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. 

Eric Yusef Mahmoud
Fellowship term: 24 months

As founder of the Harvest Network of Schools, Eric Mahmoud is using education as the lever for changing the narrative of what’s possible for African American and poor children. His work is strongly rooted in the belief that children from even the most challenging circumstances can achieve at high levels if the adults who teach them are bold enough, organized enough and have faith enough in their abilities. With his Bush Fellowship, Eric will pursue advanced education and training from the country’s most effective educational practitioners and shadow successful educational CEOs from around the country, using what he learns to expand his successful Harvest Network.

Michael J. Strand
Fellowship term: 24 months

Michael Strand fears our technology has compromised our ability to tackle complex challenges. Issues that could easily be resolved through conversation are now recast as "zero-sum" games with a clear "winners" and "losers." Social media has amplified this transformation by creating a digital distance between people. Michael, an assistant professor and department head of visual arts at North Dakota State University, will use his Fellowship to increase his depth of knowledge in complimentary fields such as rhetoric and communications, then leverage this knowledge to expand the depth of his artistic practice, and finally work with North Dakota State University Extension Services to introduce his work to the community.

Ernesto Velez Bustos
Fellowship term: 24 months

Ernesto Bustos knows that leaving an organization can be as challenging as running it. After more than a decade in multiple roles with Centro Campesino, including his current position as executive director, he is focused on who comes after him. He will use his Bush Fellowship to develop a system that inspires a new generation of youth leaders. He will grow his knowledge and skills through study and mentorship with innovative local and national leaders, transferring what he learns to his community to build the social, economic, political and cultural wealth of Latinos.

Elena R. Gaarder
Fellowship term: 24 months

In her community-based work, Elena Gaarder finds herself returning over and over to the same questions: What mix of policies, investments, partners and initiatives truly would shift the balance so that disadvantaged neighborhoods become opportunity-rich communities? And importantly, what can she do differently to be a more effective leader? These questions will drive her Bush Fellowship’s focus on deepening her abilities to build successful alliances and partnerships and on increasing her knowledge of social enterprise and worker cooperative models that have proven to transform the economics of communities across the U.S.

Jennifer A. Waltman
Fellowship term: 24 months

In 2009, Marge Anderson, then the chief executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, tapped Jennifer Waltman to join her cabinet as commissioner of community development. Jennifer wasn't sure she was the right fit for the job, but Anderson, who passed away last year, challenged her to step out of her comfort zone and step up as a leader. The experience inspired her to not only serve the Tribe, but to also go back to school to earn a degree in psychology and pursue a career as a therapist. Jennifer has seen first-hand how untreated trauma has contributed to mental health disparities among Native Americans. She will use her Fellowship to develop integrated mental health and medical services that aim to eliminate mental health stigma.

Richard W. Iron Cloud
Fellowship term: 24 months

Lakota peace-making has a long tradition in Richard Iron Cloud's family--his grandparents participated in the 1851 and 1868 Peace Treaty at Fort Laramie both as leaders and interpreters. Richard will use his Bush Fellowship to complete a Ph.D. in psychology and focus his dissertation on Indigenous peace-making systems. The increased knowledge and leadership capacity he will gain through the Fellowship will support him in bringing a peace-making structure to his work for the Oglala Sioux Tribe, where he is charged with updating and maintaining its natural resources code.

Makram El-Amin
Fellowship term: 24 months

As imam of Masjid An-Nur in North Minneapolis, Makram El-Amin’s work extends beyond the 200 families who call the mosque their spiritual home to include the neighborhood and to touch on diverse issues of crosscultural understanding, home ownership, immigration reform and civic engagement. With his Bush Fellowship, he hopes to learn from the experience of past cultural groups—African Americans, Catholics, Jews and the Irish—who were at one time viewed as “the other.” By expanding his leadership capacity, he believes he can act as a bridge of understanding that will offer Minnesota Muslims the chance to fully contribute to their communities, schools and cultural organizations.

Sarah Bellamy
Fellowship term: 24 months

As co-artistic director of Penumbra Theatre Company, Sarah Bellamy imagines a future where Penumbra is not only the nation’s leading African American theater troupe but also a beacon for reigniting a shared civic passion and responsibility for healthy communities. To achieve that vision, she knows it will take a whole new way of thinking about the structure and operations of Penumbra. Sarah will use her Bush Fellowship to work with innovative leaders to harvest the best thinking on how arts, education and advocacy can work together to create lasting social and economic equity.

