Volunteer Spotlight: Leslie Puth, F11
When Leslie Puth enrolled in Fletcher’s Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy (MALD) program in 2009, she already had a long list of academic, professional, and personal accomplishments under her belt, including a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley; an MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business; a successful career in currency trading and sales; leadership positions with various community organizations and nonprofit boards; and an active family consisting of her husband David, A79, three children, and a dog. Years of living in Brooklyn—before the borough experienced significant gentrification—had instilled in Leslie a deep desire to help impoverished communities. She became interested in the role that microfinance can play in addressing poverty and was attracted to Fletcher, where she could study development economics.
Leslie recalls how she loved being part of the Fletcher community, where she learned from not only the incredible faculty, but also her fellow students, who shared valuable insights that were informed by their diverse backgrounds. “I think everybody should go to Fletcher,” she says. “No matter what field you go into, the experience is so helpful in building your understanding of the complex roots of problems, the interconnectedness of issues, and the need to hear from many different viewpoints.”
After earning her MALD degree, Leslie joined Accion, a global microfinance nonprofit. She was invited to join Fletcher’s Board of Advisors and remarks that this opportunity heightened her awareness of the extent to which scholarship assistance is vital to bringing in the kinds of students Fletcher wants to attract. “When I have read about—or met—students who have benefitted from scholarship support, I’ve seen that the funding is lifechanging for them. I’m very committed to raising money for this purpose. I’m really hoping we can get more people who feel the same way and who are willing and able to support these efforts.”
Leslie also serves as co-chair of the Fletcher Campaign Committee, alongside Brad Meslin, F82, FG84, A21P. Prior to the pandemic, plans were underway for her to host an event for Fletcher alumni, featuring Fletcher faculty, at her home in Manhattan. “These kinds of gatherings are ideal for helping people feel closer to the school; for fostering relationships that ultimately serve the school well; and for giving professors the opportunity to hear directly from alumni,” Leslie explains. When the pandemic forced her to rethink the event format, she pivoted to a salon-style event on Zoom featuring Dean Rachel Kyte and a faculty member, with the size limited to just six to eight participants in order to achieve an intimate environment in which everyone could actively engage with the speakers and each other. The first event, held in early 2021, was so successful that three more followed during the course of the year.
Reflecting on the volunteer work that both she and David have undertaken, Leslie exclaims, “Our experiences have been so rewarding. We’re the first to say that we feel privileged to be able to do this kind of work. You meet fantastic people and you learn so much from these opportunities.”