Gene Gelgelu envisions a Minnesota where African immigrants play a major role in the economy. He wants African immigrants to build wealth and sustainability as they become more deeply engaged in the region. An immigrant from Ethiopia, he understands the challenges of and opportunities for building full economic participation in a new country. Under his leadership, African Economic Development Solutions has incubated numerous culturally specific businesses and launched Little Africa, a creative placemaking effort in the heart of Saint Paul. With his Bush Fellowship, he will broaden his knowledge of regional economic policy, build a local and national network to lead more effectively and contribute to solving racial disparities in Minnesota.
Corey Martin is driven to build resiliency, vulnerability and compassion into healthcare systems, schools, police departments, businesses and homes. He is a physician whose journey of self-reflection and growth led him to found the Bounce Back Project, a community initiative to promote health through happiness. He also is lead physician in Allina Health’s response to clinician burnout. He wants to incorporate positivity and resilience practices into his local health care system and improve mental health throughout his community. He will use his Bush Fellowship to pursue advanced leadership training, build his own mindfulness practice and become a certified facilitator in The Daring Way and Center for Courage and Renewal.
Neda Kellogg recognizes her young self in the Black female teens she works with in Minneapolis. She understands the barriers they face, their inherent potential and their need for support to transition successfully into adulthood. She seeks to inspire them through her own leadership and through role models who look like them. To increase her leadership in this arena, she seeks greater understanding of the systemic and personal barriers she and the young women she serves face. With her Bush Fellowship, she will take time to reflect, study and develop successful strategies with the assistance of strategic coaches.
Erik Bringswhite wants his community to raise healthy, ethical Native children. As a long-time foster parent and juvenile justice worker, he is a role model to many on the Pine Ridge Reservation and in the state of South Dakota. Now, he wants to increase his confidence and ability to bring the Native perspective to tables where decisions are made. He believes that courageous, confident Native leaders are vital for finding culturally appropriate, lasting solutions for their people. To become that bold leader, he will earn his master's degree in social work, develop cultural resources for raising healthy children and expand his connections with Native and non-Native leaders.
Dr. Tamim Saidi envisions a community where people of all faiths live peacefully without bigotry or discrimination. A refugee from Afghanistan who earned a doctorate in pharmacy after arriving in Minnesota, he has also become a part-time imam and activist with a passion for building trust and connections between Muslim Minnesotans and the wider community. Now, to be a transformational leader for his community, he seeks to maximize his efforts as an imam with the skills to bridge cultural and religious differences. With his Bush Fellowship, he will pursue double master's degrees in Islamic studies and leadership.
Nicholas Kor believes that organizing can change the world. Yet, he observes that Asian Americans are often left out of political and public discourse, which marginalizes his community’s voice. He wants to create a powerful, connected and civically engaged Asian Pacific Islander movement in Minnesota and across the country. Understanding that movements flourish based on the capacity of their leaders, he seeks to grow his confidence and skills to be a stronger, more liberated leader. He will form meaningful relationships with movement leaders across the country to understand how to grow and sustain coalitions and hone strategies to engage Asian Americans at a grassroots level.
Kristin DeArruda Wharton wants to redefine the rural health care model. She seeks to combine expanded opportunities for nurse practitioners to provide whole-person care with a focus on social and community factors that influence well-being. She believes this holistic model could deliver solutions to rural areas that struggle to maintain strong local health care systems. With her Bush Fellowship, she will pursue education as an integrative nurse practitioner and study successful rural models that bridge the divide between health care and community sources of health and vitality. She also will expand her network of health, policy and community mentors to increase her reach and effectiveness as a rural health advocate.
Ahmed Hassan wants to create a model of mental health delivery that is more compatible with the cultural beliefs, attitudes and needs of immigrants and refugees. As a refugee from Djibouti, he understands that many people in his community come to the U.S. with trauma and need mental health services. However, he also observes that many immigrants and refugees do not understand Western concepts and delivery methods and therefore do not access services. He will use his Bush Fellowship to expand his expertise in the field of psychology to better link cultural beliefs and stories with modern mental health practices. He also will grow his communication skills and develop a stronger professional network.
