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. 

Maria Regan Gonzalez
Fellowship term: 31 months

Maria Regan Gonzalez believes that collaborative leadership creates room for more voices in decision making. As the first Latina mayor in Minnesota, she understands that bridging across difference is essential for the next generation of leaders. She wants her city of Richfield to serve as a laboratory for how to build opportunity for all in the midst of widening disparities. To lead this large-scale work, she will study alternative models of governance and engagement in the U.S. and around the world that connect political leadership, cultural identity and spirituality. She will also seek coaching to enhance her ability to inspire and unify diverse groups of people during complex times.

Austen Hartke
Fellowship term: 24 months

Austen Hartke wants more faith communities to be safe and inclusive places for LGBTQ people. A bisexual and transgender theologian, he is passionate about providing the educational resources faith leaders need to welcome, accept and celebrate gender diversity. He knows that transgender youth do best when their parents are supportive, and parents do best when supported by a faith community. To provide the depth of leadership it will take to transform faith communities into affirming places for all, he will increase his knowledge of theology and gender theory and cultivate his own spiritual resilience. He will also travel throughout the region to better understand the needs of transgender people and how positive change happens in faith communities, especially in rural areas.

Alex West Steinman
Fellowship term: 36 months

Alex West Steinman has a bold mission to increase economic access, resources and opportunities for women. She believes that prosperity begins with the economic empowerment of women and non-binary individuals. As co-founder and CEO of The Coven, she created a co-working space where women and non-binary people grow career-enhancing connections, incubate ideas and learn to start businesses. She wants to build a bigger social enterprise effort that helps women navigate the world of building capital and sustainable wealth. Because this vision requires advanced leadership skills, she will explore the world of social impact investing, grow her cultural competency, improve her financial acumen and invest in coaching to better tell her story.

Michaela Seiber
Fellowship term: 24 months

Michaela Seiber (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate) wants South Dakota to be a more welcoming, supportive place for LGBTQ people. As a young person who struggled to find acceptance and gay role models in both her white and Native communities, she knows personally the vital importance of social support. She believes that lack of inclusion has a major impact on physical and mental health but notes that little data is available on the LGBTQ community in her region. To advance a health equity agenda for LGBTQ people, she will connect with experts around the country who are conducting research about the health disparities of this population. She will also strengthen her leadership and communication skills to build the confidence she needs to speak publicly.

Rose McGee
Fellowship term: 32 months

Rose McGee knows that food connects. As the creator of the Sweet Potato Comfort Pie™ Approach, she has taken pies to Ferguson, Charleston and Pittsburgh following devastating incidents of racial and religious violence. She also brings hundreds of people together to bake pies and have tough dialogues around race. She knows that this approach helps people and communities bridge racial divides and embrace the hard work required for racial equity. To reach more young people with her novel approach, she needs to understand what new generations are doing to build resiliency and racial unity. She will visit numerous Historically Black Colleges and Universities to learn from and with intergenerational leaders. She will also seek coaching to develop a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

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.

Siad M. Ali
Fellowship term: 24 months

Siad Ali is passionate about creating a community where every student succeeds. His dedication to education grew out of his own journey from war-torn Somalia to Minnesota. He learned how critical it is for children to have equitable access to education and for a community to be committed to teachers and schools. A respected problem solver in his positions as outreach director for U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and as a director of the Minneapolis Public Schools Board of Education, he seeks to be a transformative leader in the education arena. He will earn a doctorate in educational leadership and study successful schools that serve a majority of students of color.

Neda Kellogg
Fellowship term: 24 months

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
Fellowship term: 24 months

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.

Miigis Gonzalez
Fellowship term: 26 months

Miigis Gonzalez (Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe) believes that Indigenous culture is at the root of wellness. Her research at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine and personal experiences with healing demonstrate the impact culture has on both prevention and treatment of health issues. She wants to use this knowledge to develop wellness opportunities for Native people. She seeks to bridge her social behavioral health education with deep ancestral knowledge to drive greater well-being in her community. To elevate her leadership, she will pursue the same rigorous education in traditional teachings as she did to earn her doctorate in health science, studying with tribal elders and first language Ojibwe speakers.

Tamim (Tam) Saidi
Fellowship term: 24 months

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.

