Bush Foundation Selects 24 Visionary Leaders For 2020 Bush Fellowships

 By Tony Kiene




The Bush Foundation today announced the selection of its 2020 Bush Fellows, a group of 24 visionary leaders who are thinking big about how to solve problems and shape a better future for their communities. The 24 Fellows hail from Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the 23 Native nations that share the same geography:

The 2020 Fellows are:

Amira Adawe, Saint Paul, MN

Matuor Alier, Fargo, ND

David Anderson, Minneapolis, MN

David Archambault II, Cannon Ball, ND

Valeriah Big Eagle, Rapid City, SD

Guy Bowling, Minneapolis, MN

Joseph Brings Plenty, Eagle Butte, SD

Amanda Carlow, Pine Ridge, SD

Roque Diaz, Minneapolis, MN

Laetitia M. Hellerud, West Fargo, ND

Evva Karr, Saint Paul, MN

Kirsten Kennedy, North Branch, MN

Farhio Khalif, Maple Grove, MN

Ani Ryan Koch, Minneapolis, MN

Matthew Koncar, Lauderdale, MN

Allen Lewis, Virginia, MN

Brittany Lewis, Minneapolis, MN

Essa Mohamed, Rochester, MN

Vayong Moua, Eagan, MN

Meghan O’Connell, Elk Point, SD

Benjamin Schierer, Fergus Falls, MN

Jenna Udenberg, Two Harbors, MN

Beau White, Kyle, SD

Kayla Yang-Best, Saint Paul, MN

The Bush Fellowship is an investment in individual leaders. It provides Fellows with up to $100,000 over 12 to 24 months to pursue formal and informal learning experiences that help them develop the skills, attributes and relationships they need to become more effective, equitable leaders who can drive change in their communities and region as a whole. 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 Bush Foundation believes that strong and equitable leaders are necessary for our communities to be places where every person can thrive,” said Bush Foundation Leadership Programs Director Anita Patel. “These 24 Fellows have demonstrated tremendous capacity to lead change, and we believe in their potential to make an even greater difference.”

A total of 746 people applied for the 2020 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 think bigger and become more effective leaders.

The Bush Foundation will accept applications for the 2021 Bush Fellowship beginning August 18, 2020. 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 2,325 people have taken advantage of the Fellowship to become better leaders through a self-designed learning experience, academic program, or travel and research to build connections with thought leaders on topics critical to their community. The Bush Fellowship counts among its alumni playwright August Wilson; James Beard Foundation Book Award winner Sean Sherman; former Minnesota Governor Arne Carlson; author and storyteller Kevin Kling; Amelia Franck Meyer, named one of People Magazine’s 25 Women Changing the World; 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.

Vayong Moua

Eagan, MN —Vayong Moua was told from an early age that he was his ancestors’ wildest dream. He takes that responsibility seriously as a son, parent and public health leader with a powerful vision for health equity. In his position with the state’s largest health plan, he sees that Minnesota consistently ranks as one of the top states in health, education and many other quality of life indicators, yet also has some of the worst racial inequities in the country. He believes that equity is about how we design powerful, inclusive tables, not just individual seats. He wants to seed health equity criterion in policies and management to change institutional behavior. To elevate his leadership, he will seek greater intercultural and conflict resolution skills, as well as deeper connections to his ancestral land of Laos.

Kayla Yang-Best

St. Paul, MN — Kayla Yang-Best envisions grocery store shelves full of the local, healthy and culturally diverse food she loves. She wants them to be places where she can better identify with the producers. As founder of a small food production company that supplies Asian meal kits and broths to grocery stores, she discovered many inequities in the food supply system, including a significant under-representation of local producers of color. She also found that food producers of all backgrounds were trapped in a supply chain that offered low pricing structures and other market inequities. She has developed a co-retailing model that she wants to scale to bring greater equity to the local food supply chain. To provide the leadership her entrepreneurial vision requires, she seeks to enhance her knowledge of business, finance and investments in food supply chains. She will also seek coaching from leaders who excel in inclusive decision-making and creating inclusive change.

Evva Karr

Saint Paul, MN — Evva Karr is ready to rise. As founder of one of the first public benefit corporations in the world focused on digital games, she sees how few women and people of color occupy leadership positions in her industry. She wants Saint Paul to become a national center for women, people of color and queer entrepreneurs in creative technology. Typically more comfortable behind the scenes, she wants to learn how to tell her personal story to inspire radical change in leadership in the digital games arena. To equip her to speak boldly to a broader audience, she will improve her storytelling and public speaking skills. She will also seek education in how to invest strategically in games created by diverse entrepreneurs.

Kayla Yang-Best

Vayong Moua