Change is coming to FSU Hillel: our Director of Jewish Student Life, Kal Marcus, is leaving after three years of incredible service to the Jewish students of our community. Kal joined us in June 2019 as a Springboard Fellow specializing in Jewish Learning and in 2021 advanced to the position of Director of Jewish Student Life. In that time, he has weathered a pandemic, excelled in his role, grown enormously as a professional, and (nearly) completed a Master’s Degree in Jewish Non-Profit Management from Hebrew Union College. Toward the end of this semester, he is moving on to exciting new challenges and opportunities with Evolve Giving Group as an Associate Consultant.
Kal joined our team at a transformative moment, as we quadrupled our staff, updated our programming and operations, reconfigured our physical space, worked to fundamentally shift our organizational culture, and dramatically increased both fundraising and student engagement. During that time, he has achieved remarkable results at FSU Hillel, including:
- Overhauling student leadership: growing from 8 to over 40 leaders and interns in three years; guiding a culture shift toward excellence, inclusivity, and service; and developing a clear plan for student leadership development and advancement
- Strategic outreach: by focusing on sub-sections of campus life, such as Freshmen engagement and Greek Life outreach, Kal helped us achieve unprecedented gains in both breadth and depth of student engagement
- Building Jewish educational initiatives: Kal launched, recruited for, and co-taught our first-ever Jewish Learning Fellowships. FSU Hillel has now offered more than a dozen unique cohort experiences and engaged more than 100 students in this high-impact program that provides in-depth Jewish education, fosters friendships, and serves as a pipeline for cultivating student leaders.
- Pivoting during the pandemic: When the pandemic hit after only 9 months on the job, Kal guided our student leaders to shift seamlessly to online programming. His team began with programming exclusively on Zoom, then shifted to hybrid and outdoor events, and ultimately innovated a dispersed small-group student-hosted event model that is both in-person and COVID-safe. Despite essentially closing the Hillel building for two years, we have nonetheless hosted our biggest-ever events, such as Rosh Hashanah for 360 students in Fall 2021.
- Skyrocketing engagement: Kal led our team in doubling engagement even during COVID. This rate of growth in on-campus engagement is rarely achieved in any circumstance – much less during a pandemic, when programming was almost entirely online and and/or outside the Hillel building.
Kal’s achievements are many, but his persona is just as remarkable. If you’ve met him, you might know his easy charisma, his unbeatable Jewish geography network, and his quick wit. He is a sharp observer of human behavior and unparalleled at remembering not only the faces, but also the names, connections, backgrounds, talents and hobbies of almost everyone he meets. “It’s a gift and a curse,” he is known to say with a sly grin, when recalling yet another precise detail from memory.
Although Kal is leaving FSU Hillel, the structure, strategy, and changes he has affected will remain. We are well-positioned to continue to grow and strengthen our student leadership, to maintain and grow engagement, and to deepen our reputation as a place that is truly by students, for students. Our core staff will remain, and we are excited to hire excellent new team members in the coming months – with Kal on the hiring committee!
In English, the word is “bittersweet;” in Hebrew, mar u’matok. The bitterness of Kal’s departure will be felt strongly across the FSU Jewish community; however, we will hold on to the sweetness of our memories with him and of our excitement at seeing all that he – and we – will accomplish in the future. We truly wish him all the best.