Norma Garcés
Fellowship term: 24 months

Norma C. Garcés dreams of an educational system in Minnesota where Latinx students see themselves in their teachers, learning is relevant to their experiences and dreams, and they are safe to express themselves and their culture. As leader of El Colegio charter school, she has created a culturally rich environment where for the past five years 100% of students have been accepted into post-secondary educational institutions. As a trusted leader within the Latinx community, she wants to scale the experience of El Colegio to communities across the state. To lead this large-scale change, she will seek a master’s degree, executive leadership training, and skills in community engagement, cross-cultural communication, finance and public speaking.

John Patrick Davis
Fellowship term: 24 months

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. 

Nawal Noor
Fellowship term: 24 months

Nawal Noor knows it is possible to create social enterprise businesses that effectively address economic disparities. The first East African developer and general contractor in Minnesota, she launched a successful business to build affordable housing, employing and training workers historically left out of real estate development and construction projects. She wants to scale her model and become a transformational leader who can create inspiring solutions to entrenched economic disparities, as well as establish a financing institution or lending model for those who find traditional financing tools incompatible with their core values and Islamic religious beliefs. To elevate her position in the community, she will pursue national leadership development opportunities, study social impact investing and learn from visionary leaders about how they investigate and solve pressing issues. 

Jana Gipp
Fellowship term: 36 months

Jana Gipp (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe) is driven by the health of her community. As chief executive officer of the health care facility that serves the Native population within the Standing Rock Nation and surrounding communities, she has built a highly rated regional health care network. As health disparities persist in the population she serves, and as her rural community faces a shortage of medical professionals, she wants to incorporate innovative ideas and cultural practices to improve Standing Rock's health care system. To lead this large-scale change, she will complete a doctoral program in health care administration to become one of the first members of her tribe with this specialized expertise. She will also research the successes of other Native nations across the county that have demonstrated significant advances in tribal well-being.

Tou Ger Xiong
Fellowship term: 30 months

Tou Ger Xiong is called to a life of public service and social justice activism. The Hmong American storyteller, artist and activist shares his personal stories across the country to build cultural competency and address racial discrimination. He sees that his community has achieved some level of the American Dream but that Hmong people still face disparities in employment, educational achievement, and home and business ownership. To amplify the voices of his community and serve as a force for change, he will document his civic engagement and anti-racism work to share with new generations of activists. He will also earn his master's degree in public affairs and seek a public service role that directly impacts policy.

Jeffrey Dykstra
Fellowship term: 24 months

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.

Nicholas Kor
Fellowship term: 25 months

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.

Ashley Hanson
Fellowship term: 24 months

Ashley Hanson has a bold vision: To use the arts to build healthy, thriving rural areas throughout Minnesota and beyond. Born into generational rural poverty, she learned to imagine a different reality through theater in high school. She went on to study and refine this work through college. She is the founder of both a theater company, PlaceBase Productions, and an artist-led organization, Department of Public Transformation, that use creative strategies to increase community connection, participation and pride in rural locations. To empower more people to use the arts to address pressing issues of economic development, civic participation and changing demographics in rural communities, she will seek advanced leadership training and take time to articulate a model for teaching and scaling her work.

Maisha Giles
Fellowship term: 24 months

Maisha Giles wants to pioneer new strategies to cultivate black female leaders in the public sector. As behavioral health director for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, she sees a need for a comprehensive system focused not just on recruiting but also on retention and mentoring. She wants leaders of color and Native Americans at the table to help shape effective and wise public health policy, especially as it pertains to diverse populations. To become the bold leader of this work, she will earn a doctorate in leadership and public administration, strengthen her executive leadership and public policy skills, and build a network of successful black female leaders.

Shawntera Hardy
Fellowship term: 18 months

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.

Hudda Ibrahim
Fellowship term: 24 months

Hudda Ibrahim is not afraid to tackle big issues. In her home community of St. Cloud, she helps employers attract and retain immigrant and refugee employees. She also coaches and connects immigrant women to local employers. As a refugee to the U.S. from Somalia, she understands both barriers to and opportunities for building full economic participation. She wants to help members of her central Minnesota Somali community achieve greater economic equity and assume positions of influence. To advance this broad work, she will increase her business acumen with a Master of Business Administration degree. She will also build a network of valuable allies, business investors and partners.

