University of Minnesota
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The Humphrey School of Public Affairs is the University of
Minnesota's school of policy and planning.

Center for Science, Technology, and Public Policy

Policy Fellows Program Details

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.

If you are a Minnesota leader seeking to gain practical skills and experience to make a greater impact, the Policy Fellows program can help you take your own career and work to the next level.

Since its inception in 1990, the Policy Fellows program has trained over 600 Minnesotans, many of whom are now influential figures in their communities and around the world. 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. Today, nationally prominent political science professor Lawrence Jacobs directs the program, continuing the tradition of convening the best and brightest emerging leaders in Minnesota. Program activities are conducted by recognized leaders from business, government, and nonprofit organizations, as well as experts from the University of Minnesota and academic institutions around the country.

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. Over the course of the program, participants integrate their new skills into their professional lives. 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), and persuasion and collective action (negotiation and conflict management, building collaborative relationships with allies, and communicating persuasively and effectively).

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 over 600 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.

Enjoy a rich experience with a lasting impact
Past Fellows speak enthusiastically of the benefits of the program. Many begin thinking more broadly and more strategically; others feel inspired to explore new possibilities. One Fellow stated that it was the perfect program for aspiring leaders who seek to make a lasting impact on the political and policy landscapes, both locally and globally. And one Fellow simply said, "More than any other time in my life, I believe I can make a difference in my profession and my community."

Policy Fellows can expect to spend an average of 10 to 15 hours per month on the following program activities:

Monthly Meetings
The Policy Fellows cohort meets monthly from September through June, most often on Fridays, from approximately 8:15 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Each month, Fellows participate in a workshop focusing on skills critical to public affairs leadership, such as conflict fluency, adaptive leadership, strategy mapping, and stakeholder engagement. Following the workshop, Fellows often meet with a notable leader who is active in public affairs work.

Group Project
Starting in the fall, Fellows work together to propose and create projects on topics of their choosing. Most monthly meetings include time for groups to explore their issue and identify opportunities to make an impact; groups also work on their own time outside the monthly meetings. An important element is forming connections with specific community partners in the metro area and around the state. Program staff members provide support throughout the process. In June, groups present on their process and outcomes to their "fellow Fellows" and guests. We also invite you to view past group projects found below.

2013-2014 Group Projects
2012-2013 Group Projects

2011-2012 Group Projects
2010-2011 Group Projects
2009-2010 Group Projects

Washington, D.C. Trip
A highlight of the year is a three-day study trip to Washington, D.C. Fellows prepare in advance by reading up on political trends and domestic and foreign policy issues. Through conversations with some of the country’s leading analysts, policymakers, elected officials, and journalists in D.C., Fellows receive an intimate and unique behind-the-scenes understanding of how the governing process works and the motivations and distinct roles of the people involved.

Application Process + Frequently Asked Questions