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Bush Foundation Selects 24 Extraordinary Leaders for 2018 Bush Fellowships

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April 10, 2018
(Saint Paul, MN – Mar. 20, 2018) – The Bush Foundation today announced its 2018 Bush Fellows, 24 determined, adaptable leaders who are driven to improve their communities in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the 23 Native nations that share the same geography:
 
The 2018 Fellows are:

 
 
Asad Aliweyd
Eden Prairie, MN
 
Roxanne Anderson
Minneapolis, MN
 
Yende Anderson
Plymouth, MN
 
Dr. Joanna Ramirez Barrett
St. Paul, MN
 
Erik Bringswhite
Pine Ridge, SD
 
Me’Lea Connelly
Minneapolis, MN
 
Robin David
Grand Forks, ND
 
John Davis
Lanesboro, MN
Jeff Dykstra
Edina, MN
 
Hussein Farah
Woodbury, MN
 
Jenn Faul
Fargo, ND
 
Shawntera M. Hardy
St. Paul, MN
 
Dr. Benson Hsu
Sioux Falls, SD
 
Neda Kellogg
Minneapolis, MN
 
Nicholas Kor
Minneapolis, MN
 
Amanda LaGrange
Hopkins, MN
 
Larry A. McKenzie
Minneapolis, MN
 
Abdi Sabrie
Mankato, MN
 
Dr. Tamim Saidi
Maple Grove, MN
 
Sean Sherman
Minneapolis, MN
 
Pheng Thao
St. Paul, MN
 
Nick Tilsen
Porcupine, SD
 
Sharon Kennedy Vickers
Eagan, MN
 
Rhiana Yazzie
St. Paul, MN

 
The Bush Fellowship provides Fellows with up to $100,000 over 12 to 24 months to pursue learning experiences that help them develop leadership skills and attributes. The Fellowship is distinctive in its flexibility, allowing Fellows to articulate what they need to become more effective and agile leaders. Fellows can use the funding to pursue advanced education, networking opportunities, and leadership resources, workshops and trainings.
 
“The 2018 Bush Fellows are exceptional leaders who have made the most of the opportunities in their lives,” said Bush Foundation Leadership Programs Director Anita Patel. “We believe the well-being of our region is directly impacted by investing in individuals who will shape the future. We are betting on the potential of these 24 Fellows to make a significant impact in their communities.”


A total of 751 people applied for the 2018 Bush Fellowship. The 24 Fellows were selected through a multi-stage process involving Bush Fellowship alumni, Bush Foundation staff and established regional leaders. Applicants described their leadership vision and passion and how a Bush Fellowship would help them achieve their goals.
 
The Bush Foundation will accept applications for the 2019 Bush Fellowship beginning August 7, 2018. The Bush Fellowship is open to anyone age 24 years and older who lives in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota or one of the 23 Native nations that shares the same geography.
 
More than 2,300 people have taken advantage of the Fellowship to become better leaders through a self-designed learning experience, academic program, or travel and research across the country to build connections with thought leaders on topics critical to their community. The Bush Fellowship counts among its alumni playwright August Wilson, Oglala Lakota painter and educator Arthur Douglas Amiotte, former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson, author and storyteller Kevin Kling, South Dakota poet laureate Lee Ann Roripaugh, Minneapolis City Council Member Andrea Jenkins, and former special assistant to President Obama for Native American affairs Jodi Gillette.
 
 
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2018 Bush Fellows biographies follow on pages 3–7
 
 
 

 
BUSH FELLOWS 2018
 
Asad Aliweyd
Eden Prairie, MN — Asad Aliweyd wants to develop transformative ways for Muslim people to build wealth. He believes a new, culturally responsive financing infrastructure that addresses current barriers can advance the economic wellbeing of Muslim Americans in Minnesota and beyond. He seeks to bring innovative change to financial institutions that deal with diverse communities. To elevate his leadership in the community, he needs to better understand Western and Islamic financing systems and to grow his connections. He will complete a doctorate in public administration and build a new network of community developers, financial institutions, policy makers, and academic and religious leaders.
 