Natalie Bergquist
Fellowship term: 24 months

Natalie Bergquist tells her students at Lower Brule Community College that college is their “sanctuary from negativity.” That is something she learned first-hand as a single mother, pursuing her college degree as a nontraditional student in her 30s. In her eyes, education does far more than provide credentials; it proves a person’s determination to seek a better life. Today, as president and CEO of Lower Brule Community College, Natalie works to instill hope and support lasting change in her students, most of whom come from backgrounds that offer little support for higher education. With her Bush Fellowship, she will pursue a doctorate in higher education, with a focus on tribal college leadership.

Matthew P. Ehlman
Fellowship term: 24 months

Matthew Ehlman wants to challenge conventional wisdom about philanthropy in rural communities. Having raised millions of dollars for Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation and for other nonprofit organizations through his firm The Numad Group, he seeks to bring a rejuvenated model of philanthropy and nonprofit management to rural communities. During his Fellowship, Matthew will complete a PhD in philanthropic studies to increase his capacity to establish a rural philanthropy institute focused on research and bringing accurate data to decision-making in rural areas.

Irene K. Fernando
Fellowship term: 24 months

Irene Fernando believes deeply that new leadership is integral to organizational success. That’s why she and her two co-executive directors at Students Today Leaders Forever designed a model that requires each of them to transition out of leading the organization. Her willingness to plan herself out of a job is rooted in a mission to help cultivate a new generation of civic-minded leaders. She imagines a world where an organization’s leadership model is as important as its operating and financial models. Irene will use her Bush Fellowship to further her education in the areas of leadership theory, management structures and organizational design.

Latasha D. Gandy
Fellowship term: 24 months

When Latasha Gandy was struggling to help her third-grade daughter with reading, she came to an important realization: not only was the system failing her child, but it had also failed her years before. Despite graduating with a 4.2 GPA from high school, Latasha still had to take remedial courses in college. This realization ignited her passion for educational equity and led to a leadership role with Students for Education Reform. She will pursue a JD and executive leadership training with her Bush Fellowship, expanding her network and skills to tackle the opportunity gap in education.

Alex Zeibot
Fellowship term: 24 months

Language is the key to Alex Zeibot’s universe. Born Deaf in Riga, Latvia, and initially only exposed to language through text, he attended a Deaf school in St. Petersburg, Russia, where his life changed when he was introduced to a “manual” language. His journey brought him to the U.S. where he earned a bachelor’s degree from Gallaudet and a master’s in Deaf education from the University of Minnesota. Recognizing that Deaf students who graduate from high school have a median reading level a few grades behind their hearing peers—and that Deaf and hearing students learn literacy skills through entirely different brain processes—Alex seeks to develop an effective curriculum that helps Deaf children overcome the literacy gap. He will use his Bush Fellowship to earn his PhD.

David Whitesock
Fellowship term: 24 months

David Whitestock understands what it takes to get well. Ten years ago, mired in drug and alcohol addiction, he began his recovery, learning what it takes to get and stay sober. Today, he has earned a law degree and is the nation’s first and only “addiction informatics officer,” working with Face It TOGETHER to lead the charge in using “big data” to promote a holistic approach to treating addiction. With his Bush Fellowship, he will explore ways to help nonprofits measure social impact and to be smarter at applying precious resources toward solving community problems such as addiction.

Kevin Killer
Fellowship term: 24 months

As the youngest Native American ever elected to the South Dakota Legislature, and one of only two tribal members in the state’s House of Representatives, Kevin Killer is entering what must be his final term with his eye on the next generation. Who will succeed him, and how can he help build more leaders from Pine Ridge and other Native communities in his state? Kevin will use his Bush Fellowship to build the leadership skills he needs to inspire and amplify tribal voices in community decision-making and to provide Native communities with an asset-based approach to the future.

