While too smart to impose self-fulfilling prophecies like, “I’ll never get picked for this,” Katy Lundell approached her application into the Policy Fellows Program at the University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs without expectation.
She was flipping through the Granite Falls Chamber of Commerce Newsletter when she was drawn to the opportunity. As owner of Lundell Chiropractic she already had plenty on her plate, but was nevertheless compelled to apply, even if she wasn’t totally sure what she was getting into.
“It intrigued me, so I applied not fully realizing what the program could do for me, nor I for it,” she recalled. “I had hoped to be able to grow my leadership skills and, while not overtly, I have also always been interested in politics. It fascinates me.”
Lundell was required to compose an essay answering the question, ‘How can we work together for the greater good?,’ which was also the main emphasis of the program. In the end, she was named as one of the 38 early to mid-career Minnesotans chosen to be a part of the year long program.
In the spring of 2012, Lundell and her program fellows began making the trek to the Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus for once a month meetings. Here, the fellows explored concepts of civic engagement, personality types and adaptive leadership, and also worked together in small groups to develop unique ways to tackle big problems.
June 7 marked the end of the program and provided groups an opportunity to present their final projects. “It was really an engaging day,” Lundell said. “The small groups that met just nine months ago were trying to take on some of the big problems that Minnesota is facing.”
The groups attempted to address everything from bullying to creative city planning. Lundell said that her group worked on an advertising campaign in city busses that would help raise the awareness of child sex trafficking in the Twin Cities.
“It’s just this interesting group of people that came together nine months ago that took all their different connections and backgrounds and put them to a good use collaboratively,” Lundell said. “Our group is still working on it, so we’re definitely staying in touch.”
Washington , D.C. and Mondale
If there was a high point to the experience, it is tough to beat the program fellows three day trip to Washington D.C. At the nation’s Capitol the group had the opportunity to observe the Pew Foundation, a think tank on public policy; receive a reception with Senator Al Franken; and a visit to the State Department where they talked with a top aide to then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.
Page 2 of 3 - The group also perused the White House Conference Center and talked with a special assistant to the President, and Vin Weber from the Council on Foreign Relations. They met Alan Hunt from Bloomberg News, learning about the media influence in politics and how the 24/7 news cycle is changing how and what the public learns and how it is reported.
Lundell called the experience unbelievable, and noted how surreal it was to hear Clinton’s aide, Jake Sullivan, a “brilliant” Minnesota native who she said had a notably baby face, talk about being a part of peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. “I mean seriously...!” was all she could say to convey the experience.
And yet, for all of Washington D.C.’s spectacle, perhaps her most profound influence during the program came from the motivational message of Minnesota’s own Walter Mondale, during a luncheon held with the former U.S. Senator, Vice President and ambassador to Japan.
Lundell said that Mondale recounted how his entry into politics during the civil rights era was driven by a moral compass that recognized the need for equal rights. These days, he continues the crusade, only now working to ensure that low-income individuals accused of crimes receive sufficient representation from public defenders.
“The guy’s like 89 years old or something and here he is still in the trenches,” she said. “His love of the greater good started early, and that has always propelled him in whatever he has done. You hope and pray that’s the goal of all our politicians.”
Change is needed
For all the focus on state and national issues, needs close to the heart of Lundell’s choice of profession as well as her hometown area were also on her mind during the policy fellows program.
Since opening her own chiropractic practice in 2010, Lundell has become increasingly aware of the disadvantages chiropractors are faced with in terms of the national health care system.
“Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) groups just don’t have a great seat at the table in terms of reform,” she said. “So if I can understand public policy and how public policy is made then I can help get CAM modalities a bigger seat at the table.”
Lundell said her pie in the sky goal is to get chiropractic care and CAM modalities into the traditional healthcare system. Integrated clinics, that include chiropractic care along with traditional Medical doctors, etc., are being instituted in the Cities, she said, but are still an afterthought in rural areas.
“In rural Minnesota we’re great at back pain, neck pain and headaches––where traditional medicine doesn’t always have good answers ... So that’s my dream because I think we could be very helpful in care for people as they age and also in keeping costs down.”
Page 3 of 3 - Locally, Lundell said that she liked to see increased civic engagement by a greater diversity of individuals and organizations. In addition, she says she’d like to see the different local sectors come together to figure out some creative ways to address some of the problems common in Greater Minnesota.
“As the face of the county changes and as the population dispersement changes, we have to be pretty flexible and be willing to look outside the box because the same answers aren’t going to work anymore.”
Of course if people are going to think and act outside the box, then they’ll have to be willing to venture outside their comfort zone––something that Lundell admits isn’t easy, but more than ever is needed to collaboratively create change.
“In order to grow and be better you have to be a little uncomfortable. When I first arrived at the policy fellows program I met immigrants to this country who started clinics for HIV positive Sub-Saharan African immigrants because that need wasn’t being filled. Who thinks of that stuff...?” she asked rhetorically. “And that’s the kind of people that were there––these just caring and brilliant people. So I was a little intimidated at first but as you dive into it your learn you all have these different skill sets and viewpoints that can all work together.
“No one sector can do it alone anymore, they just can’t, to make change,” she continued. “We have to work together. And making these connections is the best and most efficient way to do that.”