"There are challenges during any growth experience. It is usually worth the effort to finish what you started."
A former commissioned officer on active duty with the U.S. Public Health Service, Thomas Stenvig (BF’93) applied for the Bush Fellowship with the goal of earning a Ph.D. in order to learn about conducting research and enter the world of academia. Today, Stenvig is the doctorate program coordinator and an associate professor of the College of Nursing at South Dakota State University, where he has been for 17 years.
When you applied, how were you hoping to develop through the Fellowship?
Several professional colleagues had been selected as Fellows, and I had seen how their career trajectories and leadership impact were enhanced by the support and experience. I thought it would be a real asset to have the Fellowship support as I started my educational journey. After I finished my Fellowship, things just fell into place. I had the right credentials, and a position in academia was available that suited my interests and expertise. I’ve been involved in health policy, nursing and public health leadership ever since.
In what ways does the Fellowship continue to influence you? How has the Fellowship changed you?
I think back to the application process, the importance of being organized, and having the ability to communicate my values so that others would believe in me. I still live my professional life adhering to those principles. Earning the Ph.D. with Fellowship support opened doors I never imagined existed when I started the journey.
Inspiration comes in many forms: places, people, experiences. Where do you find inspiration to lead?
Two things come to mind. The first is being open to what you can learn from mentors and others who take an interest in you. The second is that in our active lives we often do not appreciate the effects we have on others. Knowing that I have influenced the lives of others in ways I did not realize at the time it happened continues to give me inspiration.
Do you want to offer any advice to current and future Bush Fellows? What would you tell your past self the first time you sat down to apply for a Fellowship?
Consistency, focus and the ability to communicate your message and values are critical attributes. There are challenges during any growth experience. It is usually worth the effort to finish what you started.