ST. PAUL, Minn. (March 17, 2015) — The Bush Foundation today announced its 2015 Bush Fellows, 23 leaders with records of achievement and extraordinary potential to make significant contributions in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and 23 Native nations that share the same geography.
The Bush Fellowship is distinctive in its flexibility, allowing Fellows to articulate what they need to become a better leader and providing them with the support to make it happen. Fellows receive up to $100,000 over 12–24 months to pursue learning experiences that help them develop leadership skills and attributes. The Fellowship can be used for advanced education, extensive opportunities for networking, and access to leadership resources, workshops and trainings.
“We are thrilled to invest in this extraordinary group of leaders,” said Bush Foundation President Jennifer Ford Reedy. “Bush Fellows have a unique opportunity to pursue the knowledge, connections and experiences that they believe are necessary to become more effective leaders. Investing in individual leadership is investing in the future well-being of our region. The extraordinary accomplishments of Fellows over the last 50 years are a testament to that.”
More than 2,200 people have taken advantage of the Fellowship to become better leaders through a self-designed learning experience, academic program or travel across the country to build connections with thought leaders on topics critical to their community. The Bush Fellowship counts among its alumni former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson, and Fond Du Lac Tribal Chairwoman Karen Diver.
More than 600 people applied for the 2015 Bush Fellowship. A selection committee of 24 regional leaders and Bush Fellows alumni selected the 23 Fellows from a pool of 30 finalists after a half-day of interviews. Applicants described their vision and passion for transforming their communities, their capacity to be a transformational leader and how a Bush Fellowship would help them achieve their vision and grow their capacity.
The Bush Foundation will accept applications for the 2016 Bush Fellowship beginning in July 2015. 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 geographic area.
2015 Bush Fellows
Jennifer Almanza, Inver Grove Heights, MN — Jennifer Almanza has spent the last 10 years understanding the scope of what a woman might encounter during birth, especially women of color. She researched the birthing experience of women living on Leech Lake Reservation, served as a preceptor and charge nurse in the Regions Hospital Birth Center, taught infant massage, and cross-trained in postpartum, newborn nursery and the newborn intensive care units. Now, with her Bush Fellowship, Jennifer intends to earn her doctorate of nursing practice in midwifery to increase the pool of culturally responsive providers to serve women of color in the metropolitan area. Her goal: more engaging care and better health outcomes for mothers and babies—at less cost.
Sarah Bellamy, St. Paul, MN —As co-artistic director of Penumbra Theatre Company, Sarah Bellamy imagines a future where Penumbra is not only the nation’s leading African American theater troupe but also a beacon for reigniting a shared civic passion and responsibility for healthy communities. To achieve that vision, she knows it will take a whole new way of thinking about the structure and operations of Penumbra. Sarah will use her Bush Fellowship to work with innovative leaders to harvest the best thinking on how arts, education and advocacy can work together to create lasting social and economic equity.
Natalie Bergquist, Pierre, SD —Natalie Bergquist tells her students at Lower Brule Community College that college is their “sanctuary from negativity.” That is something she learned first-hand as a single mother, pursuing her college degree as a nontraditional student in her 30s. In her eyes, education does far more than provide credentials; it proves a person’s determination to seek a better life. Today, as president and CEO of Lower Brule Community College, Natalie works to instill hope and support lasting change in her students, most of whom come from backgrounds that offer little support for higher education. With her Bush Fellowship, she will pursue a doctorate in higher education, with a focus on tribal college leadership.
Malcom Chapman, Rapid City, SD — As a college athlete, Marine, city council member and community volunteer, Malcom Chapman has spent the last three decades convening people to get things done. With the support of a Bush Fellowship, he now will turn his attention to learning how to convene organizations to instigate change on a bigger scale. Recognizing that the more than 30 service organizations in his community are rapidly dwindling in membership and that the millennial generation has its own ideas about how to serve, Malcolm wants to be the force that brings these diverse entities together to address community issues.
