CDFA logo, with the words Caren S. Franzini Fellowship in large type, over a fading background of orange and blue triangles in a pattern

Caren S. Franzini Fellowship

Recognizing outstanding women in development finance for their leadership and dedication to the advancement of the industry.

Application Instructions

The Caren S. Franzini Fellowship is managed by the CDFA Foundation. The 2024 application period is now closed. Applications will reopen in the Spring of 2025.

About the Caren S. Frazini Fellowship

The Caren S. Franzini Fellowship was established in 2017 by the CDFA Board of Directors to recognize the exemplary leadership of Caren Franzini, a past President of CDFA and former CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA). During her career, Caren was dedicated to the advancement of development finance best practices, education, and advocacy.

Recognized by her peers and colleagues as “simply the best,” Caren brought a high level of mastery and acumen to her work. Her commitment to the development finance industry is evident in the numerous programs created and the billions of dollars of investment that she catalyzed during her tenure at NJEDA. She was equally passionate about building leaders and experts in the field as she was about financing businesses and expanding economic growth and job creation for New Jersey communities.

The Caren S. Franzini Fellowship was created to build leadership positions for women in the field of development finance and to inspire them to embody Caren’s spirit and professionalism. Franzini Fellows are given the opportunity to work directly with CDFA through a six-month program aimed at developing women leaders in the field of development finance. Each class of Franzini Fellows will collaborate on a project of significance to the development finance industry and present it to a national audience. Franzini Fellows may build a new type of financing program, research creative deal structures, write a publication of best practices, or demonstrate new methodologies in the development finance industry. Collectively, their work will showcase expertise in development finance and the power of woman-led initiatives.

Franzini Fellows meet both in-person and virtually. During these engagements, Franzini Fellows meet with other successful women in the development finance industry, receive training and inspiration from leaders in the field, and create a roadmap for building a successful career in development finance. In between in-person meetings, Franzini Fellows will be connected through an online platform that allows them to collaborate on their project and share best practices for building leadership traits.

The Caren S. Franzini Fellowship is open to women who have worked in the development finance field for less than 10 years. Franzini Fellows accepted into the program must be employed by a CDFA member and be sponsored by their employer for the duration of the fellowship.

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Former Franzini Fellows

Congratulations to the following individuals who have completed the Caren S. Franzini Fellowship:

+ 2024 Fellows

  • Chris Armitage, OSNI PONCA / PEDCO
  • Victoria Benson, Mustard Seed Hill - Community Ventures
  • Charity Karanja, Butler Snow LLP
  • Brooke Kessler, New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA)
  • Kay Simmons, Maryland Department of Commerce

+ 2023 Fellows

  • Olivia Barone, New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA)
  • Zaba Rashan, City of San Diego, Economic Development
  • Neyli Castillo Suarez, New Mexico Finance Authority
  • Tonita McKnight, Albany Community Together Inc

+ 2022 Fellows

  • Erin Baca, Alaska Small Business Development Center
  • Margarita Jules, Minnesota Department of Employment of Economic Development
  • Jennifer Litwak, Housing on Merit
  • Ellen Roth, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA)
  • Marina Scarth, New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA)

+ 2021 Fellows

  • Elizabeth Limbrick, New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA)
  • Michelle Barnett, City of Tulsa
  • Sima Thakkar, Raza Development Fund
  • Ashley Jones, Invest Atlanta

+ 2020 Fellows

  • Angela Bolden, Local Initiatives Support Corporation
  • Alessandra Desiderio, Colorado Lending Source
  • Tiffany McClelland, Lorain Port Authority
  • Megan Sullivan, Vermont Economic Progress Council

+ 2019 Fellows

  • Donna Culpepper, Nocona Economic Development
  • Barbara Waters, Connecticut Green Bank
  • Johanna Nelson, New Mexico Economic Development Department
  • Julia "Schneider" Phipps, New York City Economic Development Corporation

Caren's Legacy

Caren Franzini smiling in a yellow suit jacket in front of a leafy backgroundMs. Franzini headed the New Jersey Economic Development Authority from January 1994 to October 2012, working with seven consecutive New Jersey governors. The NJEDA provides financing to small and mid-sized businesses, administering tax incentives to retain and grow jobs, revitalizing communities through redevelopment initiatives, and supporting entrepreneurial development. She joined the NJEDA in March 1991 as Deputy Director. After her tenure at the NJEDA, Ms. Franzini became President of Franzini Consulting, working with businesses and economic development agencies.

Ms. Franzini was widely recognized for her contributions to business growth and economic development in the state. She was awarded the CDFA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013. She is a past recipient of the New Jersey Chapter of NAIOP’s Industry Service Award, the New Jersey Technology Council’s John H. Martinson Technology Supporter Award, the New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s Paul L. Troast Award for her commitment to improving the state’s economy, and the Wharton Club of New York’s Joseph Wharton Award for Social Impact. She has also been honored with the Pinnacle Business Advocate Award from the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, the EDANJ’s Franklin-Maddocks Award for Excellence in Economic Development, the Distinguished Achievement Award from the Southern New Jersey Development Council, and Plan Smart NJ’s Outstanding Leadership & Economic Development Achievement Awards. She was inducted into the New Jersey High Tech Hall of Fame in 2006 for her many contributions to the State’s technology industry.

During her distinguished career, Ms. Franzini served as Chair of the State’s Urban Enterprise Zone Authority, Vice Chair of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority and President of the Corporation for Business Assistance in New Jersey. She was also a member of the Board of Directors and the past President of the national Council of Development Finance Agencies, and sat on numerous boards: the New Jersey Technology Council, the New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties (NAIOP), the New Jersey Alliance for Action, Inc., the Southern New Jersey Development Council, and the Aviation Research Technology Park. She was an ex officio Board member of the New Jersey State Employment and Training Commission, and a Member of the State Planning Commission. Most recently, she served on the Boards of NJM Insurance, the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, Greater Trenton, the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, the Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation, NJ Future, and the New Jersey Community Development Corporation.

Prior to joining the EDA, Ms. Franzini was an Assistant State Treasurer with the New Jersey Department of the Treasury. Before that, she was employed in the Finance Division of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and with Public Financial Management. Ms. Franzini died in January 2017 at the age of 57.

Getting Engaged

All gifts made to the Fellowship will be fully tax deductible through the CDFA Foundation. CDFA welcomes contributions of all sizes from both individuals and organizations to the Franzini Fellowship.

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