Bush Fellows Learning Logs

Bush Fellows submit a learning log every six months during their Fellowship to share what they learn along their leadership journey. 

Shanda Poitra
Fellowship term: 24 months

Shanda Poitra (Anishinaabe/Ojibwe Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa) wants to create a culture where Indigenous people see safe and healthy relationships as the norm. She found her calling when she took a self-defense course in college. Empowered by that experience, she has made it her life’s work to teach Native women and girls that they deserve to be safe and to help them develop tools to protect and advocate for themselves. A nationally recognized leader of the first Indigenous-led IMPACT self-defense program, she is bringing the program she adapted for her Turtle Mountain community to a growing number of tribes and Native organizations. To leverage her experience and become more effective at designing and leading abuse prevention and survivor healing throughout Indian country, she will pursue a degree in Ogimaawiwin (leadership) and management. She also will travel to meet with and learn from leaders of other abuse prevention organizations throughout the country.

 

What has informed your approach to leading change in your community? 

My approach is informed by the stories that I hear while teaching IMPACT self-defense classes to my community. We have conversations at the end of the program where people share vulnerable personal stories. Those stories fuel me to keep going and fighting for our Indigenous girls, women and two-spirit people.

 

What interesting skill do you want to learn that's not related to your Fellowship?

This is so embarrassing, but I really want to learn how to use Excel spreadsheets!

 

What is your favorite quote or expression? 

It’s a quote by Deb Haaland, the first Native person to serve as U.S. Cabinet secretary, “We are not vulnerable, we are targeted. There is a difference.”

We have a history of being conditioned to accept realities that we should be resisting. It wasn’t until the 1970s that we could practice our own ceremonies - and still there’s a lot of people who feel like we still have to be secretive in our practice. We shouldn’t hide. We don’t have to hide our voices any longer. We have been targeted and still are being targeted. Not only with human traffickers, but we have seen Native women being taken advantage of in medical situations as well. Knowing all of this, we need to learn how to say no to people in power.

Marie Zephier
Fellowship term: 24 months

Marie Zephier (Oglala Lakota Nation) is passionate about helping people heal by reconnecting to Indigenous ways. She wants Native people to have access to the healing she has found through culture. As a doctoral candidate in Indigenous health, she is focused on increasing respect for the value and impact of traditional practices. She has seen, in securing and managing millions of dollars in health grants, how Westernized models are inadequate to meet the needs of Indigenous people. She believes that integrating Indigenous culture into the research and practices of western health systems can build trust, increase access to cultural healing methods, and alleviate health inequities. To lead this broad-scale change, she will complete her Ph.D., studying ways to use culturally informed data as a tool for advocacy and investment in cultural practices. She also will create intentional time to stay grounded in the Indigenous practices that have aided her addiction recovery journey.

 

What has informed your approach to leading change in your community? 

The driving force behind my approach to leading change in my community is the profound influence of my grandmother. Her selfless way of living and the guidance of our Creator has played a pivotal role in shaping my perspective and values. Their wisdom and love have empowered me to make a positive impact on others.

 

If you could have one superhuman power – the ability to do anything without limitation - what would it be?

If bestowed with one superhuman power, I would eliminate all judgment from human hearts, replacing it with boundless compassion and understanding. By fostering a world where empathy prevails over judgment, we can build a society that embraces and supports one another, irrespective of our differences.

 

What is your favorite quote or expression?

My favorite quote, shared by my maternal grandfather, Doug Schrader, is "Nothing good comes easy." This powerful statement reminds me of the value of hard work and perseverance. It serves as a constant reminder that the most rewarding achievements in life require dedication and effort.

Mike Elliott
Fellowship term: 24 months

Mike Elliott wants Brooklyn Center’s transformative approach to public safety to serve as a model for systemic change. As the first mayor of color of Minnesota's most diverse metropolitan city, he has worked to ensure problems are addressed with diverse, common-sense approaches, not only by armed force. This important work was thrust into the national spotlight when a Brooklyn Center police officer shot and killed Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in April 2021. Mike recognizes that public safety relies on changes to reactive response systems as well as on increased equitable economic prosperity and strong community relationships. To be a transformative leader of equitable and just public safety, he will study systems change, explore proven safety models, and engage a network of community and thought leaders. He will also develop a practice of self-care to sustain his leadership capacity at this critical time in history.