Laura Connelly, Grand Rapids, MN — As a child, Laura Connelly learned the importance of a compassionate community—the value of people who feed you when you are hungry, who give you shelter when you are fleeing violence, who support you without judgment. Her work over the past 12 years in the field of domestic violence has reinforced this need for community, but also for long-term economic security for women who leave violent situations. With her Bush Fellowship, Laura will strengthen her cross-sector leadership skills to be a more effective agent of change for rural families seeking freedom from domestic violence.
Matthew Ehlman, Hermosa, SD — Matthew Ehlman wants to challenge conventional wisdom about philanthropy in rural communities. Having raised millions of dollars for Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation and for other nonprofit organizations through his firm The Numad Group, he seeks to bring a rejuvenated model of philanthropy and nonprofit management to rural communities. During his Fellowship, Matthew will complete a PhD in philanthropic studies to increase his capacity to establish a rural philanthropy institute focused on research and bringing accurate data to decision-making in rural areas.
Irene Fernando, Minneapolis, MN — Irene Fernando believes deeply that new leadership is integral to organizational success. That’s why she and her two co-executive directors at Students Today Leaders Forever designed a model that requires each of them to transition out of leading the organization. Her willingness to plan herself out of a job is rooted in a mission to help cultivate a new generation of civic-minded leaders. She imagines a world where an organization’s leadership model is as important as its operating and financial models. Irene will use her Bush Fellowship to further her education in the areas of leadership theory, management structures and organizational design.
Chris Francis, Madison, SD —As a college student, Chris Francis learned personally the power of one effective teacher to inspire a student as both an artist and community member. Today, he is an artist, advocate and administrator deeply embedded in his South Dakota community. Chris would like to be that same kind of mentor to college students, particularly to help them understand the value and significance of the arts in communal life. He will use his Bush Fellowship to achieve a master’s degree that will provide him with the credentials to teach at the college level.
Amelia Franck Meyer, Minneapolis, MN —Amelia Franck Meyer has learned a fundamental truth serving youth in the child welfare system: it takes healthy leaders to heal those they serve. She has transformed a small treatment foster care agency into an award-winning enterprise known for creating industry-leading outcomes in child placement stability, permanency and well-being. Now she will explore how to scale her ideas beyond individual youth to the bigger system. With the Bush Fellowship, she will focus on gaining the knowledge needed to advance her strategies for transforming the child welfare system.
Elena Gaarder, Minneapolis, MN — In her community-based work, Elena Gaarder finds herself returning over and over to the same questions: What mix of policies, investments, partners and initiatives truly would shift the balance so that disadvantaged neighborhoods become opportunity-rich communities? And importantly, what can she do differently to be a more effective leader? These questions will drive her Bush Fellowship’s focus on deepening her abilities to build successful alliances and partnerships and on increasing her knowledge of social enterprise and worker cooperative models that have proven to transform the economics of communities across the U.S.
Latasha Gandy, New Brighton, MN —When Latasha Gandy was struggling to help her third-grade daughter with reading, she came to an important realization: not only was the system failing her child, but it had also failed her years before. Despite graduating with a 4.2 GPA from high school, Latasha still had to take remedial courses in college. This realization ignited her passion for educational equity and led to a leadership role with Students for Education Reform. She will pursue a JD and executive leadership training with her Bush Fellowship, expanding her network and skills to tackle the opportunity gap in education.
John Glover, Spearfish, SD —John Glover understands dichotomies. He is Indian and non-Indian, traditional Native and Americanized Norwegian Lutheran, academic and non-academic. Given those realities, he seeks to be a bridge and facilitator between the various constituencies he works with in the northern plains and prairies of South Dakota. With his Bush Fellowship, he will seek better understanding of the impact of diversity and inclusion, and improve his nonprofit management skills to enhance his work as professor and higher education leader at Black Hills State University and as CEO of Native Educational Endeavors.
