What an amazing and eye opening experience the first six months of this fellowship journey has been. As a first-generation college graduate of color and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Minnesota focusing on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), I still cannot believe I was awarded the Bush Fellowship! I bring my lived experience as a person of color who migrated from Puerto Rico to the mainland United States at the age of three and experienced the impact of systemic racism firsthand. My personal and professional journeys have led me to persevere in creating opportunities and challenging stereotypes to cultivate a successful future in the arts. I am simultaneously a product of traditional music education and self-education. However, as I have progressed into becoming an artist-teacher-scholar-administrator of color, I fully acknowledge the dominance of whiteness in higher education and nonprofit organizations. My own experience and journey enhances both my understanding and my ability to address DEI in institutions looking for cultural change.
Being a Bush Fellow allows me the resources, time, and space to strengthen internal and external relationships for recruitment, build collaborative curricular programs, and serve diverse students and faculty. I have a deep commitment to expanding education for musicians to incorporate knowledge of social justice and principles of inclusive performance and pedagogy. I am prepared to teach aspiring career musicians in areas such as pedagogy, community engagement, collaboration with social and educational institutions, entrepreneurship, and creative and meaningful audience interactions with diverse constituents.
The Bush Fellowship allows for my expertise to deepen the investment in DEI to align with my core mission, vision, and values. This leadership journey has allowed me the time and space to explore a stronger knowledge of intercultural competence, social justice, research, and education to guide organizational change throughout institutions. I will continue working with my organization and others to ensure strategic, sustainable progress toward DEI vision and goals.
Being recognized as one of 24 recipients out of 750 nominees and applicants, the fellowship allows me to pursue my goals of developing and implementing a strategic plan to advocate for more inclusive, culturally diverse, and relevant music education. In addition, I have been named an American Express NGen Fellow for 2020, which entails strengthening my DEI leadership capacity that centers on six core results to further my practice of adaptive leadership, self-awareness, racial equity, system change, developing peer networks and using a results-based frame.
Taking the time to develop my Fellowship plan has allowed me to hone and focus on what is needed in a logical progression. Part of my professional development training outlined in my BUSH Fellowship plan began in June. I am very fortunate to have started my leadership training from the American Express Leadership Academy. This program recognizes leaders age 40 and under to connect to networks, knowledge, and resources to advance the impact of their work. The preparation for the BUSH Fellowship has brought me much clarity on all the steps needed to move forward to be a resource for my communities.
What has been illuminating these first six months of the fellowship is that I am learning how to amplify my voice as a person of color. My parents instilled core values that would help me navigate as a white passing American. I was taught at a young age to blend in and not speak with an accent. The need for assimilation in a white affluent world would be a driving narrative, but now, the past years of learning how to contextualize my personal philosophies, and now with the support of the Bush Fellowship, I am seeing personal growth. I see my value and impact directly moving my organization to intentionally committing to listening, learning, and standing with our community for social justice and the effort to end systemic racism through new action steps. At the same time, I am moving forward with my dissertation writing having the flexibility and resources for childcare so I can focus on writing. I am working with a dissertation editor who will translate the completed document into Spanish. Having multiple forms of readability is one of my focuses towards this important research for embedding diversity in nonprofit organizations and higher education institutions.
The Bush Fellowship is an essential resource for me in in broadening opportunities for all people to develop deeply embedded values, as well as respect for diverse expression across ethnicities, races, cultures and generations. I deeply admire the Bush Foundation for selecting me. I am confident that the resources this fellowship provides will continue to advance my educational perspectives, professional expertise, and lived experience. Thank you, Bush Foundation. This Fellowship will allow me to bring an intentional focus to advancing my efforts to cultivate an environment where everyone is welcomed, valued, and included.