Pheng Thao
Fellowship term: 24 months

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. 

Benson Hsu
Fellowship term: 24 months

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.

Jean Krull
Fellowship term: 39 months

Jeannie Krull intends to bring life-changing assistive technology to people with disabilities throughout North Dakota, Minnesota and the Native nations that share the same geography. She sees vast areas where there is little or no knowledge of or access to devices and services that promote safety and independence. She seeks to build the leadership skills and professional networks she needs to create assistive technology oases where there are now deserts. To effect transformational change in this area, she will research successful programs and approaches nationally and internationally, grow her skills in the areas of policy and legislative advocacy, and further develop her cultural competence.

Amie Schumacher
Fellowship term: 24 months

Amie Schumacher believes that faith and science, working together, can break the silence, shame and generational cycle of childhood trauma. She wants to help faith organizations and health care systems embrace the powerful healing of trauma-informed approaches. In her role as a hospital chaplain, she led the integration of such approaches into CentraCare Health system in St. Cloud. She will pursue a Doctor of Ministry degree to develop the transformational leadership skills she needs to help faith groups, chaplain training and seminary education programs build new practices that recognize trauma. She also will improve her facilitation skills to bring diverse religious and cultural groups together to discuss difficult topics around childhood trauma. 

Sharon Kennedy Vickers
Fellowship term: 24 months

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.

Rhiana Yazzie
Fellowship term: 28 months

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. 

Roxanne Anderson
Fellowship term: 18 months

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.

Yende Anderson JD
Fellowship term: 24 months

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.

Tony Sanneh
Fellowship term: 26 months

Tony Sanneh likes to find solutions to big problems. As the founder of the Sanneh Foundation, he transformed a closing community center into a safe and vital place for youth development in Saint Paul's East Side. He developed his strong work ethic and problem-solving skills first as one of the country's leading professional soccer players and later by growing his nonprofit from a team of three volunteers to a full-time staff of 65. Now, he wants to embrace two bold passions: to change the way professional sports teams engage in philanthropy and to help build a diverse educational teaching force. To elevate his leadership in multiple arenas, he will complete his bachelor's degree in education policy, seek advanced training in sports philanthropy and public speaking, and build a group of trusted mentors.

Abdi Sabrie
Fellowship term: 24 months

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.

Robin David
Fellowship term: 35 months

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.

Learning log 3
Report date
November 2019

Sean Sherman
Fellowship term: 24 months

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.

Amanda LaGrange
Fellowship term: 24 months

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.

Kate Davenport
Fellowship term: 36 months

Kate Davenport believes we can design waste out of our systems of production and consumption in a way that addresses climate change, local economic development and social and environmental justice. As co-president of the social enterprise Eureka Recycling, she has navigated an international market crisis in recycling, overseen major city contracts and transformed Eureka's materials recovery facility into the Zero Waste Laboratory. Now, she wants to create economically and socially just zero-waste communities. To achieve her bold vision, she will grow her skills, knowledge and connections at the intersection of technological innovation and public policy. She will also devote time to help emerging leaders build the skills to run social enterprises.

Bo Thao-Urabe
Fellowship term: 24 months

Bo Thao-Urabe wants Minnesota to be an inclusive, thriving place for all communities. As a young immigrant to the U.S., she learned quickly how to help her family succeed in a system that lacked understanding of and commitment to refugees. Today, as leader of the Coalition of Asian American Leaders, she inspires others to develop community-centered solutions that bring about meaningful change. To become a stronger thought leader for her community, especially the next generation of Asian American leaders, she will take time to determine how to best tell and share the lessons she's learned on her leadership journey. She will also study the emerging field of solidarity economics to shed light on invisible practices employed by cultural communities to improve collective life.

Hussein Farah
Fellowship term: 18 months

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.

KaYing Yang
Fellowship term: 31 months

KaYing Yang believes that her community’s prosperity and collective well-being will be maximized only when there is true gender equity. She also wants to be a force in the movement to shape policies that are equitable and inclusive of Indigenous peoples and people of color. To provide innovative and strategic leadership for her community, she will study successful approaches to gender justice in cultures around the world and strengthen her community organizing abilities with new knowledge of public policy making. As a long-time community advocate, she will work with her extensive network of leaders to document their social justice contributions as a source of inspiration for the next generation.