Meet the Executive Leadership Team

Written by Claire Williams

Orr Fellowship’s Executive Leadership team represents a collection of compassionate, bright, and strategic individuals. Steven Emch, Catherine Mazanek, and Ben Pfister know what it means to lead by example while showing genuine commitment to the organization’s mission of recruiting and developing the next generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs. 

Continue reading to learn about Steven, Catherine, and Ben’s roles and responsibilities and hear personal insights from each of these influential fellowship leaders. 

Steven Emch, President 

Steven joined Orr Fellowship in August of 2022. He previously worked with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation overseeing Venture Development and Entrepreneurship Planning.  Prior to the IEDC, Steven spent time at Lessonly, an Orr Fellow-founded company, and worked for a family business.  Steven’s commitment to the state of Indiana, centered in its heart of Indianapolis, is evident as he contributes daily to the growth of young professionals.

As President, Steven supports all parties within Orr Fellowship and works to provide clarity and alignment among Fellows, Board Members, and Alumni. His extensive Indianapolis network has enabled Steven to cultivate relationships and partnerships that support the long-term sustainability of Orr Fellowship within the state. Steven is also responsible for the financial health of the organization and he strategically plans growth opportunities while remaining mission-oriented. 

What initially attracted you to Orr Fellowship? How has your perception of the fellowship changed in the last year? 

The people! I was lucky to work with a bunch of Orr Fellows at Lessonly and learn how high caliber & high character they are. They left a big impression on me when I was there that I’ve carried forward with me ever since. My time at IEDC also imprinted on me the importance of people for all things growth & development in Indiana. A lot of exciting conversations start and stop when it comes to talent and Orr Fellowship is a way for me to be involved in sharing IN’s story with the people I want to stay here and have a big impact!

I’m more hopeful for the future the more time I spend in Orr. I think there are a lot of opportunities for us to continue to improve this program over time and we’ve already come a long way. That’s the biggest change in perception for me. More excitement!

What has been your most impactful experience since being involved in Orr Fellowship?

Being able to watch Fellows grow in areas they were weak or didn’t think they could handle it. I’ve seen Fellows have really hard conversations at work, conquer big challenges, or pull off big events that they weren’t sure they could and it’s inspiring to watch every time. Watching Fellows actualize their potential will never get old. 

What excites you about the future of Orr Fellowship?

The new people we’re going to bring into this program. Every class that has come through Orr has improved the program for the better and left an indelible mark on us. I’m also very enthusiastic about the opportunities that become available when  we can start engaging our Alumni on a deeper level.

How do you spend your time away from work? What is one thing you wish people knew about you?

My wife & kids are where most of my time goes! Outside of that, I also love cooking, reading, golf, and a good video game session. I take my work seriously, not myself. I also know almost all the words to Year 3000 by The Jonas Brothers.

Catherine Mazanek, Director of Recruitment and Engagement 

Catherine joined Orr Fellowship in July of 2022 just after completing her Masters in Teaching at the University of Portland in the Pacific Alliance for Catholic Education (PACE) program. She had previously attended Miami University where she worked in recruitment and engagement for the Office of Orientation and Transition. Catherine is from Indianapolis and harbors immense passion for cultivating diverse, equitable communities built on strong foundations. 

As Director of Recruitment and Engagement, Catherine is heavily involved in collaborating with Fellow Leadership Teams as well as other vital external parties to the organization. Her efforts in recruitment season include communication with university partners, candidate engagement, and event planning, and so much more. Catherine’s attention to logistical details and heart for teaching has tremendously influenced Orr Fellowship’s programming and internal sense of support and community.

What initially attracted you to Orr Fellowship? How has your perception of the fellowship changed in the last year? 

I was looking for a change from my previous career as a teacher- I love getting to contribute to human-centric development and had a feeling there was a more effective way for me to do this kind of work than what I was experiencing at the time. Plus, I wanted to be closer to my family so I moved back home to Indy and began the job hunt. When I came across the Orr Fellowship job, it felt like the right fit. Orr immediately reminded me of my experience at PACE which had totally altered my post-grad years by providing both community and direction at such a pivotal point in my life.

I was also really eager to work in a human development role supporting young professionals in comparison to middle school students. The opportunity form genuine friendships and have deep discussion without having to teach the War of 1812 really excited me. This job appeared to encapsulate all of the parts that I love about teaching and relationship building without all of the things that were getting in the way for me personally. 

What has been your most impactful experience since being involved in Orr Fellowship?

I knew that I was going to get so much life from working with Fellows. That’s truly my bread and butter. That’s what I love. I love getting to see everyone at Monthly Meeting. I love getting to hear your stories and know your names. Watching you all pull off events like Nonprofit Consulting Draft Night or Alumni Panels is such a joy. Yes, I’m here to support, but the Fellows make my job easy. This has been such an exciting and rewarding thing- being an almost side character to the action. Just being a fly on the wall and watching Fellows have their moments is the best part of my job.