Adam B. Perry
Fellowship term: 24 months

Even though Adam Perry is living with a degenerative eye disease that has taken most of his usable sight, he believes he has never lost his vision. As a senior program director at Arts Midwest, overseeing complex international initiatives with musicians, authors and filmmakers, he knows that his disability doesn’t disqualify him as a leader. But he also recognizes that much of the world does not necessarily have the same understanding about people with disabilities. With his Bush Fellowship, he will grow his competency in cross-cultural communications and nonprofit management to continue his transition from “operator” to “leader.”

Chris Francis
Fellowship term: 24 months

As a college student, Chris Francis learned personally the power of one effective teacher to inspire a student as both an artist and community member. Today, he is an artist, advocate and administrator deeply embedded in his South Dakota community. Chris would like to be that same kind of mentor to college students, particularly to help them understand the value and significance of the arts in communal life. He will use his Bush Fellowship to achieve a master’s degree that will provide him with the credentials to teach at the college level.

Maureen P. Ramirez
Fellowship term: 35 months

Maureen Ramirez started working at the University of Minnesota in 2001 in Latino student recruitment. She quickly saw how the system worked against students, particularly those who were undocumented, and was determined to act. Maureen started organizing Dream Act campaigns, but she knew she could do more by working to make changes within the system. With the help of a team of friends and supporters. she was elected to the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents. Maureen wants to continue to change institutions from within. She will use her Fellowship to further develop her leadership and administrative skills to become a transformative leader who can help restore trust in our public institutions.

Jamal A. Adam
Fellowship term: 24 months

Jamal Adam has a unique understanding of the vital role community colleges can play in helping refugees, immigrants and first-generation students achieve success. Jamal grew up in Somalia and fled at age 13 to a refugee camp in Kenya to escape war. After seven years, he came to the United States with a dream of going to college. Jamal earned a degree at Minneapolis Technical and Community College, where he currently serves as a counselor and instructor. He will use his Fellowship to complete a Ph.D in educational policy and administration at the University of Minnesota. Combining his experience and education, he seeks to play a leadership role in creating affordable and innovative postsecondary educational opportunities for all.

Nimo Hussein Farah
Fellowship term: 24 months

Nimo Farah knows the power of storytelling. As an artist, she wants to affirm and empower the leadership potential of young Somalis through stories that pull from Somali tradition and culture. Nimo will use her Bush Fellowship to gain a masters of arts in leadership so that she can work to understand how to better use arts and culture to engage immigrant youth in making the challenging transition of living in a dual culture.

Jacquie R. Berglund
Fellowship term: 24 months

Since 2000, Jacquie Berglund has had one thing on her mind: Turning beer into food. That's the mission of FINNEGANS, the social enterprise she founded nearly 15 years ago and the first beer in the world to donate 100 percent of its profits back to the community. A social entrepreneur before you could Google "social entrepreneur" and get links to thousands of books, articles and podcasts dedicated to the concept, Jacquie will use her Fellowship to expand and develop her own social entrepreneurial leadership skills. She will also use her experience to build support for social entrepreneurs throughout the region

Tane T. Danger
Fellowship term: 24 months

Imagine a candidate forum at the peak of a tough mayoral campaign in a major metro area where not two, not three, but as many as six candidates thought they had a chance at victory. Do you imagine the forum concluding with the candidates' ideas being brought to life by an improv comedy troupe? Well, Tane Danger did. And he made it happen, too. As co-founder and host of the Theater of Public Policy, Tane is developing new (often hilarious) models of civic discourse that facilitate solutions to shared problems. He will use his Fellowship to pursue a degree from the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs. And yes, that is his real name.

Christina A. Sambor
Fellowship term: 24 months

While most attorneys at this stage in their career are fighting to make partner, Christina Sambor is fighting human trafficking in North Dakota. The rural isolation, overburdened law enforcement agencies and explosion in transient populations in the oil patch have created conditions in which human trafficking can thrive. Christina is part of a burgeoning grassroots movement of legislators, survivors, service providers and others who are working to better understand and address what amounts to modern-day slavery. The Bush Fellowship will allow her to build skills that will be useful in the fight against human trafficking.

Laura Zabel
Fellowship term: 24 months

For Laura Zabel, creativity is a natural resource. As executive director of Springboard for the Arts, she has helped ensure the region maintains an abundance of creativity by connecting artists with the resources they need to make a living and a life. Under her leadership, Springboard has grown into a nationally recognized economic and community development organization. Laura wants to ensure that when communities face big, complex challenges, they know how to find and call on its artists to help think of creative solutions. She will use her Fellowship to engage with a national network of colleagues to build skills and develop new strategies that can propel this work.

