Bridging Fellows

The Bridging Fellows program provides changemakers in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Dallas the opportunity to strengthen their individual and collective leadership capacity and grow networks to support building healthy and equitable communities. During this two-year program, Independent Sector will give Fellows the space, skill-building opportunities, and resources to socialize and embed bridging as a core competency in their organizations, as well as their communities. Fellows will learn and share adaptive leadership skills to engage in challenging conversations; solve divisive, complex issues with other people in a constructive manner; and manage positive social change. The program focuses on bridging specific areas of division, including ideological, racial, socioeconomic, and geographical. The program consists of leaders whose primary population is a local community.

The fellowship advances Independent Sector’s mission to improve lives, heal our natural world, and strengthen democratic society by ensuring that all people in the U.S. thrive.

Who is a “Bridging Fellow”?

A Bridging Fellow actively engages individuals, communities, and/or organizations for the purpose of building bridges across varying differences, including ideological, racial, socioeconomic, and geographical. Bridging Fellows-formally and/or informally-build relationships, trust, and opportunities for open and honest communication towards sustainable change and impact – including but not limited to- activists, community residents, organization leaders, community liaisons, youth development coordinators, program officers, case managers, community organizers, educators, human resource professionals, etc.

Through participation in the fellowship, Fellows will receive capacity and skill-building activities and instructions around bridging frameworks, share their bridging expertise with the cohort and broader social sector, and commit to deploy these practices in their organizations and communities. As a cohort, they will share their learnings and deepen their connections with each other across sectors, institutions, and geographies.

2022 Bridging Fellows


Jorge Arteaga
Midwest Program Manager
Young Invincibles
Chicago, Illinois

Bianca Avery

Bianca Avery
Texas State Coordinator
Campus Vote Project
Dallas, Texas

Dr. Christine Balarezo
Christine Balarezo LLC
Dallas, Texas

Jamil Bey

Dr. Jamil Bey
President & CEO
UrbanKind Institute
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Alvin C Bibbs

Rev. Alvin C. Bibbs, Sr.
Justice Journey Alliance, Leadership Foundation of
Chicago, Illinois

Millicent Boykin
Director of Statewide Initiatives
OneStar Foundation
Dallas, Texas

Fatima Bunafoor
Director of Talent and Equity
Pittsburgh Arts Cohort
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Dania Carter
Heart of Courage
Dallas, Texas

X Cornute
Co-Director / Program Manager
House Of Rebirth / Youth 2 Power
Dallas, Texas

Sarah Cotton Nelson
On personal sabbatical
formerly Communities Foundation of Texas
Dallas, Texas

Nathan Darity
Executive Director
The Global Switchboard
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Joseph Darwin
Director of Community Outreach
Dallas, Texas

Chelsea Dennis
Associate Director of Volunteer Engagement
Year Up
Chicago, Illinois

Abigail Endashaw
Summer Service National Coordinator
Mennonite Central Committee
Dallas, Texas

Pamela Fields
Visible Unity, Inc.
Dallas, Texas

David Gianfrancesco
VP Strategy and Innovation
Safer Foundation
Chicago, Illinois

Jerry Hawkins
Executive Director
Dallas Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation
Dallas, Texas

Kirk Holbrook
Director, Community Engagement Center
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Jeimy Ibarra
Deputy Organizing Director
PA United
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Riley Jones
Director of Ventures
CityBridge Education
Chicago, Illinois

Imran Khan
CEO & Co-Founder
Embarc, Inc.
Chicago, Illinois

Antong Lucky
Urban Specialists
Dallas, Texas

Susie Marshall
Executive Director
GROW North Texas
Dallas, Texas

Shareefah Mason
Associate Dean of Educator Certification
Dallas College
Dallas, Texas

Marjorie Murat
Dallas Afterschool
Dallas, Texas

Nitika Nautiyal
Co Founder, Chief Strategy and Development Officer
Business Services Collective
Chicago, Illinois

D. Nicole Polk
Suits For Judah
Dallas, Texas

Dr. Kellee Randle
Equity Ventures Plus, LLC
Dallas, Texas

William Paul Haalilio Ferran Reeves
Community Policy Organizer
Casa San Jose
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Joel Rodriguez
Community Organizer
Southwest Organizing Project
Chicago, Illinois

Rodrigua Ross
Vice President – Diversity Equity & Inclusion
YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas
Dallas, Texas

Zena Ruiz
Community Pollinator // Teaching Artist // Council Member
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Deondre’ Rutues
Community Engagement Specialist/Research Scholar
New York University School of Law
Chicago, Illinois

Fitzhugh Shaw
Farmer / Re-wilder
Oasis Farm & Fishery / Braddock Food Collaborative
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Amanda Shields
Vice President, Human Resources
Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas
Dallas, Texas

Amber Sims
CEO/Executive Director
Young Leaders Strong City
Dallas, Texas

Celeste Smith
Senior Program Officer for Arts & Culture
The Pittsburgh Foundation
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Dr. James Whitfield
Self Employed
Dallas, Texas