What excites you about the future of Orr Fellowship?

I joined the organization at a unique time. The effort from Fellows and former president Alyssa Graudins created an incredibly strong foundation. I am so excited to continue to watch that foundation get built upon. With every new class, getting to see how those bits and pieces become even more refined, and even better, to keep growing our community and let those relationships spring off from the foundation that everybody has already built…that truly excites me.

I’m excited to give a clearer picture to what it means to be an Orr Fellow. Year after year, class after class, what is true about being a Fellow? I think that’s something I really appreciated in teaching- the ability to track growth from grade after grade. I am excited to establish the same patterns in Orr Fellowship. What it looks to progress through being a new Orr Fellow to a second-year to an alum, and beyond. Being able to leverage our 20+ years of knowledge and to have a vision of what our Fellow path looks like excites me. I look forward to being able to readily define those progressions and wrap up the experience in a bow more than we have in the past.

How do you spend your time away from work? What is one thing you wish people knew about you?

I like to cook – it always calms me down.  I live with my sister and she cannot cook to save her life so that’s my job in the house. Also, I’m a huge outdoors girl. I love backpacking, camping, hiking- that is my happy place. I can escape to the woods for as long as you would let me and I will be happy!

One thing I wish people knew about me – I am high energy, happy and excitable, but I also have a pretty serious side. I care deeply about things, especially when it comes to the inequities in our society. I’m always happy to show up as an exciting presence for the Fellows, but also have that softer quieter side that folks don’t see as often.

Ben Pfister, Director of Operations and Partnerships

Ben joined Orr Fellowship in October of 2022. Hailing from a small town in northeast Indiana, Ben attended Purdue University where he obtained a major in Biological Engineering with a focus in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing. He began his career in the pharmaceutical industry working for an engineering firm in novel manufacturing designs. Ben was drawn to the city of Indianapolis and the mission of Orr Fellowship as he invests to empower young business leaders and aspiring entrepreneurs.

As Director of Operations and Partnerships, Ben oversees all aspects of technical administration for the organization, which is certainly no small feat. His innovative spirit has enabled efficiencies across many internal processes and historical data collection. Ben also manages Orr Fellowship’s Partner Company relationships by executing strategic recruitment efforts and meaning ongoing stream of communication to ensure a positive experience for company and fellows alike.

What initially attracted you to Orr Fellowship? How has your perception of the fellowship changed in the last year?

I wanted to dig deep! It had been 5 years since I moved to Indy and my prior occupation was entirely remote. I began to feel disconnected. I felt led to invest more directly into Indy. When Steven approached me on Orr Fellowship, it was an easy sell because my heart was already there. I knew of Orr and its impact on Indianapolis business. Being on the executive team meant that I could walk alongside a growing city and meet many dynamic individuals along the way. Over the last year, those involved with Orr (fellows, alumni, board members, companies) have challenged, encouraged, and surprised me in ways I didn’t think possible. Frankly, I maybe knew 5% what I was getting into and after a year wouldn’t change a thing. 

What has been your most impactful experience since being involved in Orr Fellowship?

The send-off event we had for the Class of 2021 Fellows! During the evening I witnessed the strong connections the fellows had formed over the past two years.  The Fellows make the Fellowship and for some reason seeing everyone laugh, dance and do karaoke wrapped up the impact a couple short years can make. It was fulfilling and reminded me that karaoke will never go out of style. 

What excites you about the future of Orr Fellowship?

Orr holds potential and progress in perpetual tension. Each year we cycle new fellows in and transition fellows to alumni. We capture raw potential, refine for a short meaningful duration, and then reflect on the progress each individual has made. I’m not sure what excites me more – the potential or the progress, so I just enjoy the consistency of both. 

How do you spend your time away from work? What is one thing you wish people knew about you?

Time away from work??? We’re in recruitment season! Many weekends are spent with my wife’s business, Ethereal Florals – she’s an incredible artist. In my free time, I enjoy biking, reading and cooking with my wife. Ideally, I can escape once a month to the country and bike all day with a group around Fair Oaks – I always stop to get ice cream at the halfway mark.

As for books, I’ve been going back to the classics and spending a lot of time in the early sci-fi genre. If you have read all of Frank Herbert’s Dune series, we can be friends. I’ve been sneaking quotes into everyday conversations for the last 5 years. As for cooking, we tend to get really invested in a particular dish and master it integrating into a normal meal schedule. Albeit, we can be pretty predictable on our choices – pizza, tacos, risotto, omelets, sourdough and creme brulee.  

As for something I wish people knew about me…. I love trying any food. Seriously – any food. Chances are I’ll enjoy it too – I live for the unique flavors and combinations. Ask me about some of the odd foods I’ve had and either you’ll laugh or vomit a little…. probably both.