — Danielle Davis

Davis earned an associate’s degree in paralegal studies from Berkeley College, a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies and a master’s in public administration, both from Rutgers University. In addition to her doctoral studies and the fellowship, Davis is employed as an academic advisor at Rowan College. 

A member of the Pennsylvania Military College of class of 1963 and immediate past chair of the Widener Board of Trustees, Tilelli is a retired four-star general who served two tours of duty in Vietnam and commanded the First Cavalry Division during the 1991 Gulf War. He is a member of the Board of Trustees executive committee. This is the first year the university has sponsored multiple Tilelli fellows.

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