Bush Fellows Learning Logs

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.

Lisa Brunner
Fellowship term: 12 months

As executive director of Sacred Spirits First Nations Coalition, a program serving Native women, Lisa Brunner advocates for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and sex trafficking. She wants to learn more about how other indigenous communities protect and heal their people through their cultural beliefs and practices. With her Bush Fellowship, she will travel to indigenous communities across the U.S. and Canada to investigate successful community-based practices, and how she can apply them to her ongoing advocacy and leadership work.

Lori Saroya
Fellowship term: 24 months

Lori Saroya co-founded the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Minnesota (CAIR-MN), the state's only Muslim civil rights and legal advocacy organization, when she was a senior in college. Six years later, Lori's vision is to create a society where American Muslims and other racial minorities are treated with dignity and respect in the workplace, at school and in the community. The Bush Fellowship will allow Lori the opportunity to pursue a master's in nonprofit management, as well as explore how other organizations similarly situated to CAIR-MN are run.

Lorrie Janatopoulos
Fellowship term: 24 months

Lorrie Janatopoulos is the long-time planning director at Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency, a social services nonprofit. She also is an LGBT activist on the Iron Range who recognizes that true community change requires relationships, long-term engagement and cross-sector collaboration. With her Bush Fellowship, Lorrie will pursue post-graduate work at Stanford Graduate School of Business and Harvard Kennedy School. She will also work at the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board to expand her network and learn more about rural economic and community development.

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.

Malini Srivastava
Fellowship term: 24 months

Malini Srivastava wants North Dakota to become more energy efficient. That's no easy feat: the state is one of the nation's coldest, has an abundance of fossil fuel resources, ranks first in per-capita residential energy consumption, and is dead last in delivering energy-efficiency programs. However, she's banking on North Dakota's culture of neighbors-helping-neighbors to make an impact. Malini, an architect, wants to empower neighborhood action groups toward achieving energy efficiency and cost savings in homes one neighborhood at a time. To achieve this, she will use her Fellowship to develop her leadership and organizational skills and to increase her technical expertise.

Marcus Owens
Fellowship term: 24 months

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.

Martin Wera
Fellowship term: 20 months

Martin Wera sees the relationships between good food and good jobs through his focus on hunger relief and workforce development at Ameriprise. He is passionate about exploring ways to unite the food service industry and the nonprofit sector to create a more sustainable future for consumers, employers and workers. Martin will use his Bush Fellowship to learn from other communities that have successfully engaged multiple sectors to mutually solve food insecurity and labor shortage issues and bring this knowledge back to the Twin Cities.

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. 


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.

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.

Me'Lea Connelly
Fellowship term: 24 months

Me'Lea Connelly knows economic power is one of the strongest ways to resist oppression. That belief drives her work to support the powerful vision of North Minneapolis with a community-owned financial institution that builds equity and access to resources. Her goal is to establish the first Black-led financial cooperative in Minnesota. She wants to lead from a position of strength and confidence, with deep knowledge of both the financial cooperative industry and community organizing. She will pursue an MBA in cooperative and credit union management, seek Black financial mentors around the country, and build a network of allies, investors and partners to advance her leadership and vision.

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.

Melissa Marie Boyd
Fellowship term: 24 months

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.

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.

Michael Walker
Fellowship term: 24 months

Michael Walker’s goal is to awaken the greatness within young black men. As director of the Office of Black Male Student Achievement for Minneapolis Public Schools, he wants to change the way young men believe in themselves and how the community views them in return. He envisions a community where young black men define their own values and dreams, achieve their rightful success and are seen as productive members of society. To advance his expertise and leadership, he will use his Bush Fellowship to finish his doctoral degree, strengthen his research skills and become a certified trainer on Psychological First Aid and Trauma in the Black Body.

Mohamed Ahmed
Fellowship term: 24 months

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.

Mukhtar Ibrahim
Fellowship term: 15 months

When Mukhtar Ibrahim emigrated from East Africa to the U.S. in 2005, he spoke little English. Today, as a reporter with Minnesota Public Radio, he is the first Somali-American journalist in the state to work at a major news outlet. He is also the founder of Sahan Journal, an independent news source for East Africans and Somalis who live in the Twin Cities metro area. He wants to close the cultural gap between long-time and new Americans through more balanced, in-depth and fair storytelling about immigrants. With his Bush Fellowship, Mukhtar will complete a master’s degree in journalism at Columbia University to advance his knowledge of long-form narrative writing, investigative reporting, digital storytelling and radio documentaries.

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