Shawntera M. Hardy imagines a world where demographics do not define a person's destiny. As Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, she has seen firsthand the challenges entrepreneurs of color face. She wants people of color and Indigenous communities to share in the state's prosperity and be governed by equitable policies. With the belief that the most effective leaders are learners first, she will pursue advanced training in business administration, executive leadership and design thinking. She seeks to expand her understanding of the business ownership system and to study promising ideas and models that deliver practical and creative solutions.
John Davis’s passion is rural. He imagines thriving rural communities that use the arts and creativity to solve local challenges, drive sustainable economic development and address obstacles to change. He seeks the tools, experiences and opportunities to broaden his scale of influence to be an authentic and compassionate thought leader for people in rural communities across the country. To amplify his voice for rural advocacy, he will partner with the Rural Policy Research Institute and regional colleagues to study effective rural strategies and to better understand the correlation of public policy and rural sustainability.
Jeff Dykstra believes that cross-sector collaboration can result in powerful solutions to persistently intractable problems. As co-founder and CEO of Partners in Food Solutions, a successful consortium of global food companies that works with local food companies across Africa to improve food security and economic development, he has learned firsthand how partnerships involving public, private and nonprofit entities can drive social impact. He wants to become a leader who can wisely counsel others in this arena and wants to reflect on and better understand the components of leadership and principles of partnership that drive cross-sector success. With his Bush Fellowship, he will research other successful examples of partnerships, deepen his own leadership abilities and develop the tools and skills to coach the next generation of impact-oriented leaders.
Neil Linscheid wants to start a national conversation about how to design a better, more human-centered approach to the work of community development. In his role with University of Minnesota Extension, he sees committed people struggle with solving difficult community challenges. He wants to bring together the fields of community development and human ergonomics to improve the way these workers are trained, supported and equipped. With his Bush Fellowship, he will compete a PhD in human factor and ergonomics, apply his newly acquired knowledge to community development and increase his strategic communication skills to share the need for and impact of his work.
Scott Glew is convinced that the health of our communities depends on how well we prepare the next generation for civic life. He enlisted in the Army National Guard shortly after 9/11 and was later deployed to Iraq, where he directly felt the human impact of war. Today, as a teacher he finds that most American children are disconnected from the realities of global conflicts, which take place thousands of miles away and involve only a small percentage of the U.S. population. He is passionate about moving social studies education to the forefront of student learning. With his Bush Fellowship, he will earn a PhD to build the knowledge he needs to influence a systemic change in education. He also will pursue opportunities to further understand how to build and maintain peaceful, democratic societies.
Pheng Thao wants men in his community to be active partners in ending domestic violence and sexual assault. He believes it is possible to create spaces where those who have committed and experienced harm can heal and ultimately thrive. He seeks to shift Hmong men’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviors about gender, patriarchy and violence. To lead this change, he will strengthen his facilitation and communications skills and widen and deepen his understanding of the history and evolution of masculinity and manhood in Hmong culture. He will also use his Bush Fellowship to explore how matrilineal communities have dismantled patriarchal attitudes and to develop new ideas and images of Hmong maleness.
Alice Musumba is passionate about helping immigrants thrive in Bismarck. She sees the positive impact they have on the wider community when they share their unique cultural identities and experiences. She wants to organize her fellow Kenyans in the Bismarck-Mandan area into a tight-knit community that provides the support that all newly arriving immigrants need to succeed. With her Bush Fellowship, she will study immigrant communities across the country, tap into their most successful practices for integrating new populations and apply those lessons in the Bismarck area. She also will pursue a doctor of public health degree to increase her knowledge of practical public health approaches and solutions for immigrants.