Roxanne Anderson
Minneapolis, MN – Roxanne Anderson believes vital, visible transgender leaders of color can make our communities stronger. Rox intends to be that kind of leader in Minnesota by helping shape and create places where LGBTQ people thrive. To assume this position of leadership, Rox seeks a deeper understanding of the community’s needs and mentoring to build unity among people and organizations serving transgender people of color. Through the Bush Fellowship, Rox will develop business acumen and credentials, work with coaches to articulate a healthy leadership development plan and form connections across the country with transgender leaders of color.
 
Yende Anderson
Plymouth, MN – Yende Anderson has a bold vision to address the shortage of primary care physicians in the region and the lack of diversity in the profession. In her work to integrate international medical graduates into the health workforce, she sees the under-utilization of highly skilled immigrants and the systemic barriers they face. She wants to lead a movement that creates alternative pathways for them to work as physicians in the U.S. To achieve change of this magnitude, she will grow her capacity to build and sustain coalitions. She will also earn her master’s degree in health care administration, research countries that have created alternative licensure and work with mentors to improve her change management skills.
 
Dr. Joanna Ramirez Barrett
St. Paul, MN – Dr. Joanna Ramirez Barrett sees women entrepreneurs of color—the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs—as a solution to the racial wealth gap. From her work with the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (Meda), she knows that entrepreneurship among families of color increases income at significant rates. She wants to be at the forefront of creating a vibrant business ecosystem that supports women entrepreneurs of color. With the understanding that this work will take compelling leadership, she seeks to grow from successful program manager to strategic leader. She will immerse herself in leadership programs for women and study innovative social entrepreneurship models.
 
Erik Bringswhite
Pine Ridge, SD – Erik Bringswhite wants his community to raise healthy, ethical Native children. As a long-time foster parent and juvenile justice worker, he is a role model to many on the Pine Ridge Reservation and in the state of South Dakota. Now, he wants to increase his confidence and ability to bring the Native perspective to tables where decisions are made. He believes that courageous, confident Native leaders are vital for finding culturally appropriate, lasting solutions for their people. To become that bold leader, he will earn his master’s degree in social work, develop cultural resources for raising healthy children and expand his connections with Native and non-Native leaders.
 
Me’Lea Connelly
Minneapolis, MN – Me’Lea Connelly knows economic power is one of the strongest ways to resist oppression. That belief drives her work to support the powerful vision of North Minneapolis with a community-owned financial institution that builds equity and access to resources. Her goal is to establish the first Black-led financial cooperative in Minnesota. She wants to lead from a position of strength and confidence, with deep knowledge of both the financial cooperative industry and community organizing. She will pursue an MBA in cooperative and credit union management, seek Black financial mentors around the country, and build a network of allies, investors and partners to advance her leadership and vision.
 
Robin David
Grand Forks, ND — Robin David wants her community to become a national model for how to welcome New Americans and help them build the collective strength of the region. The founder of a refugee integration program, she has witnessed New Americans’ positive impact on the state and sees their great civic potential. Now, through her Bush Fellowship, she seeks to expand her influence by building a bigger base of knowledge and ideas through connections with national immigration experts and organizations. She will also grow her skills to more effectively foster understanding between New Americans and the elected officials, policy makers and business leaders in her state.
 
John Davis
Lanesboro, MN – John Davis’s passion is rural. He imagines thriving rural communities that use the arts and creativity to solve local challenges, drive sustainable economic development and address obstacles to change. He seeks the tools, experiences and opportunities to broaden his scale of influence to be an authentic and compassionate thought leader for people in rural communities across the country. To amplify his voice for rural advocacy, he will partner with the Rural Policy Research Institute and regional colleagues to study effective rural strategies and to better understand the correlation of public policy and rural sustainability.
 
Jeff Dykstra
Edina, MN – Jeff Dykstra believes that cross-sector collaboration can result in powerful solutions to persistently intractable problems. As co-founder and CEO of Partners in Food Solutions, a successful consortium of global food companies that works with local food companies across Africa to improve food security and economic development, he has learned firsthand how partnerships involving public, private and nonprofit entities can drive social impact. He wants to become a leader who can wisely counsel others in this arena and wants to reflect on and better understand the components of leadership and principles of partnership that drive cross-sector success. With his Bush Fellowship, he will research other successful examples of partnerships, deepen his own leadership abilities and develop the tools and skills to coach the next generation of impact-oriented leaders.
 
