Each year, the Citizens League is fortunate enough to host a Brandl Scholar from the Eugene J. McCarthy Center at St. John’s University over the summer. The interns we’ve had from this program prove to be bright and enthusiastic, and quickly become engaged contributors to our work at the League. This year’s intern, Matthew Burgstahler, is no exception! Matthew hit the ground running and quickly became an essential element to our work this summer. Our thanks to him and the Eugene J. McCarthy Center at St. John’s for this ongoing partnership. The following are some parting words from Matthew as he prepares for his final year at St. John’s.
My name is Matthew Burgstahler and I am a soon-to-be senior at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. I had the opportunity, through the John Brandl Fellowship at my institution, to work for the Citizens League this summer.
To sum up my experience in one word… engaging. I felt a part of the larger policy/think tank/civic engagement organization primarily because of the breadth of work at Citizens League and the interesting staff. Not many individuals would know that Jacob Taintor has done improv comedy, Jan Unstad worked directly with a US president, and Sean Kershaw hosts back-yard concerts throughout the summer.
Even more interesting than the genuine staff, however, are the policy areas that the Citizens League covers. I was able to assist a Race and Equity Task Force facilitation project in the City of Edina, MN, attend an intergenerational conversation about healthcare and aging with a diverse cohort at the YMCA Heritage Park in North Minneapolis, and I worked with the PILOT (‘Payment in Lieu of Taxes’) project in the City of Saint Paul.
As an integrative health science student at Saint John’s University, I came to the Citizens League with little policy background but a passion for civic engagement, civil discourse, and dialogue about social ills facing the region. I cannot honestly say I learned any anatomy or physiology I might apply in the healthcare field, but I learned more than I thought possible in the realm of interpersonal communication. I saw the mission of bipartisan discussion and common ground first hand in meetings with a 23-person committee. I learned how to hold legitimately effective meetings — a simple task that is often overlooked. I found ways to explore my thought patterns with radically different viewpoints presented in logical thoughtful manners. In essence, I was able to witness democracy at a time when our country is in dire need of democratic ideals. As a science major, I aspire to work at the crossroads of clinical medicine and service delivery aimed at the social determinants of health. The learning experience at Citizens League offered a better understanding of group dynamics, communication, and how to best present my perspective as a hypothesis towards a solution and not an end game. In my mind, these ideas have a perfect parallel to the team structure of medicine and many other fields of study and work.
I was also honored to participate in a Policy and a Pint discussion in Rochester, a Mind Opener discussion on professionals of Color in MN, and multiple meetings with the Saint Paul City Council.
The Citizens League inspires self efficacy in policy and gives any individual the powerful idea that they may change the system for the better. I hope to reflect back on this work in the future and take this change agency along my career path. Thank you to the staff and individuals I worked with at Citizens League!