Emilia Gonzalez Avalos
Fellowship term: 24 months

Emilia Gonzalez Avalos is intent on closing economic, health and leadership gaps for Latinas in Minnesota. She sees immense opportunity to catalyze long-lasting change by leveraging the collectivism and capacity for self-determination of Latina workers, migrants, teens and girls. She wants to tap into their lived experiences and invest in their leadership potential so that those most affected by issues learn to lead on them. She especially seeks to amplify the voices of low-wage and undocumented people, a community she understands as a long-time member of the immigration justice movement. As executive director of Navigate MN/Unidos MN, she grew the organization from a small networking program to a statewide powerhouse, opening doors for others to become recognized experts and organizers. Now, she seeks time to build the inner fortitude and tenacity required to lead even greater change across the region, as well as academic tools to develop models that improve the quality of life for Latinas.

Artika Tyner
Fellowship term: 24 months

Dr. Artika Tyner is an accomplished educator, civil rights attorney, law professor and award-winning children's book author who beat the odds as a child growing up surrounded by incarcerated family members. She immersed herself in books from an early age and became a first-generation college student. Now, she seeks to share the gift of reading with children of color who are growing up in conditions similar to those she experienced. She sees that Minnesota's educational system continues to experience some of the most significant racial disparities in the U.S. and that those disparities show up in the people she serves in the criminal justice system. She wants to employ a cross-sector, intergenerational approach to address the literacy crisis at a statewide level. To lead this change, she will take time to strengthen her leadership and communication skills and build a professional network in the education community. She also will gain organizing skills to raise awareness and mobilize others who share her passion for racial equity.

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay
Fellowship term: 24 months

Saymoukda Duangphouxay Vongsay believes artists can be bold architects of social change. As a leader in Lao American theater and one of the country’s most successful Lao playwrights, she recognizes the tremendous impact that theater has on perceptions of people and communities. She wants to shine a spotlight on Laotian stories and create opportunities for Laotian artists to be disruptors, interrogators, documentarians, instigators and imagineers in the Lao American Theater Movement. To become a prominent leader and spokesperson for Lao American theater, she will expand her connections with established artistic leaders regionally and Laotian artists and communities nationally. She also plans to improve her speaking skills, travel to her ancestral country, and become more fluent in reading, writing and speaking the Lao language.

Pang Yang
Fellowship term: 24 months

Pang Yang is on a mission to close the opportunity gap for Hmong students. She believes that Hmong language reclamation, student-centered learning and student mental health are crucial factors in addressing the gap. Her passion for helping Hmong youth led her to form the nonprofit MN Zej Zog and the National Hmong Language Coalition, a coalition that has 60+ Hmong language teachers working in a multi-state collective to preserve the language through mentorship and collaboration. Now she wants to develop innovative ways to connect more Hmong students to their language and culture and work to give Hmong language teachers the tools they need to be successful. To lead this change, she will improve her Hmong fluency, form broader networks and grow her financial and organizational leadership skills. She also will travel to Southeast Asia to acquire knowledge and stories of the Hmong people.

Funlola Otukoya
Fellowship term: 24 months

Funlola Otukoya wants to help people of color create generational wealth through increased access to capital. He seeks to expand venture capital funding for people of color and remove arbitrary barriers that have prevented investment in diverse entrepreneurs and businesses. As an investment analyst for the McKnight Foundation, he employs an equity lens to invest in promising opportunities that align with his institution’s values. Now he wants to use his talents to invest in people of color to help them build thriving businesses that will attract an ecosystem of new investors. To create a sustainable circle of economic opportunity, he intends to pursue a business degree. He will also engage with and learn from a network of venture capitalists, financial institutions, policy makers and academic leaders who share similar guiding principles.