Chris Stewart
Fellowship term: 24 months

Chris Stewart has served on the Minneapolis School Board and is the founding director of the African American Leadership Forum. He will use his Fellowship to research, design and prototype a new model for a networked, intergenerational black leadership community that increases connectivity, reciprocity and equity in Minnesota's black leadership pipeline.

Charlie Thayer
Fellowship term: 29 months

Charlie Thayer wants to make it easier for stories about Native culture to be told in the voice of Native people. Particularly stories of healing from historical trauma or its aftermath. His vision is to create a platform from which the voices of the seventh generation can educate, advocate and strengthen their communities. With his Fellowship he will gain additional academic credentialing and strive to deepen the trust relationships he’s established through his work with farmers and landowners for the Indian Land Tenure Foundation.

Sherman Patterson
Fellowship term: 24 months

Sherman Patterson wants to end the culture of gun violence in Minneapolis. An audacious goal, but few are better suited for the job than Sherman. A public safety policy aide for former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. A community liaison for Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau. A resident of a Minneapolis neighborhood notorious for gun violence. He has built the connections and earned the respect, both in the corridors of power and on the street corners, that are necessary to tackle this issue. Sherman will use his Fellowship to devise and implement a wide range of strategies to combat gun violence in our communities.

Andriana K. Abariotes
Fellowship term: 18 months

As executive director of Local Initiatives Support Corporation - Twin Cities, Andriana Abariotes works with more than 30 different community-based developers and neighborhood partnerships to direct millions of dollars in investments to some of the region's most challenging neighborhood. Andriana sees an opportunity to dramatically improve the quality of life in the neighborhoods she serves by working to transform the relationship between health care and community development organizations. She will use her Fellowship to build the skills and relationships necessary to bring this vision to life.

Tawanna A. Black
Fellowship term: 24 months

When Tawanna Black thinks about the future of North Minneapolis, where she is director of the Northside Funder Groups, she sees possibility in the collective impact that African American leaders in the 1930s and ‘40s used to create stable communities. Her life-long commitment to asset-based community development and leadership training led her to the Bush Fellowship, which she’ll use to understand what these historical relationships and collaborations have to share with North Minneapolis today. She believes that the community can learn from and leverage the strengths of the past, and can work together today to turn those strengths into true community partnerships that will make change.

Megan L. Laudenschlager
Fellowship term: 24 months

Like most communities in Western North Dakota, Minot has seen a dramatic influx of residents due to increased oil production. At the same time, the community continues to recover from a massive flood that displaced more than 12,000 area residents. Still, Megan Laudenschlager has big dreams for Minot. And from her position as finance and program director at the Minot Area Community Foundation, she can see the pivotal role philanthropy will play in shaping Minot's destiny. Megan will use her Bush Fellowship to acquire the skills and connections necessary to engage area residents in crafting the future of the community.

Marvin Eugene Sims, Jr.
Fellowship term: 24 months

Marvin Sims wants to level the playing field for all disadvantaged students. As the dean of students at Irondale High School, he created Students Together Respecting the Importance and Purpose of Education in Schools (STRIPES), a mentoring program that partnered with teachers, parents, community members and business leaders to create a safety net for students. The program proved so successful that the superintendent asked him to expand the program to three more schools in the district. Marvin will use his Bush Fellowship to study public schools around the country that are closing the achievement gap. He plans on using this experience to create a comprehensive program that inspires all kids to use education as the gateway to their accomplishing their dreams. 

Sylvia Bartley
Fellowship term: 18 months

When she isn't developing, improving and disseminating world-class neurosurgical techniques for Medtronic's Deep Brain Stimulation Therapy, Sylvia Bartley is thinking of ways to address the disparities in educational success between African-American and Caucasian children. Specifically, she is interested in figuring out how to take the success of high-achieving schools like Minneapolis's Harvest Network and develop an adoptable turn-around strategy that can help close the achievement gap. The Fellowship will allow Sylvia to take time off from Medtronic and focus her time, energy and considerable intellect on this important work.

Learning Log
Report Date
April 2015