Brenda Hartman has lived nearly three decades longer than expected after receiving a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. Over those years, she has devoted herself to addressing the social, emotional and spiritual aspects of the cancer experience. She sees a strong need to promote a cultural shift in society’s response to death. She wants to introduce a narrative that counters fear and denial with a view of death as a healing process. She seeks new ways to incorporate end-of-life planning into training for healthcare professionals. With her Bush Fellowship, she will study end-of-life practices from different cultures, religions and spiritual traditions and grow her leadership skills through coursework and consultation.
Marcus Owens is a fourth-generation North Minneapolis resident who is deeply invested in the health of his community. A corporate-turned-nonprofit leader, he employs research, data and anecdotal information to understand the root causes of problems. He wants to study communities with proven records of improving quality of life and bring innovative ideas about successful community development back to the north side of Minneapolis. With his Bush Fellowship, he will seek training with national and international experts in the field of innovative community development, increase his knowledge of wealth-building strategies for low- to moderate-income communities and develop the skills to be a leader who drives sustainable change.
Mohamed Ahmed uses popular culture to promote peace, democracy and anti-extremism with youth. Through his organization, Average Mohamed, he speaks to thousands of youth and creates safe, healthy spaces for difficult conversations. He also consults with the Department of Homeland Security, Attorney General’s Office and State Department. Now, he wants to develop his personal leadership abilities to help others carry the messages of Average Mohamed to a wider audience. With his Bush Fellowship, he will finish his bachelor’s degree in communication studies, seek mentorship from other successful anti-extremism programs across the country and build his leadership skills through formal communications training.
Dr. Benson Hsu wants to revolutionize rural health care. As a pediatric intensive care unit doctor, he understands that the community's health is affected not only by access to health care but also by health behaviors, socioeconomic factors and the physical environment. He wants to integrate health care and community data to improve the way we care for the sick and the way we maintain health. He recognizes that this work will require strong leadership to bring together payers, providers and the community. To grow his abilities to lead in this arena, he will advance his data analytics ability, study design thinking to learn how to take an idea to action and strengthen his conflict and change management skills.
Chef Sean Sherman, Oglala Lakota Sioux, knows that food is the heart of every culture. He also understands that his fellow Native Americans were stripped of their connections to Indigenous food systems and practices. To build his community's physical, economic and spiritual strength, he wants to reconnect Native communities with traditional food knowledge and to Native agriculture systems. While he began this work as founder of The Sioux Chef and NATIFS, he now seeks to become the visionary leader his community needs through building an extensive global network and gaining deeper knowledge of Indigenous culture and foods. With his Bush Fellowship, he will research, create, cultivate and share Indigenous food systems and further his Lakota, Ojibwe and Spanish language skills.
Hussein Farah wants his community to prosper by embracing technology to build financial stability. He believes that equitable access to information technology can drive a more inclusive and harmonious life for all Minnesotans, especially his fellow African immigrants. He seeks to be a forceful advocate for policies, resources and programs that ensure people of color participate in the high-tech sector. To grow into this role and to become a thought leader at the center of the digital ecosystem, he will expand his professional network, broaden his expertise in the field of information technology, pursue leadership training and study organizations with successful track records of attracting immigrant youth to the technology sector.
Tomi Phillips wants to transform the way we educate Native students. She seeks to instill in teachers a deeper understanding of different world views and learning styles. Her goals are to inspire positive changes in tribal education, encourage more Native people to become teachers and deepen the pool of non-Native teachers who are in tune with the relational way Native children see the world. After years of being a principal, she seeks to expand her knowledge, network and influence by earning a doctorate degree in educational leadership.
Sharon Kennedy Vickers aims to make Minnesota the best place in the country to launch and grow technology products that have a positive social impact. She wants to lead a “tech for good” movement, harnessing the power of inclusion, technology and community assets to drive equitable economic opportunity and growth for all Minnesotans. In particular, she wants to make sure communities of color have the resources and access to bring game-changing ideas to the marketplace. To ensure her capacity to lead, she will improve her communication skills and build strategic relationships with local, national and international tech leaders. She will also pursue advanced education in strategy, technology innovation, artificial intelligence and human-centered design.