Comfort Dondo
Fellowship term: 24 months

Comfort Dondo uses her powerful personal story to break the stigma and silence around childhood trauma and childhood sexual abuse in African immigrant communities in Minnesota. She seeks to establish culturally specific mental health healing services and substance abuse support to address what she believes is an invisible epidemic. To bring cultural healing to greater numbers of women in her community, she will build a pool of therapists and coaches who understand the unique challenges of child sexual abuse and gender-based violence toward African immigrant women. She will also research organizations across the country that provide successful culturally specific prevention and intervention strategies. To advance her leadership in this arena, she will complete her doctorate in psychology and family therapy.

Rose Chu
Fellowship term: 38 months

Rose Chu, Ph.D., is on a mission to transform the public narrative about the teaching profession. She believes that teachers uncover the brilliance of students and are a pillar of democracy. Yet she observes that too few people are entering the profession and too many are not staying. Building on her innovative work with TeachMN20/20 and ImprintU, she intends to ignite a social movement that encourages talented people to become teachers, especially those from communities of color and American Indian communities. To lead this bold and visionary effort, she will learn more about strategies for transformative social change and about the public view of teachers in different communities nationally and societies globally. She will also develop leadership skills to scale and sustain her influence, with a commitment to personal healing and restoration.

Hoang Murphy
Fellowship term: 24 months

Hoang Murphy knows personally that the foster care system narrows imagination and hope for too many young people. He imagines a world without the need for foster care, where families are rarely separated and child welfare systems help children dream, not just survive. As founder and leader of Foster Advocates, he helps the people most impacted by the foster care system to lead this change. To achieve a shift in leadership and imagination, he will learn how to build coalitions to work toward transformational change. He will also seek ways to build movements that heal personal and collective trauma. A firm believer that to know where you are going, you must know where you have been, he will return to his ancestral home in Vietnam to learn about his family’s history and reconnect to the culture he was separated from as a refugee at age 2 and again as a refugee from his family at age 11.

Erin Griffin
Fellowship term: 24 months

Erin Griffin (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate) envisions Makoce ataya Dakota Oyate kin Dakota iapi kte, a future where the Dakota Oyate will speak the Dakota language everywhere. From an early age, she wanted to understand and speak Dakota but found it difficult to find effective learning strategies and opportunities to use what she had learned. She has dedicated much of her work and passion to creating spaces for her community to learn the Dakota language and culture. Now, to create even greater change, she knows it is important to establish supportive places for people, especially women, to speak Dakota. To be a leader of this movement, she will finish her doctoral degree in Indigenous language and culture revitalization, increase her proficiency in the Dakota language, and create intentional moments for rest and rejuvenation.

Tashina Banks Rama
Fellowship term: 24 months

Tashina Banks Rama (Oglala Sioux Tribe, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe) comes from a family committed to the ancestral language revitalization movement and to living and teaching the Lakota worldview and philosophy. She envisions a vibrant Oglala community whose healing is informed by stories from ancestors who have passed to the youngest children who are the leaders of tomorrow. As executive vice president of Maȟpíya Luta, or Red Cloud Indian School, she oversees a truth and healing initiative to address the generational harm caused by U.S. boarding school policies. Through the sharing of boarding school history, records and stories, she knows healing is possible. In the context of a Lakota worldview and by acquiring the skills to pair stories with current issues, she will propel positive change within her community and with her neighbors in greater South Dakota.

Pahoua Yang
Fellowship term: 24 months

Pahoua Yang, Ph.D., believes in the power of cultural healing. A leader at Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, the largest regional mental health provider for Southeast Asian communities, she understands how valuable culturally based healing can be yet how infrequently it is included in care. She wants to integrate traditional healing practices within the formal mental health system to improve outcomes for her Hmong community. To lead this visionary expansion in mental health services, she wants to gain more expertise in traditional healing and health care policy to address harmful systemic assumptions and better understand where transformation is possible. She will also study inclusive leadership practices, connect with tribal nations and governmental entities that have piloted successful traditional healing as part of health care, and engage the local Hmong community to build collective will for change.

