All journeys have an element of anticipation and so it was with me. I have long wanted to return to school and finish up my bachelors degree and do further studies at the graduate level. Anticipating what that might entail was a bit mysterious in light of my many years away from school.
That began to unfold this past summer as I entered school again. While there was some uncertainty as to just how this would all work for me, there is no doubt that receiving a fellowship was clearly my portal to finding the time away from work to make this all happen. It is a rare opportunity to re-launch this learning journey and has allowed me to begin exploring possibilities in regard to those further studies. As such, my Fellowship experience has been very school-focused and has, so far, mostly been concentrated on my degree-seeking plan which has me enrolled at Metropolitan State University. Returning to school after being away for more than 40 years has gone well. However, there have been some occasional challenges. Understanding how the academic world operates has taken some getting used to. Things certainly operate differently than many other walks of life. My school work has gone well however. This semester I am finishing up the last of a couple of general education requirements as well as working on the process for gaining credit for my experiential learning, which is the learning that I've gained from lifelong civic and business activities. The dual topics Civic Engagement and Community Involvement are the focus of my Fellowship and are also the focus areas of my major in Individualized Studies. These of course, are more complicated than I first suspected but for good reason. Applying those credits for a wide variety of situations requires some reflection and a fair amount of writing and assembling a portfolio that demonstrates and supports that experience is critical. Putting this together in a systematic way that passes muster from the university is of utmost importance. One departure from my college experience was an optional experience at the Pop Tech Conference in Camden, Maine. It was a great way to expand my exposure to the intersection of new technology, the quickly changing world and how these interface with our communities and ourselves. It was a conference that explored the concept of thinking out of the box and was a refreshing change from everything I had been doing in my university studies. It also has to be said that receiving a Bush Fellowship is something that catches the attention of professors, administrators, teachers, advisors, admissions staff and others. Their universal reaction is extremely positive and supportive of my Fellowship journey and very gratifying. I have also taken the first steps in exploring graduate school options and opportunities at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and also with the Center of Advocacy and Political Leadership at Metropolitan State University. These have included a meeting with faculty and staff at each institution this last week and learning about their programs that are aimed at mid-career students. During the first of my Fellowship coaching calls, held two weeks ago with Vickie Allen, I was encouraged to take more time for self reflection and to explore other education opportunities beyond what I have envisioned during my Fellowship, including the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. I have obtained some of their information and literature and am reviewing that and the literature from the Humphrey School and from Metro State's graduate school as well. There is a world of possibilities that my Fellowship is making available to me. Where and how this all unfolds is part of the excitement. It is wonderful to know that there are many possibilities. It is indeed a learning journey.