Dr. Joanna Ramirez Barrett sees women entrepreneurs of color — the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs — as a solution to the racial wealth gap. From her work with the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (Meda), she knows that entrepreneurship among families of color increases income at significant rates. She wants to be at the forefront of creating a vibrant business ecosystem that supports women entrepreneurs of color. With the understanding that this work will take compelling leadership, she seeks to grow from successful program manager to strategic leader. She will immerse herself in leadership programs for women and study innovative social entrepreneurship models.
Asad Aliweyd wants to develop transformative ways for Muslim people to build wealth. He believes a new, culturally responsive financing infrastructure that addresses current barriers can advance the economic well-being of Muslim Americans in Minnesota and beyond. He seeks to bring innovative change to financial institutions that deal with diverse communities. To elevate his leadership in the community, he needs to better understand Western and Islamic financing systems and to grow his connections. He will complete a doctorate in public administration and build a new network of community developers, financial institutions, policy makers, and academic and religious leaders.
Larry A. McKenzie has always understood his purpose: to make a difference in the lives of young men, particularly African Americans in urban settings. As a high school basketball coach, he has a long track record of developing top athletes who are also excellent students. Because he believes that coaches are powerful influences in helping young people become champions in the classroom, in their families and in their communities, he wants to engage them in closing the achievement gap and reducing crime. To become a leader who can inspire and influence this next generation of coaches, he needs to develop new skills to amplify his voice and vision. With his Bush Fellowship, he will complete a master's in athletic leadership and development and seek executive leadership training.
Amanda LaGrange believes the Midwest's generous business community provides fertile soil for social enterprises that hire adults facing employment barriers. As the leader of Tech Dump, a nonprofit that provides job training for people exiting incarceration and recovery programs, she sees the need for adults to regain dignity through work and for a workforce facing shortages to gain skilled workers. She wants to exponentially scale this social enterprise but understands her bold vision requires new knowledge, advanced leadership skills and an increased ability to take risks. She will study successful for-profit and nonprofit social enterprises around the country and seek business mentors to equip her for a new leadership trajectory.
Catherine Squires wants to transform schools into spaces of intentional, intergenerational learning and healing. She seeks new ways to design learning programs that bring together underserved youth, adults and elders to reflect, share stories, reclaim their heritage and repair broken bonds. She wants youth to learn directly from the stories of elders and to make connections between historical challenges and contemporary issues. With her Bush Fellowship, she deepen her understanding of the connections between healing and storytelling at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, the Loft Literary Center and site visits to intergenerational healing programs in the U.S and Canada.
Yende Anderson has a bold vision to address the shortage of primary care physicians in the region and the lack of diversity in the profession. In her work to integrate international medical graduates into the health workforce, she sees the under-utilization of highly skilled immigrants and the systemic barriers they face. She wants to lead a movement that creates alternative pathways for them to work as physicians in the U.S. To achieve change of this magnitude, she will grow her capacity to build and sustain coalitions. She will also earn her master’s degree in health care administration, research countries that have created alternative licensure and work with mentors to improve her change management skills.
Vaughn Vargas knows that an effective police force needs to reflect the racial makeup of the community it is sworn to protect. He is coordinator of the first-ever cultural advisory committee in South Dakota for a law enforcement agency, an appointment he took on while completing his engineering degree. He wants to help diversify law enforcement agencies through focusing on organizational behavior and culture. With his Bush Fellowship, he will develop new methods to recruit and retain Native American police officers; he will also attend the Harvard Extension School for leadership training. His personal development will focus on research in historical Lakota leadership and diplomatic relations.
Roxanne Anderson believes vital, visible transgender leaders of color can make our communities stronger. Rox intends to be that kind of leader in Minnesota by helping shape and create places where LGBTQ people thrive. To assume this position of leadership, Rox seeks a deeper understanding of the community's needs and mentoring to build unity among people and organizations serving transgender people of color. Through the Bush Fellowship, Rox will develop business acumen and credentials, work with coaches to articulate a healthy leadership development plan and form connections across the country with transgender leaders of color.