Bradley Harrington
Fellowship term: 24 months

Bradley Harrington (Nazhike-awaasang; Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe) has a powerful vision to pair technology with Anishinaabe culture to reinvigorate traditional knowledge and language. He wants tribal nations to have access to the tools and spaces they need to create and share culturally specific digital resources. He sees technology as a way to preserve and more easily share the knowledge of elders. He also sees opportunities for Native youth to thrive in a digital world. He seeks to bring his community further into the digital age with apps, websites and digital resources grounded in Indigenous teachings. To lead this change, he will pursue advanced training in technology and organizational leadership. He also will carve out time to spend with tribal elders as well as travel to other Anishinaabe communities to immerse himself in their language, culture and history.

ifrah mansour
Fellowship term: 24 months

ifrah mansour sees art as the way we can heal the world. A child who experienced civil war, famine and refugee camps at an early age, she says her grandmother’s storytelling saved her. A job at a theater during college awakened her own storytelling skills and set her on a path to become a Somali-American female performance artist. She creates original performance pieces that build understanding, empathy and connection within Muslim and greater American communities. Now she wants to reach more people by creating social impact films that amplify and transform her stage work. She believes film can shed light on stories of injustice and resistance, as well as capture the disappearing memories and wisdom of Somali elders. To build her influence and leadership, she will design, seek and complete filmmaking courses and a hands-on apprenticeship. She will also travel to film festivals and build a network of filmmakers.

Jaime Arsenault
Fellowship term: 24 months

Jaime Arsenault has a gift for the challenging work of repatriation, reconciliation and healing. She believes that painful past experiences can be important teachers. In her work with Indigenous nations on repatriation of sacred items, preservation of the environment and reconciliation related to boarding schools, she sees the possibility for writing a new chapter of community wellness. She wants to engage people in conversations to develop actionable plans that promote individual and communal well-being. She will prepare to lead this change by seeking moments of reflection while also talking with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals whose communities have taken bold and imaginative action toward repatriation and reconciliation.

Janice Richards
Fellowship term: 24 months

Janice Richards (Winyan Waste Win-Good Woman; Oglala Sioux Tribe) knows that culture is the key to a better future for the children and families of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Raised in a household deeply steeped in Lakota culture, she is passionate about revitalizing Lakota language and customs to heal and strengthen families. She wants children to live in healthy homes and a safe community, with quality healthcare and strong connections to their Indigenous history and culture. She seeks to create a family and child wellness center grounded in the belief that if you heal a mother, you heal a family, and if you heal a family, you heal a community. With an understanding that this reclamation and wellness work will require communal participation and greater knowledge of Lakota customs, she will pursue a master’s degree in organizational leadership and develop a mentor pool of community leaders and traditional healers.

Kaltun Abdikarani
Fellowship term: 24 months

Kaltun Abdikarani found healing from childhood trauma through faith and community. She believes in the power of human connection and the group environment to cultivate wellness in a culturally responsive way. She seeks to support the faith, well-being and identity development of Muslim-American youth and families by reforming dugsi, the program children ages 5-18 attend to receive an Islamic education. She wants to support dugsi programs in adding faith-based character education and skills necessary for young people to become contributing citizens. To inspire this large community change, she will earn a certificate in Islamic psychology, develop resources and training for dugsi teachers as well as parents, collaborate and seek mentoring from spiritual leaders and mental health professionals, and learn from ethnically and religiously diverse communities how to nurture faith and wellness in a community.

Abdiaziz Ibrahim
Fellowship term: 24 months

Abdiaziz Ibrahim is passionate about connecting immigrant families and families of color to resources that build economic mobility, especially safe, decent and affordable housing. As founder of Immigrant Housing Solutions, and with deep experience with property management and federal rentaI subsidy, he is in a unique leadership position to help families access affordable housing in Minnesota. He sees a significant need for property management companies that are owned and operated by people from his community. He knows how difficult it can be for families to find decent housing and to understand their rights as tenants. He wants to expand affordable housing through outreach to landlords and property managers and by providing a holistic combination of tenant education and financial literacy training. To lead this significant change, he will pursue a master’s degree in business administration, obtain certificates in community building and leadership development, and work with a coach to build stamina and well-being.

