I continue to be humbled and very grateful to have had this tremendous opportunity, now at its half way mark. It has been an extremely eventful year and last six months in particular. In the following, I will reflect on the activities and impacts since my last six month log in January:
- Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) Professional School - Diversity & Inclusion Certification: I have been exceedingly please with this certification program and the exposure I have gotten to New York City and the adjacent regions. It has been a truly awesome and impactful experience. I am nearing the completion of my certificate and will be ready to take the advance certification at the end of 2016. The advanced program includes a project compononent for which I have secured some outside funding. This project includes diversity and cultural competency training for the SD Unified Judicial System. In New York, I learn much about the nature, structure, best practices, challenges and opportunities regarding D & I Initiatives and the wide variety of D & I Councils used by differing organizations. Tremendous practical insights were provided by Cornell’s accomplished faculty. Extremely pleased and grateful for this experience and the highly unique, cutting edge certification provided at Cornell.
- Harvard Non-Profit Management Certification: It turned into a rather involved process to organize my non-profit certification program. At this time, I have been admitted, paid tuition on two on site courses at Harvard and finally located reasonable housing in a family home/ B&B in Cambridge. I have completed all preliminary administrative requirements, preparations and will be staying in Massachusetts for a major portion of this summer. I am definitely looking forward to this critical element of my overall plan.
- Oglala Sioux Housing Public Works Project: Within months of being selected as a Bush Fellow, folks with Oglala Sioux Housing contacted me about assisting them in a project supported in part, by a Bush Community grant they received in 2014. In addition to combining three different Tribal government entities into one streamline Office, the project intends to access federal pipeline project water. It seems that though the project was intended in part to benefit the people of the town of Pine Ridge, most still rely on old wells for water. This project would collective benefit these towns on the Reservation. I have been working with the organizational design, “legislative” drafting and implementation of the project.
- Judicial Voices Project Premiere & Panel Discussion: This project turned out to be a tremendous success after extensive planning and promotion and was held on March 28th at the USD Law School Courtroom. I was able to secure and confirm travel funding for speakers through SD Humanities Council.
- Mindfulness Meditation Practices Goes to the Cyber Dimension: A COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED AND STRIKING core component of my fellowship experience has been in the personal wellness area. I now expect that this component will be something I will share in a structured way with my local community. I included the Muse electronic device, designed to monitor and aid in meditation practices. Though skeptical after having had somewhat more traditional mindfulness meditation experiences, often heavily influenced by Buddhist approaches, I thought if nothing else, it would provide me with basis for incorporating a more consistent meditation practice in my day to day life, absent the opportunity to go to guided meditation experiences as I did in Denver. I have extensively used the Muse electronic device, designed to monitor and aid in meditation practices. Following its progressions through several sessions over the past months, I have progressed from three minutes intermittently to now twenty minutes daily with two stretches of 30 and 40 days of continual practice. Feedback through its monitoring indicates a strong and improving percentage of “calm” stage achievement with lengthening duration. I intend to pursue further guided meditation opportunities and techniques and have greatly appreciated and gained from this “personal wellness” aspect of my fellowship.
- Trips for Projects & BushCon 2016: The second week of February was a week-long trip with stops in Freeman, Vermillion and Brookings SD, continuing on from Fargo to Minneapolis and Sioux City. Both Bush and work related activities and projects were supported including several networking opportunities discussed in greater detail below. I was very pleased to tour and visit the Lower Brule Community College with fellow Fellow College President Natalie Bergquist in route to UJS meeting and BushCon. Again, I found BushCon to be an unique and tremendously engaging event for me as was the case last year.
- Fellows Coach Joi Lewis: I had an engaging conversation with Joi focused primarily on the successful agreements reached with my University on accommodating my Fellowship and some of the far smaller challenges faced at the beginning of this semester. In addition, we were able to discuss the now positive impacts in the areas of diversity, inclusion and compliance for which my fellowship has served as a catalyst and the impact of the sustentative learning content I have thus far gained. I also discussed new projects that have come my way or are otherwise in the works through Native Educational Endeavors, which I candidly attribute to the visibility provided me through the fellowship. Finally, we discussed the circumstances, needs and opportunities that have emerged which will require some modification of my initial Bush plans.
- Denver Storm Delays Provide Valuable Experiences: Having just finished three consecutive courses at Cornell, I was “blessed” with an unexpected change in plans. Anticipating the Denver Storm on Sunday, April 17th, my travel plans along with those of thousands of others thousands of miles away from the Mile High City were suspended with three major airlines canceling flights. Initially, I was told I won’t be able to leave for up to a week due to the impact of cancelled and rescheduling. After considerable “encouragement” on my part, I did get a flight home though three days later. Thus began my little east coast odyssey which (through the use of coupons and discounts) had me staying and/or visiting the least expensive available locations in Newark and Atlantic City. I was able to see much of New Jersey including the revitalize Sandy Hook area, take a ferry to Delaware, see the Capitol at Dover, angle through Maryland and touch (barely) Pennsylvania. I took in several publicly available historic sites and developed a far clearer internal map of that corner of the Nation. While Denver and western South Dakota “enjoyed” feet of snow, I was in balmy 70 degree weather on the East Coast. (The boondoggle turned boon ended up costing a quarter of what was needed to stay in NYC and is expected to be picked up in part by the airline.) Though very discouraged at first, this turn out to be a highly engaging and valuable experience.