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.
Bush Fellows submit a learning log every six months during their Fellowship to share what they learn along their leadership journey.
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.
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.
Betty Gronneberg is a new American and a software engineer with one big goal: She wants girls to engineer the world they live in — quite literally. Betty sees the gender disparities in computing and engineering jobs, and knows girls can be the driving force in technology, not just the basic consumers of it. In response to what she sees, Betty wants to foster opportunities for girls to connect with the world of coding and introduce them to careers in technology by creating an enrichment program. She will use her Bush Fellowship to strengthen her leadership expertise, study model organizations in the field and research ways to attract more girls to science, technology, engineering and math.
Predicting the future is something many sectors try to do—the government, military, and private sector, especially. But Trista Harris has learned futurism is not at the heart of the nonprofit world. As president of the Minnesota Council on Foundation, she intends to use her Bush Fellowship to study futurism and foresight, and to learn from forward-thinking leaders at such places as the Oxford Scenarios Program, Silicon Valley and Aspen Institute. Her goal is to work across sectors, learning how best to help the philanthropic community prepare for and shape the future.
As a child, Laura Connelly learned the importance of a compassionate community—the value of people who feed you when you are hungry, who give you shelter when you are fleeing violence, who support you without judgment. Her work over the past 12 years in the field of domestic violence has reinforced this need for community, but also for long-term economic security for women who leave violent situations. With her Bush Fellowship, Laura will strengthen her cross-sector leadership skills to be a more effective agent of change for rural families seeking freedom from domestic violence.
Jennifer Almanza has spent the last 10 years understanding the scope of what a woman might encounter during birth, especially women of color. She researched the birthing experience of women living on Leech Lake Reservation, served as a preceptor and charge nurse in the Regions Hospital Birth Center, taught infant massage, and cross-trained in postpartum, newborn nursery and the newborn intensive care units. Now, with her Bush Fellowship, Jennifer intends to earn her doctorate of nursing practice in midwifery to increase the pool of culturally responsive providers to serve women of color in the metropolitan area. Her goal: more engaging care and better health outcomes for mothers and babies — at less cost.
Amelia Franck Meyer has learned a fundamental truth serving youth in the child welfare system: it takes healthy leaders to heal those they serve. She has transformed a small treatment foster care agency into an award-winning enterprise known for creating industry-leading outcomes in child placement stability, permanency and well-being. Now she will explore how to scale her ideas beyond individual youth to the bigger system. With the Bush Fellowship, she will focus on gaining the knowledge needed to advance her strategies for transforming the child welfare system.
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.
Every year, Kashif Saroya uses a week of vacation from his position with Ecolab to organize and volunteer at the Muslim Youth of Minnesota’s summer camp, where he advises and mentors youth. With the help of a Bush Fellowship, he now will turn to finding his own advisors to advance his abilities to promote diversity, engagement and inclusion in the business sector. He plans to pursue an MBA to increase the knowledge and networks he needs to play an executive leadership role in the corporate sector.
As a journalist, corporate PR manager and consultant, Syl Jones has spent his much of his career at the intersection of healthcare and communications. Merging that experience and his background as a playwright and producer of award-winning videos, Syl aims to address racial healthcare disparities by working with physicians and public health officials to craft films, theatrical presentations and journalism to move our region to create a more equitable health care system. To that end, he will use his Fellowship to pursue a master's degree in narrative medicine at Columbia University in New York City.
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.”
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.
John Glover understands dichotomies. He is Indian and non-Indian, traditional Native and Americanized Norwegian Lutheran, academic and non-academic. Given those realities, he seeks to be a bridge and facilitator between the various constituencies he works with in the northern plains and prairies of South Dakota. With his Bush Fellowship, he will seek better understanding of the impact of diversity and inclusion, and improve his nonprofit management skills to enhance his work as professor and higher education leader at Black Hills State University and as CEO of Native Educational Endeavors.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.