Learning log 1
Report date
April 2023

Devon Gilchrist
Fellowship term: 24 months

Devon Gilchrist is on a quest to reimagine the child welfare system in Minnesota, where racial disparities are some of the highest in the country. In his role in the African American Child Well-Being Unit in the state’s Department of Human Services, he has seen the system struggle to meet the unique needs of children of color, thus perpetuating a breakdown of trust and support between the families the system is charged with serving and the system itself. He believes passionately in family preservation, with families offering solutions to their problems instead of the state mandating actions. To advance a more inclusive and equitable child welfare framework, he seeks to develop knowledge of and leadership skills in public policy, organizational psychology and government relations. He also will build a trusted network to share ideas and connect with other leaders to broaden his perspectives.

 

Lori Walsh
Fellowship term: 24 months

Lori Walsh spends each day seeking to transform how we listen to one another. As host to South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s premier talk program, she conducts thought-provoking conversations that advance understanding of issues, identity and connection. She brings to the table a unique combination of art and science as a journalist and an artist, a veteran and a pacifist. She wants communities to form strong and vibrant storytelling networks that employ the tools of journalism to create solutions-based collaborations for local problems. To lead this transformational work, she will weave together technical training, travel, valued connections and personal trauma work. She will build her long-form audio storytelling skills, ensuring the stories are told by the people who lived them. She also will pursue training in nonviolent and compassionate communication to counteract today’s divisive rhetoric.

Rahel Nardos
Fellowship term: 24 months

Dr. Rahel Nardos has a bold vision for ending health disparities for women and girls. She believes the fierce urgency and scale of disparities in women's health requires a population-level focus on root causes and systemic barriers that span culture and geography. From her experiences as a child with health issues growing up in Ethiopia to her current position as Director of Global Women’s Health at University of Minnesota’s Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility, she has been witness to the lack of access women around the world have to quality, respectful and timely health care. She wants to train the next generation of equity-minded women’s health care champions and build trust between women and healthcare institutions. To achieve her large-scale change vision, she will acquire advocacy skills, pursue global health leadership and networking opportunities, learn how to elevate storytelling to improve outcomes in health care, and deepen her mindfulness practice.

Shirley Nordrum
Fellowship term: 9 months

Shirley Nordrum (Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians) has poured her life’s work into her community. As environmental director for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, she built programs to protect reservation resources for future generations, and as co-founder of the Leech Lake Traditional Foods movement she has increased the amount of locally grown and harvested foods. She has infused traditional ecological knowledge into her teaching at Leech Lake Tribal College. Now, she wants to expand culturally relevant science courses in both college and tribal school settings. To lead that change, she will pursue a master’s degree in environmental stewardship, seek ways to improve her facilitation skills and build a network of Native knowledge keepers. With the understanding that she must be in good health to be an effective leader, she will also build practices around self-care and personal sustainability.

Learning log 1
Report date
April 2023

Rania Johnson
Fellowship term: 24 months

Rania Johnson is focused on building opportunities for the diverse Deaf community. She grew up with multiple identities: adopted, Korean, and Deaf, raised by white, Deaf parents. Informed by this background, she is keenly aware of the disparities in language rights, education and services for Deaf people of color. She wants to discover the multiple ways that diverse Deaf people use their experiences to create, shift or shape meaning in their use of American Sign Language (ASL). She seeks to advocate for policies that train more people in the justice, social services and education systems in culturally rich and nuanced ASL. To advance this vision, she will pursue a doctoral program dedicated to training Deaf researchers in linguistic, community and leadership work. She will also expand her national network of BIPOC Deaf leaders.

Prince Corbett
Fellowship term: 24 months

Prince Corbett is a formerly incarcerated individual who is determined to end the income and wealth gap for Black residents in the Twin Cities. As the Racial and Health Equity Administrator for Ramsey County, he understands how government systems and structures must be deconstructed to create more equitable outcomes. He wants to inspire greater urgency and build new coalitions to close income and wealth gaps. He brings to this challenge passion and the facilitation skills to deal with challenging situations and conflicts of interest. To serve as a leader of this large-scale change, he will build connections across community organizations and public systems. He also will develop stronger project management and community organizing skills and grow his understanding of public policy and effective economic development theories and strategies.