R. Scott Gray, Golden Valley, MN — R. Scott Gray learned early what happens when someone invests in you. Growing up as an only child of a single mother, he was watched over by his next-door neighbor who kept him focused on school and church. When the man died, he willed his life savings to R. Scott’s family, making college possible. Today, as head of the Minneapolis Urban League, R. Scott continues to invest his time and talent in families that look like his once did. Increasingly his focus is on identifying social enterprise models that improve the educational and employability outcomes of people in urban communities. He will use his Bush Fellowship to build the skills needed to be a national thought leader on social enterprise.
Trista Harris, Burnsville, MN — Predicting the future is something many sectors try to do—the government, military, and private sector, especially. But Trista Harris has learned futurism is not at the heart of the nonprofit world. As president of the Minnesota Council on Foundation, she intends to use her Bush Fellowship to study futurism and foresight, and to learn from forward-thinking leaders at such places as the Oxford Scenarios Program, Silicon Valley and Aspen Institute. Her goal is to work across sectors, learning how best to help the philanthropic community prepare for and shape the future.
Ty Hegland, Fargo, ND — Ty Hegland closes every presentation to young people with these words: “There are two things you never get back in life: Time and opportunity. Do not waste either.” He has learned the truth of these words through his own personal and business challenges. It’s what is driving his focus to tackle a pressing rural issue: how aging people can stay in their rural communities. With an estimated 225% growth in demand for long-term care expected in rural areas in the near future, Ty will use his Bush Fellowship to explore cooperative models—similar to those used in agriculture and energy—for delivering services to an aging population.
Kevin Killer, Pine Ridge, SD — As the youngest Native American ever elected to the South Dakota Legislature, and one of only two tribal members in the state’s House of Representatives, Kevin Killer is entering what must be his final term with his eye on the next generation. Who will succeed him, and how can he help build more leaders from Pine Ridge and other Native communities in his state? Kevin will use his Bush Fellowship to build the leadership skills he needs to inspire and amplify tribal voices in community decision-making and to provide Native communities with an asset-based approach to the future.
Eric Mahmoud, Brooklyn Park, MN — As founder of the Harvest Network of Schools, Eric Mahmoud is using education as the lever for changing the narrative of what’s possible for African American and poor children. His work is strongly rooted in the belief that children from even the most challenging circumstances can achieve at high levels if the adults who teach them are bold enough, organized enough and have faith enough in their abilities. With his Bush Fellowship, Eric will pursue advanced education and training from the country’s most effective educational practitioners and shadow successful educational CEOs from around the country, using what he learns to expand his successful Harvest Network.
Adam Perry, Minneapolis, MN — Even though Adam Perry is living with a degenerative eye disease that has taken most of his usable sight, he believes he has never lost his vision. As a senior program director at Arts Midwest, overseeing complex international initiatives with musicians, authors and filmmakers, he knows that his disability doesn’t disqualify him as a leader. But he also recognizes that much of the world does not necessarily have the same understanding about people with disabilities. With his Bush Fellowship, he will grow his competency in cross-cultural communications and nonprofit management to continue his transition from “operator” to “leader.”
Tea Rozman Clark, Minneapolis, MN — Twenty years ago, while working in refugee camps in the war-torn former Yugoslavia, Tea Rozman Clark made a commitment to serve those whose lives had been unjustly disrupted by conflict. Years later, while recording the testimonies of former Srebenica residents as part of her doctoral studies at New York University, Tea realized the impact of first-person digital story sharing. She formed Green Card Voices, an organization that combats stereotypes by empowering immigrants to tell their stories. She will use her Bush Fellowship to build her nonprofit manager skills to grow Green Card Voices into the largest video library of immigrant stories in the country.