Hussein Farah
Woodbury, MN – Hussein Farah wants his community to prosper by embracing technology to build financial stability. He believes that equitable access to information technology can drive a more inclusive and harmonious life for all Minnesotans, especially his fellow African immigrants. He seeks to be a forceful advocate for policies, resources and programs that ensure people of color participate in the high-tech sector. To grow into this role and to become a thought leader at the center of the digital ecosystem, he will expand his professional network, broaden his expertise in the field of information technology, pursue leadership training and study organizations with successful track records of attracting immigrant youth to the technology sector.
 
Jenn Faul
Fargo, ND – Jenn Faul wants to radically change how children learn about mental health. As a therapist and COO for the largest free-standing psychiatric and substance use hospital in her region, she recognizes that mental health is often a taboo topic. But she believes that early education in structured, supportive school settings can reduce stigma and dramatically alter how youth respond in times of struggle. To lead this large-scale community change, she seeks deeper knowledge of educational systems and greater insight into how to set and reform policy. With her Bush Fellowship, she will pursue an advanced degree in educational leadership.
 
Shawntera M. Hardy
St. Paul, MN – Shawntera M. Hardy imagines a world where demographics do not define a person’s destiny. As Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, she has seen firsthand the challenges entrepreneurs of color face. She wants people of color and Indigenous communities to share in the state’s prosperity and be governed by equitable policies. With the belief that the most effective leaders are learners first, she will pursue advanced training in business administration, executive leadership and design thinking. She seeks to expand her understanding of the business ownership system and to study promising ideas and models that deliver practical and creative solutions.
 
Dr. Benson Hsu
Sioux Falls, SD – Dr. Benson Hsu wants to revolutionize rural health care. As a pediatric intensive care unit doctor, he understands that the community’s health is affected not only by access to health care but also by health behaviors, socioeconomic factors and the physical environment. He wants to integrate health care and community data to improve the way we care for the sick and the way we maintain health. He recognizes that this work will require strong leadership to bring together payers, providers and the community. To grow his abilities to lead in this arena, he will advance his data analytics ability, study design thinking to learn how to take an idea to action and strengthen his conflict and change management skills.
 
Neda Kellogg
Minneapolis, MN – Neda Kellogg recognizes her young self in the Black female teens she works with in Minneapolis. She understands the barriers they face, their inherent potential and their need for support to transition successfully into adulthood. She seeks to inspire them through her own leadership and through role models who look like them. To increase her leadership in this arena, she seeks greater understanding of the systemic and personal barriers she and the young women she serves face. With her Bush Fellowship, she will take time to reflect, study and develop successful strategies with the assistance of strategic coaches.
 
Nicholas Kor
Minneapolis, MN — Nicholas Kor believes that organizing can change the world. Yet, he observes that Asian Americans are often left out of political and public discourse, which marginalizes his community’s voice. He wants to create a powerful, connected and civically engaged Asian Pacific Islander movement in Minnesota and across the country. Understanding that movements flourish based on the capacity of their leaders, he seeks to grow his confidence and skills to be a stronger, more liberated leader. He will form meaningful relationships with movement leaders across the country to understand how to grow and sustain coalitions and hone strategies to engage Asian Americans at a grassroots level.
 
Amanda LaGrange
Hopkins, MN – Amanda LaGrange believes the Midwest’s generous business community provides fertile soil for social enterprises that hire adults facing employment barriers. As the leader of Tech Dump, a nonprofit that provides job training for people exiting incarceration and recovery programs, she sees the need for adults to regain dignity through work and for a workforce facing shortages to gain skilled workers. She wants to exponentially scale this social enterprise but understands her bold vision requires new knowledge, advanced leadership skills and an increased ability to take risks. She will study successful for-profit and nonprofit social enterprises around the country and seek business mentors to equip her for a new leadership trajectory.
 
Larry A. McKenzie
Minneapolis, MN – Larry A. McKenzie has always understood his purpose: to make a difference in the lives of young men, particularly African Americans in urban settings. As a high school basketball coach, he has a long track record of developing top athletes who are also excellent students. Because he believes that coaches are powerful influences in helping young people become champions in the classroom, in their families and in their communities, he wants to engage them in closing the achievement gap and reducing crime. To become a leader who can inspire and influence this next generation of coaches, he needs to develop new skills to amplify his voice and vision. With his Bush Fellowship, he will complete a master’s in athletic leadership and development and seek executive leadership training.
 
