My learning journey has certainly been full of surprises. Taking a step back to look this over and some time for reflection offers an opportunity to measure where I have been, where I am going and to put into perspective the expectations and opportunities that a Bush Fellowship brings to each of us. There is an amazing amount of notoriety that comes with being a Bush Fellow. Learning to wear that label is, in itself, quite a learning experience. Realizing what the distinction of being the recipient of a Bush Fellowship means to the greater community is something that dawns on me nearly every day. That realization shines a light on those opportunities as well as the responsibilities that we bear in regard to leadership in our communities as well as to our personal education and growth. I continue to be surprised and amazed at the interest and support from others. That interest doesn't seem to fade but instead has been sustained and nuanced. There are always questions about what I am doing with my fellowship and how a Bush Fellowship works and there are also questions about the Bush Fellowship program and it's legacy. I continue to be surprised and amazed at the response I receive in regard to being a Bush Fellow. There is a ready-made overwhelming admiration for the Bush Foundation's work and advocacy for community leadership development. As a Bush Fellow, I am learning to understand my role in the legacy of this wonderful program.
There have been many more conversations than I can count where a colleague, a constituent, a student or a friend has asked me about the my Fellowship experience and how that is working in regard to my school goals. While being a Bush Fellow is still a new experience, I am slowly becoming more and more comfortable with it. Learning that others look to Bush Fellows for leadership, guidance and vision is both humbling and inspiring. We are being held to a higher standard and with that we are being given an opportunity to learn more about how that leadership can and will work in our communities. I am also being given an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of my own leadership skills and also about areas where I need to expand my skills and my understanding of leadership opportunities and what encumbers young adults (and others) from playing a larger role in the life of their community.
Taking advantage of the opportunity to return to school after an absence of 41 years has, for sure, been a reawakening for me. The time required and the rigors of school work at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul is not always easy to balance with my duties and my work as an elected community leader and my role as an advocate for Greater Minnesota Cities. While it is a challenge it is also a workable and rewarding endeavor. It surprises me how easily my fellowship-related work and school experience can become inter-twined with the public service roles that I have held for several years and which I will continue to have into the foreseeable future. My studies have led me to explore the definition and characteristics of an educated person and also the value of developing and using critical judgement. While these may seem like rather esoteric ponderings, my reflections on them bring a significant value in regard to becoming the person whom we aspire to be and to having the skill set of an educated person.
My studies at Metro State have also led me to undertake some rather surprising self-reflection about my role as an example for those who could be encouraged to become immersed in civic life and other formats of community involvement. I continue to be amazed at the fairly widespread lack of willingness to be engaged in such undertakings. As a result, I have concluded that I need to do a better job of "spreading the word" about the joys and opportunities of civic engagement and community involvement (yes, there is joy in civic life!). That may mean undertaking a more effective outreach or a sharpening of my communication skills or even developing new communications formats to reach young adults.
I am a bit surprised at how many times I have thought about my own experience as an example of community involvement and civic life as well as how an individual can make contributions to their community and bring about positive outcomes, no matter what issues or situations may be. I can learn to offer my own experience to young adults as a means for promoting the investment of their time and as a means for them to learn about the value of their communities and how they can help to shape their community's future. Sharing this same civic experience can also underscore my role as an advocate for the Bush Fellowship program and the opportunities and doors that a Bush Fellowship can open.