Kashif Saroya, Blaine, MN —Every year, Kashif Saroya uses a week of vacation from his position with Ecolab to organize and volunteer at the Muslim Youth of Minnesota’s summer camp, where he advises and mentors up to 500 youth. With the help of a Bush Fellowship, he now will turn to finding his own advisors to advance his abilities to promote diversity, engagement and inclusion in the business sector. He plans to pursue an MBA to increase the knowledge and networks he needs to play an executive leadership role in the corporate sector.
Ernesto Velez Bustos, Owatonna, MN — Ernesto Bustos knows that leaving an organization can be as challenging as running it. After more than a decade in multiple roles with Centro Campesino, including his current position as executive director, he is focused on who comes after him. He will use his Bush Fellowship to develop a system that inspires a new generation of youth leaders. He will grow his knowledge and skills through study and mentorship with innovative local and national leaders, transferring what he learns to his community to build the social, economic, political and cultural wealth of Latinos.
David Whitesock, Vermillion, SD — David Whitestock understands what it takes to get well. Ten years ago, mired in drug and alcohol addiction, he began his recovery, learning what it takes to get and stay sober. Today, he has earned a law degree and is the nation’s first and only “addiction informatics officer,” working with Face It TOGETHER to lead the charge in using “big data” to promote a holistic approach to treating addiction. With his Bush Fellowship, he will explore ways to help nonprofits measure social impact and to be smarter at applying precious resources toward solving community problems such as addiction.
Alex Zeibot, Minneapolis, MN — Language is the key to Alex Zeibot’s universe. Born Deaf in Riga, Latvia, and initially only exposed to language through text, he attended a Deaf school in Leningrad, Russia, where his life changed when he was introduced to a “manual” language. His journey brought him to the U.S. where he earned a bachelor’s degree from Gallaudet and a master’s in Deaf education from the University of Minnesota. Recognizing that Deaf students who graduate from high school have a median reading level eight years below their hearing peers—and that Deaf and hearing students learn literacy skills through entirely differences brain processes—Alex seeks to develop an effective curriculum that helps Deaf children overcome the literacy gap. He will use his Bush Fellowship to earn his PhD.
2015 Bush Fellowship Selection Committee
Vickie L. Allen (2004 Bush Fellow), Assistant Professor, Business Administration Department, St. Catherine University
Lee Antell (1995 Bush Fellow), Retired
Ta-Coumba T. Aiken (1992 Bush Fellow), Painter
Lisa Bodine, President and Co-Owner, Giant Voices, Inc.
Eugene Borgida, Professor of Psychology and Law, University of Minnesota
Cheryl Boyd, Retired
Don Day (1994 Bush Fellow), President, Leech Lake Tribal College
Troyd A. Geist, Folklorist, North Dakota Council on the Arts
Michael Goar, Interim Superintendent, Minneapolis Public Schools
William Goetz, Retired
Dwight Gourneau (1990 Bush Fellow), STEM Consultant, former Bush Board member
Andrea Jenkins (2011 Bush Fellow), Senior Policy Aide, Minneapolis City Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden
Tim Jennings, Managing Director, Children’s Theatre Company
Margaret Anderson Kelliher (2003 Bush Fellow), President and CEO, Minnesota High Tech Association
Matt Kilian, President, Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce
Leo Lopez, Commercial Banker and Vice President, Bremer Bank
Elsie Meeks, South Dakota State Director, United States Department of Agriculture/Rural Development
Neeraj Mehta (2011 Bush Fellow), Director, Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, University of Minnesota
Dana Nelson, Executive Director, GiveMN
Natalie Rasmussen, Administrator, Minneapolis Public Schools
Timothy Rose, President and Founder, T. Rose and Associates
Alfonso Wenker, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Minnesota Council on Foundations, former Bush staff (founding fellow of the Ron McKinley Philanthropy Fellowship)
Kayla Yang-Best, Education Director, Bush Foundation
Tracey Zephier, Partner; Fredericks, Peebles & Morgan; Rebuilder (Cohort 1) / current Bush Board member