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 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 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 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 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.
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 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 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’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 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.
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.
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.
Nausheena Hussain is immersed in civic life, serving on boards, her local charter commission and as an election judge. She founded Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE), a leadership development nonprofit, to elevate Muslim women. Nausheena continues to examine why there are so few Muslim women in positions of power and wants to understand what could potentially be holding them back. She will use her Bush Fellowship to strengthen her nonprofit leadership and management abilities, seeking out mentors at the intersection of gender, race and religious identity.
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.
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.
Nevada Littlewolf was the first Anishinaabe woman ever elected to the Virginia City Council and, at age 31, the only council member under the age of 55. That influential experience encouraged her to establish Rural and American Indigenous Leadership (RAIL), a nonprofit focused on growing women’s leadership in rural and indigenous communities. She wants to grow her ability to build RAIL into a nonprofit capable of serving a national audience. Nevada’s Bush Fellowship will provide her with the time and resources to finish her bachelor’s degree, explore positive women’s roles in other global indigenous cultures and seek additional training and coaching to build leadership skills.