Dani Wilson
Strategic Director
Cancer & Environment Network of Southwestern Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Janel Young
Community Artist/Muralist
UrbanKind Institute
Chicago, Illinois

Bridging Fellowship Goals

Understand and advance key components of and conditions for bridging

Absorb best practices on bridging and apply the concepts in their work and communities

Deepen connections with each other across sectors, institutions, and geographies

Strengthen a sense of community, as well as enhance leadership skills and personal and professional networks

Amplify and embody bridge building as foundational to creating a sense of belonging across communities

Enhance a practice of racial equity to analyze and address disparities, adaptive leadership, self-awareness, and focusing on individual well-being

Frequently asked questions

A Bridging Fellow engages individuals, communities, and/or organizations for the purpose of building bridges across varying differences, including ideological, racial, socioeconomic, and geographical. Bridging Fellows – formally and/or informally – build relationships, trust, and opportunities for open and honest communication toward sustainable change and impact.

We encourage changemakers from all backgrounds in Chicago, Dallas, and Pittsburgh to apply, including but not limited to: leaders working locally in these cities across nonprofits, foundations, community groups, social movements, research communities, and for-profit social enterprises.

Examples: Activists, community residents, community liaisons, youth development coordinators, program officers, case managers, community organizers, educators, human resource professionals, etc.

Specific criteria for applicants:

  • Demonstrate passion and leadership in addressing one of society’s toughest challenges
  • Show self-awareness, vulnerability, and an openness to learning
  • Commitment and awareness of diversity, inclusion, and equity’s impact on social change work, and a willingness to engage on racial equity in personal and professional conversations
  • Illustrate the potential to scale social impact and demonstrate the capacity for system change
  • Value collaboration and demonstrate ability to collaborate on work with other changemakers within their sector or in cross-sector relationships


  • Bridge builders from all sectors including but not limited to nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, for-profit social enterprises, community groups, social movements, research communities, and government/public sector leaders.
  • Applicants must work and live in Pittsburgh, Dallas, or Chicago.

Preference may be given to candidates who identify as underrepresented or otherwise marginalized, including but not limited to:

  • Black, Indigenous, or other people of color
  • LGBTQ+
  • people with a seen or unseen disability

The Fellowship is a two-year hybrid, virtual and in-person program that includes 10 three-hour virtual convenings and three in-person gatherings in 2022 and 2023. Please review the 2022-2023 program schedule. In addition, Bridging Fellows will be invited to attend Upswell events, including regional meetings, annual business meetings, and Upswell Summits.

The 2022-2023 Bridging Fellows Program Schedule:

  • April 12, 2022: Virtual Convening #1 (virtual program kickoff)
  • May 3, 2022: Virtual Convening #2
  • July 19, 2022: Virtual Convening #3
  • September 14, 2022: Virtual Convening #4
  • November 15, 2022: Upswell Summit (virtual)
  • December 13, 2022: Virtual Convening #5
  • To be determined: Learning Exchange #1 in Dallas (in person, travel required)
  • January to November 2023:
    • Virtual Convenings #6-10
    • Learning Exchange #2 (Chicago)
    • Learning Exchange #3 (Pittsburgh)
    • Upswell events 2023
    • Upswell Summit 2023

Application timeline:

  • Applications are due by 11:59 PM PT on March 7, 2022. Your completed application must be received by this date and time. No extensions will be granted.
  • Submissions will be reviewed by a selection committee that includes staff from Independent Sector.
  • Applicants will be notified of their selection status, and the 2022-2023 Bridging Fellows cohort will be announced, in March 2022.

Thanks to the generous support of Walmart, Fellows will receive a stipend for their participation in virtual convenings, as well as for travel and accommodation costs for in-person gatherings.

Fellows will be expected to participate in ten (10) virtual convenings (via Zoom video conference) to be held between 1:00 – 5:00 PM ET, as well as three (3) in-person gatherings that will be held during the two-year period.

Outside of meeting times, Fellows can expect to spend approximately four to six hours per month on program-related activities during the Fellowship. Fellows are expected to participate in and complete all assignments and projects related to participation in the program.

Failure to participate in convenings without making prior arrangements with Independent Sector staff may result in a loss of Fellowship status. Independent Sector staff strive to maintain flexibility and understanding around balancing the pandemic’s ongoing impact on work/personal routines, such as shifting work demands, work environment, work-from-home, changes in caretaking responsibilities, and self-care. Communication will be key from all parties in order to balance personal needs and the integrity of cohort learning.

Upon acceptance, Fellows are required to sign and return a commitment form within two business days. The form outlines program participation expectations and involves supervisor approval.

Thanks to the generous support of Walmart, acceptance into the Fellowship includes all fees, materials, and supplies related to the leadership development curriculum. Fellows will also receive a stipend for participating in virtual convenings, as well as for travel and accommodation costs for in-person gatherings.

Fellows are responsible for arranging their schedule to meet time demands of virtual convenings and in-person gatherings. In a virtual world, your time is a major cost commitment to be proactively managed among your professional and personal duties.

Fellows will receive complimentary registration to Upswell 2022 and Upswell 2023.