Campus Climate Initiative

Rabbi Sandra (400x333)

Hillel International’s Campus Climate Initiative (CCI) works collaboratively with higher education administrators to ensure a positive campus climate in which Jewish students feel comfortable expressing their identity and values, free of antisemitism, harassment, or marginalization. The CCI model involves partnership between the college or university administration, the local Hillel, and the CCI team. It is based on the premise that key administrative leaders play an essential role in effecting broad-based educational and policy change on campus, and that the university-Hillel partnership can lead toward positive changes that will benefit both Jewish students and all students.

The CCI team works with cohort campuses to support them in:

  • Gathering data to better understand the current climate for Jewish students on campus 

  • Training and empowering university administration and staff to understand the needs of Jewish students, the diversity of the Jewish community, and the current challenges of campus antisemitism

  • Creating and adopting best practice policies, procedures and programs to address antisemitism and foster a positive campus climate for Jewish students and all students

The 2021-22 CCI cohort includes: 

  • Binghamton University
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Elon University
  • Florida Atlantic University
  • Goucher College
  • Ithaca College
  • Kennesaw State University
  • New York University
  • Northwestern University
  • Rutgers University
  • San Diego State University
  • San Jose State University
  • Stony Brook University
  • Temple University
  • Tufts University
  • University of Connecticut
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • University of Wisconsin System
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)

The inaugural 2021 cohort includes:

  • DePaul University
  • Florida State University
  • San Francisco State University
  • The George Washington University
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • The University of Texas at Austin
  • The University of Utah

For more information, contact Rebecca Russo at rrusso@hillel.org.

The CCI Team: 

Mark Rotenberg
Vice President of University Initiatives & Legal Affairs

Mark Rotenberg

Mark currently is Hillel International’s Vice President for University Initiatives and Legal Affairs, working with university leaders to ensure a campus environment in which every Jewish student can feel comfortable learning about and identifying with their heritage. Mark has spent most of his professional career on university campuses, serving for many years as the general counsel of the University of Minnesota and of Johns Hopkins University. In those positions, he provided strategic counsel and policy advice to university governing boards, presidents, chancellors and other senior officers. A seasoned university educator, Mark currently is an Adjunct Professor of Law at American University in Washington, has taught at the University of Minnesota for over 20 years, and was a visiting professor of law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Mark was a partner at Dorsey & Whitney in Minneapolis and special counsel at WilmerHale in Washington, focusing on higher education issues including free speech, academic freedom, campus protests and academic boycotts. He has argued and won cases in the US Supreme Court and many other judicial forums, and has authored numerous publications on legal, historical and Jewish topics. Mark received his B.A. from Brandeis University, and M.A., M.Phil., and J.D. from Columbia Law School and the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.

Rebecca Russo
Executive Director of the Campus Climate Initiative

Rebecca Russo

Rebecca directs the Campus Climate Initiative, working collaboratively with campus administrators and local Hillels across North America to ensure a positive campus climate for Jewish students. Rebecca was previously the Director of Campus Engagement at Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), where she partnered with campus administrators around the country to engage religious diversity productively, led interfaith strategic planning consultations and trainings, oversaw campus grants, and launched the Campus Interfaith Inventory, a national institutional survey. Prior to IFYC, Rebecca worked in Educational Resources and Organizational Development at UJA-Federation of New York and was the Doppelt Director of Engagement at Northwestern University's Fiedler Hillel.  Rebecca holds a B.A. in Middle East Studies from Brown University and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Kate Negron (She/Her)
Assistant Director, Campus Climate Initiative

Kate Negron

Kate loves helping people work across perceived divides.  She spent the last 15 years working in intercultural dialogue, and peace education helping learners be more self-reflective, empathetic, and analytical.  With Hillel, Kate works to empower partners to create positive changes on their campuses that make a measurable difference in the lives of students across the country. When she's not suggesting punnier ways to rewrite the Employee Handbook, Kate loves wilderness backpacking with her sweetheart, baking with her sons, working their micro-farm, and puzzles of all kinds.

Alex Zissman (He/Him)
Project Manager, Campus Climate Initiative

Alex Zissman

Alex Zissman (he/him) joins the Campus Climate Initiate (CCI) team at Hillel International after serving as the inaugural Jack G. Buncher Director of Jewish Student Life at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) for the Hillel Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh. In that role, Alex worked with Jewish student leadership and university partners to support, serve, and advocate for a welcoming, diverse, and thriving Jewish Life at CMU. Alex became involved in the Hillel movement as a student leader himself at the University of Delaware Hillel Kristol Center for Jewish Life. Alex has previously worked with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and the Jewish Federation of Delaware. Alex holds a B.S. in Organizational and Community Leadership from the University of Delaware’s Biden School of Public Policy and Administration. In May 2022, Alex will receive a Master’s in Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy.

Colleen Young (She/Her)
Administrative Assistant

Colleen Young

Colleen is a graduate of Louisiana Tech University with a major in Professional Aviation. However, when motherhood came calling, she retired her wings. After her third child went to school, she decided that she wanted to pursue the option of working from home (pre-pandemic this was hard) and not back into a cockpit, so she started working virtually as an assistant to executives. She's happily been at the SIC and with CCI for several years. Her hobbies include writing fiction and making jokes that only she laughs at.