February 2015

February 2015

Updated by
Sue Hakes

The vision for my Bush Fellowship is to improve the quality of life in rural northeastern Minnesota by building leadership capacity in myself and others in my community.

My Bush Fellowship is bringing forth the three gifts I’d most hoped for when my Fellowship began— time for exploration and learning, improved credentials that open new doors, and a growing network of people with whom to share the journey and the work.

Time for exploration and learning— 
My role as a leader is transitioning as I move out of elected office and seek to discover what I am meant to do next, who I am meant to be. “Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am."(1) For this purpose, the Fellowship has given me the gift of time.

The personal standards and values by which I need to base my vocation are beginning to reveal themselves as I engage fully in the University of Minnesota Humphrey School Public Affairs Leadership (PAL) Program. In this program I am growing my leadership skills, understanding the principles of policy analysis and working with others to execute policy recommendations, and learning the fundamental principles of research activities and how they are conducted. Most importantly, I am working to trust the unfolding of myself as an experienced leader.

Fluent 
I would love to live 
Like a river flows, Carried by the surprise 
Of its own unfolding.

—John O’Donohue

Improved credentials to open new doors— 
Being a Bush Fellow means being part of an organization that has invested nearly $1 billion to encourage and support people in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and 23 Tribal Nations to think bigger and differently about ways to make their communities better. That opens doors.

Being selected as a Bush Fellow brought instant recognition and respect from people in my community and political colleagues in northeastern Minnesota. Much to my surprise and delight, it has resulted in some speaking engagements. Becoming a Bush Fellow almost surely cemented my acceptance into the Public Affairs Leadership program at the Humphrey School. And, I’ve been asked to serve on a half dozen local and regional boards, apply for at least two jobs in the public sector, and seek higher public office.

A growing network of people to share the journey and the work— My personal network has grown exponentially since the August 2014 start of my Bush Fellowship and Public Affairs Leadership program at the Humphrey School. I am grateful for the individuals supporting me, honored to share my experiences with others, and excited to work more closely with those interested in collaboration. 

My growing network is diverse and largely a result of engaging with my Bush Fellowship cohort and being a student at the Humphrey School. Building relationships and learning with people of different nationalities, race, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, is strengthening my compassion for 
others. My cultural competency is improving. Existing relationships are growing.

Building leadership capacity in my rural community— 
For many women in rural Minnesota, political leadership has never occurred to them. I want to change that. Finding a strong voice and an equal place at the leadership tables in rural Minnesota requires change in the hearts and minds of women. I want to be a part of that change.

I am honored to be on the founding board and chair of the governance committee of Rural American Indigenous Leadership (RAIL). RAIL is an organization designed to grow women leaders in rural and American Indigenous communities on the Iron Range and in the Arrowhead Region of northeastern Minnesota. As a catalyst for social change, the RAIL Project is informed by cultural practices to strengthen leadership capacity with a gender lens. We support women moving into leadership roles to create system change and achieve equity.

In Cook County, I planted the seeds for a weekly breakfast group of women working to improve our community. Our group of ~20 is growing organically; there are no lists, dues, or agendas. We meet every Friday morning to support and inspire one another, listen, seek help, offer help, ask questions, network, and laugh a lot. We are building trust and a network of support to tackle community issues around economic development, education, affordable housing, food insecurity, health care, and domestic and sexual violence.

Moving forward I am hopeful— 
My Fellowship allows me to engage meaningfully with many creative, big-hearted and industrious people working for the common good. I am hopeful for the future.

“’Hope’ is the thing with feathers” 
“Hope” is the thing with feathers— 
That perches in the soul, 
And sings the tune without the words, 
And never stops—at all—

—Emily Dickinson 
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1 Palmer, Parker. Let your Life Speak. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, 2000. p. 4.