Farhio Khalif
Fellowship term: 24 months

Farhio Khalif is a passionate advocate for East African women and girls. She wants to make sure their voices are heard and their needs clearly understood. An influential voice in her community, she frequently challenges cultural practices that are harmful and illegal. She founded the first shelter in the U.S. for East African and Muslim women who experience homelessness or domestic and sexual assault, and she has worked extensively with government and community leaders to address violence against women, Islamophobia, hate crimes, and the need for equity and inclusion. To elevate her leadership and amplify voices in her community, she understands that she needs greater policy development, advocacy and communication skills. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in public health and public policy, enhance her storytelling skills in English and seek mentoring with local policy makers.

Learning log 4
Report date
April 2023

Justin Terrell
Fellowship term: 24 months

Justin Terrell wants the justice system to include repair and healing rather than only crime and punishment. He imagines a more equitable system that both responds to people who cause harm and ensures that people and communities who have been harmed have an opportunity to heal. As head of the Minnesota Justice Research Center, he oversees research, education and policy that provides the community with the tools and information for justice reform. He envisions a humane and fair system that is steeped in anti-racist philosophy and practices. To advance his bold vision, he will pursue leadership coaching, mentoring and training to create transformational change.

Laetitia M. Hellerud
Fellowship term: 24 months

Laetitia Hellerud was raised to be courageous and engaged in the world. Her parents modeled service and commitment to community, values she carried with her as a refugee from Burundi to Fargo. In her new home, she rose from volunteer and entry-level positions to head of a program for New Americans to a leader in a multi-sector workforce development coalition. She is deeply involved in and committed to civic life in the Fargo and West Fargo areas, where she sees New Americans investing in the community by buying homes and operating businesses. But she still sees few people of color on the governing bodies in her community. To equip and engage more New Americans and people of color to serve, she will build skills in community organizing and seek advanced leadership training.

Michael Jon Westerhaus
Fellowship term: 24 months

Michael Jon Westerhaus understood early in his medical career that many people die from inequitable social conditions rather than from medical issues. He observes that many physicians lack the skills, capacity or connections to address social factors. He wants to develop a thriving network of physicians in Minnesota who help erase the state’s health inequities through anti-racism in their clinical practices and teaching. He believes that storytelling is an effective way to help practitioners embrace this work. To lead change in the medical field, he will deepen his ability to convey personal and community narratives, using performance to help clinicians understand social forces that set patterns of disease and wellness. He will also strengthen connections with community organizations that are addressing inequities to bring greater justice and perspective to the practice of medicine.

Dr. Rachel Renee Hardeman
Fellowship term: 24 months

Dr. Rachel Renee Hardeman comes from people who are deeply committed to Black liberation. She was raised to question everything, seek the truth and use it to create change. Her research over the past decade as an associate professor at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health exposes structural racism as a fundamental cause of health inequity. As leader of the University’s newly formed Center for Antiracism Research for Health Equity, she will generate rigorous research and community knowledge to dismantle the racism at the core of health inequities. She understands this work will require complementary skills to those cultivated in academia. She will pursue formal leadership training, executive coaching aimed at nurturing Black women leaders, and media coaching to cultivate a larger platform as a change agent.

Michelle Tran Maryns
Fellowship term: 24 months

Michelle Tran Maryns wants to leverage technology to increase the success of small businesses, especially those run by women of color. She seeks to create a stronger, more inclusive economy by equipping entrepreneurs with the technology tools they need to thrive. As a foreign service officer, she led design of the U.S. Department of State’s first-ever mobile app, an experience that helped her understand the power of technology to lead change on a massive scale. Now she has turned her attention to helping small businesses, which make up more than 90 percent of all businesses in the U.S. To transform her leadership so she can support entrepreneurs of color with technology solutions, she will invest in financial management training and greater understanding of social enterprise models. She will also build global collaborations to distribute regional accomplishments to a wider audience.

Patricia Acevedo Fuentes
Fellowship term: 24 months

Patricia Acevedo Fuentes is passionate about equitable community design. She understands that architecture is powerful and permanent but sees that her field often ignores the impact one building can have on an entire community. As an architect, she seeks to make the design and construction of places and spaces more equitable and inclusive. One of the few Latinas in her profession and in the region, she wants to play a leading role in creating communities of justice and belonging. She will expand her knowledge of public policy to better address exclusionary practices and funding formulas that adversely affect rural and remote areas. She will also build connections with leaders engaged in the design and spatial justice movement.