Abdi Sabrie
Mankato, MN — Abdi Sabrie believes in the power of education to be an equalizing force, yet daily he witnesses barriers and gaps in educational systems for students of color. He wants to diversify school boards, teachers and staff to reflect and better serve the changing demographics of Minnesota communities. As the first person of color elected to the Mankato School Board, he understands the lack of diversity in educational leadership. To become a powerful and persuasive leader, he will enhance his communication skills, meet with other school leaders of color across the country to develop effective diversity strategies and earn a master’s degree in educational leadership.
 
Dr. Tamim Saidi
Maple Grove, MN – Dr. Tamim Saidi envisions a community where people of all faiths live peacefully without bigotry or discrimination. A refugee from Afghanistan who earned a doctorate in pharmacy after arriving in Minnesota, he has also become a part-time imam and activist with a passion for building trust and connections between Muslim Minnesotans and the wider community. Now, to be a transformational leader for his community, he seeks to maximize his efforts as an imam with the skills to bridge cultural and religious differences. With his Bush Fellowship, he will pursue double master’s degrees in Islamic studies and leadership.
 
Sean Sherman
Minneapolis, MN – Chef Sean Sherman, Oglala Lakota Sioux, knows that food is the heart of every culture. He also understands that his fellow Native Americans were stripped of their connections to Indigenous food systems and practices. To build his community’s physical, economic and spiritual strength, he wants to reconnect Native communities with traditional food knowledge and to Native agriculture systems. While he began this work as founder of The Sioux Chef and NATIFS, he now seeks to become the visionary leader his community needs through building an extensive global network and gaining deeper knowledge of Indigenous culture and foods. With his Bush Fellowship, he will research, create, cultivate and share Indigenous food systems and further his Lakota, Ojibwe and Spanish language skills.
 
Pheng Thao
St. Paul, MN – Pheng Thao wants men in his community to be active partners in ending domestic violence and sexual assault. He believes it is possible to create spaces where those who have committed and experienced harm can heal and ultimately thrive. He seeks to shift Hmong men’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviors about gender, patriarchy and violence. To lead this change, he will strengthen his facilitation and communications skills and widen and deepen his understanding of the history and evolution of masculinity and manhood in Hmong culture. He will also use his Bush Fellowship to explore how matrilineal communities have dismantled patriarchal attitudes and to develop new ideas and images of Hmong maleness.
 
Nick Tilsen
Porcupine, SD – Nick Tilsen creates pathways out of poverty for people on Pine Ridge Reservation. As the founding executive director of Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation, he has led large-scale efforts to build hope and prosperity for his fellow Oglala Lakota people. Now, he seeks to launch a national collective of Native leaders who can advise tribes, funders and organizations on the most successful approaches for Native people across the country to build financial and philanthropic infrastructure that will change power dynamics and support the self-determination of Indigenous people. To transition from a place-based leader to a large-scale, national mentor, he will seek counsel from other high impact social entrepreneurs and adopt a leadership path that models a culturally appropriate, healthy work-life balance.
 
Sharon Kennedy Vickers
Eagan, MN — Sharon Kennedy Vickers aims to make Minnesota the best place in the country to launch and grow technology products that have a positive social impact. She wants to lead a “tech for good” movement, harnessing the power of inclusion, technology and community assets to drive equitable economic opportunity and growth for all Minnesotans. In particular, she wants to make sure communities of color have the resources and access to bring game-changing ideas to the marketplace. To ensure her capacity to lead, she will improve her communication skills and build strategic relationships with local, national and international tech leaders. She will also pursue advanced education in strategy, technology innovation, artificial intelligence and human-centered design.
 
 
Rhiana Yazzie
St. Paul, MN – Rhiana Yazzie uses storytelling to create original work that reveals the complex, beautiful reality of Native Americans. She wants to help Native people reclaim their narrative and to change the way they view themselves. She believes that the self-expression found in playwrighting, acting, design and filmmaking can help people find their place in the world. But as the head of one of the only Native-focused theater companies in the country, she is often isolated in her leadership. With her Bush Fellowship, she will seek connections with aboriginal theatre companies around the globe and pursue coaching to develop a strategic leadership plan that reflects her artistic ambitions and cultural values.
 
Contact:
Emily Shaftel - Bush Foundation