Emmanuel Oppong knows that the words “mental health” are not found in many cultures, including that of his native Ghana. Yet as a counselor working with immigrants and refugees, he understands that many of these newly arrived people need support to deal with trauma and culture shock. He wants to build cultural sensitivity into and increased access to mental health services in Minnesota. In his dual role as Community Engagement Coordinator in the Mayor of Saint Cloud’s office, he also seeks to improve race relations in a city growing in diversity. With his Bush Fellowship, he will pursue learning and networking opportunities with experts in the fields of diversity, inclusion and trauma-informed therapy.
Rhiana Yazzie uses storytelling to create original work that reveals the complex, beautiful reality of Native Americans. She wants to help Native people reclaim their narrative and to change the way they view themselves. She believes that the self-expression found in playwrighting, acting, design and filmmaking can help people find their place in the world. But as the head of one of the only Native-focused theater companies in the country, she is often isolated in her leadership. With her Bush Fellowship, she will seek connections with aboriginal theatre companies around the globe and pursue coaching to develop a strategic leadership plan that reflects her artistic ambitions and cultural values.
Tyler Read employs art as his tool to improve his community. He believes that art can help young people form their identity and be more engaged in the world around them. He discovered this himself when he moved to Rapid City in 2004 with no understanding of what “community” could mean. Through art, he found success and belonging in his new home. He is passionate about the role public art spaces can play in fostering equity, empathy and shared responsibility. With his Bush Fellowship, he will connect with leading public arts programs across the country to gain new perspectives and knowledge. He also will forge new paths of leadership by offering his expertise and experiences with curious communities and potential collaborators.
Melissa Boyd wants to help lead the movement to re-stabilize and renew the Ojibwe language in the homelands of her people, starting in the classrooms of youngest learners. Her goal is to create Ojibwe schools recognized for both cultural and academic excellence. She will explore how to replicate in her community the ways the Hawaiian nation created nearly 20,000 proficient indigenous speakers. To master her craft and advance her leadership skills, she will use her Bush Fellowship to finish her bachelor degree in elementary education, complete a certificate of contemporary indigenous multilingualism at the University of Hawaii and study behavior design through Stanford School of Medicine and the engagedIN behavior design firm.
Robin David wants her community to become a national model for how to welcome New Americans and help them build the collective strength of the region. The founder of a refugee integration program, she has witnessed New Americans’ positive impact on the state and sees their great civic potential. Now, through her Bush Fellowship, she seeks to expand her influence by building a bigger base of knowledge and ideas through connections with national immigration experts and organizations. She will also grow her skills to more effectively foster understanding between New Americans and the elected officials, policy makers and business leaders in her state.
Heather Dawn Thompson wants to engage the private sector to assist the Great Plains Tribes in their efforts to build their strength and self-sufficiency. She is a national expert in Indian law and economic development who seeks greater expertise to respond to dwindling federal assistance and limited grant opportunities for Native nations. She believes that long-term self-sufficiency can come with growth in the financial proficiency needed to compete in a complicated private marketplace. She also believes strong leadership requires the wisdom that the Lakota language and values provide. She will use her Bush Fellowship to pursue corporate finance training, combining it with a focus on traditional Lakota values of leadership, language and self-sufficiency.
Abdi Sabrie believes in the power of education to be an equalizing force, yet daily he witnesses barriers and gaps in educational systems for students of color. He wants to diversify school boards, teachers and staff to reflect and better serve the changing demographics of Minnesota communities. As the first person of color elected to the Mankato School Board, he understands the lack of diversity in educational leadership. To become a powerful and persuasive leader, he will enhance his communication skills, meet with other school leaders of color across the country to develop effective diversity strategies and earn a master's degree in educational leadership.