Jodi Rave Spotted Bear
Fellowship term: 24 months

Jodi Rave Spotted Bear (Mandan, Hidatsa and Mniconjou Lakota) is called to amplify the voice of Native Americans. She believes deeply in the freedom of the press in Indian Country to reflect the needs and voices of the people. She wants independent media to help Native Nations embrace true tribal sovereignty. She was the first Native American to have a national news beat devoted to Indigenous issues in the mainstream press and the first American Indian woman awarded a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University. As founder of the Indigenous Media Freedom Alliance, she is leading a large-scale change to elevate the people’s voice and to promote accountability of tribal government. To realize her vision for change, she will seek mentoring from Native leaders who have succeeded in creating independent news sources and seek training to build the business and leadership skills necessary to lead community-wide change.

Kimimila Locke
Fellowship term: 24 months

Kimimila Locke (Dakota, Ahtna Dené & Anishnaabe) is on a quest to radically improve educational outcomes for Lakota youth. Over the past two decades, she has embedded culture and community strengths in learning to help students achieve significant academic results. Now, with a group of committed colleagues, she has returned to Standing Rock to open a high school that embraces Lakota traditions. She seeks to create safe spaces that reconnect youth to their land and to the strengths of their culture. She also wants to expand this vision to other Indigenous communities struggling with such issues as loss of language, sovereignty and economic inequality. To lead this large-scale change, she will study and learn from programs around the country and world that are successfully building Indigenous sovereignty and revitalizing language and other traditions with youth.

Courtney Schaff
Fellowship term: 24 months

Courtney Schaff believes in the power of collective action to shape the world. An organizer with North Dakota United, she has bolstered membership in the state’s education and public employee unions, helped remove punitive collection practices from school district policies, and championed universal school meals. She has learned how to help people and organizations name their problems, identify solutions, and use collective action to drive change. Now she wants to build a more equitable North Dakota by encouraging people to use their collective power to influence policy. She also wants to shift the legislature to a body that includes a more inclusive representation of all people in the state. To be a strong leader of this systemic change, she will seek advanced education in public policy, mentors in organizing strategy, and training in anti-racism practices.

Nathan Caleb Johnson
Fellowship term: 24 months

Nathan Caleb Johnson sees a deep need for people of color to have a more equitable role in creating buildings and spaces in their communities. He wants design and construction processes to change to be more inclusive and to have greater economic impact for communities of color. From his work on the Rondo Commemorative Plaza, he observed how a small project with broad input can catalyze a large-scale proposal for change. To help the architectural and construction fields embrace a leading role in creating economic and racial justice, he will visit cities around the world to develop new models for community-engaged development. He will also study leadership methods that inspire equitable solutions and lead efforts to diversify the architecture profession.

Natalie Nicholson
Fellowship term: 24 months

Natalie Nicholson (Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation) understands the persistence required to achieve a dream. The former Olympian and world champion curler was also a first-generation college student. As a nurse, she co-leads the Indigenous Breastfeeding Coalition in Minnesota to help re-establish a strong, traditional breastfeeding support network for Indigenous families and caregivers, and to help health care providers understand how to help improve rates of breastfeeding in Native communities. She wants to address health disparities in Native populations by providing culturally specific health care services for Indigenous people. She seeks to blend Western medicine and traditional Native American healing practices with her community members. To advance her vision, she will study with Indigenous advisors and healers, complete her doctorate in nursing practice, and take the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant exam in the future, which will make her one of only a dozen Native Americans in the country to hold this lactation certification. She will also seek training in leading complex systems through change.

Mai Thor
Fellowship term: 24 months

Mai Thor seeks to embed disability justice in the work of larger justice and equity movements. As a person living with a disability and as a leader who has helped design more accessible and inclusive systems for people with disabilities, she sees that social justice movements often leave disability out of their efforts. She wants to transform these movements to be completely accessible and inclusive so that every march, rally or community meeting is informed by a disability perspective. To grow her capacity to lead, she will study ableism and disability culture, history and law. She will also convene a network of social justice and disability justice leaders to build understanding and greater solidarity.