Policy Fellows Program

Policy Fellows

The Policy Fellows is one of the country’s most respected public affairs leadership programs for emerging and mid-career professionals. The nine-month program is unmatched in its diversity, interaction with public officials, leadership training, and opportunity to undertake important projects that benefit the wider community.

Take the Next Step in Leadership

Policy Fellows challenge themselves. They demonstrate leadership in their work and community activities, and exhibit initiative, curiosity, openness to new ideas and concepts, and problem-solving skills. Each year, approximately 35 leaders from government, the private sector, and nonprofit organizations from around the state are selected through a competitive application process.

Focus on Practical Leadership Skill Development

Monthly sessions explore fundamental aspects of leadership, with presentations by local and nationally recognized experts followed by discussion and skill-building activities. The program focuses on three core competencies:

  • Mindfulness: assessing personal leadership style, understanding others, and taking informed risks
  • Strategic effectiveness in context: diagnosing opportunities and constraints; influencing the legislative and political process; and working effectively across public, private, and nonprofit sectors
  • Persuasion and collective action: negotiation and conflict management, building collaborative relationships with allies, and communicating persuasively and effectively

Fellows also travel to Washington, D.C., for a multi-day study trip with prominent elected officials and national leaders in public affairs. The time commitment is approximately 10 to 15 hours per month.

Engage with a Diverse Cohort

The opportunity to interact and form relationships with others from a variety of professional, personal, cultural, and political backgrounds is a defining feature of the program. Fellows come from the Twin Cities area and across greater Minnesota.

Connect to a Long-Standing Public Affairs Network

An important benefit of the program is a link to nearly 800 past program participants throughout the state and beyond. Through this network, Policy Fellows are connected to a broad public affairs community and educational and professional opportunities. Begun by Vice President Walter Mondale and Ambassador Geri Joseph, the program was directed for a dozen years by former congressmen Tim Penny and Vin Weber. The program is currently led by Professor Larry Jacobs and assistant director Kate Cimino.

Work Together

Fellows work together to propose projects on topics of their choosing. Most monthly meetings allow time for groups to explore their issues and identify opportunities to make an impact. In June, groups present on their process and outcomes to their "fellow Fellows" and guests.

Recent Policy Fellows projects have included:

  • Encouraging employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities
  • Strategies for increasing diversity in local government
  • Police body cameras: A public conversation about data privacy
  • Addressing radicalization of Somali youth in Minnesota
  • Serving the underserved: Community outreach for the Mother Baby Program at HCMC
  • Community equity pipeline: Increasing the presence of people of color deeply involved in policymaking at the State Capitol
  • Vision and opportunity at the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant development