Cookingham-Noll Management Fellow mentors new colleagues

WRITTEN BY: Alyssa Dinberg
PHOTO BY: Karen Lim

L-R: Brandon Kowalke, Alyssa Dinberg, Ruanda McFerren

A little over a year ago I stepped foot inside City Hall on my first day as a Cookingham-Noll Management Fellow eager to learn, grow and serve Kansas City. Today, I am a second-year fellow serving as a mentor and friend to our newest and brightest. Each year, the City conducts a national search for fellows and receives more than 175 applications from prospective candidates representing universities across the country. The Cookingham-Noll Management Fellowship is one of the nation’s most established municipal fellowships. Created 70 years ago by City Manager L.P Cookingham, the program routinely produces local government professionals who go on to promising careers in the public and private sector. We are thrilled to welcome Ruanda McFerren and Brandon Kowalke as the newest public servants eager to learn the ins and outs of local government.

Brandon Kowalke is originally from Beach Park, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. He received an undergraduate degree in Political Science and Psychology from North Eastern Illinois University and a Masters of Public Administration from Northern Illinois University. Before moving to Kansas City, Brandon worked for the City of Wheaton, Ill. Brandon describes his KCMO experience so far as “very welcoming. Everyone has been supportive when it comes to including the fellows and bringing us up to speed. It’s been great to dive head first into projects and get a feel for what is going on in the City. There’s been a lot of variety, be it drafting memos, designing brochures, teaching residents in CEU (Community Engagement University), or facilitating community discussions there is always something going on. Having worked closely with 311 and the OPM (Office of Performance Management) team up to this point I’ve gotten a good feeling for the issues facing our residents as well as how we’re collaborating internally to tackle those issues. It’s been busy, informative, and exciting all in one.”

Ruanda McFerren is a native of Fort Smith, Ark., and studied American Studies and Sociology at Hendrix College. After taking time off to work in admissions at her alma mater, she went on to receive Masters Degrees in both Urban and Regional Planning and Public Affairs from the University of Wisconsin. Ruanda chose the Cookingham-Noll Fellowship because “it really is the ideal way to learn the organization and functions of the City, top to bottom. Regardless of what department I might ultimately work in, having this deep knowledge of City functions will be exceedingly beneficial.” In addition, Ruanda intentionally sought out jobs in the Kansas City area because it’s closer to family and is clearly a city on the rise.

The Cookingham-Noll Management Fellowship is a two-year experience that offers recent graduates of Public Administration (or related) Master’s programs a chance to take a “360-degree tour of the city.” This includes rotations in the City Manager’s Office, the Office of Management and Budget, and other departments of their choice. Fellows attend and participate in several meetings each week with the City Manager and other City leadership throughout their time as a fellow. This 24-month term is full-time and paid.

One of the longest running fellowships in the country, it’s provided a great learning opportunity to more than 100 city management fellows to date. Our alumni have gone on to rewarding jobs within municipal, state, and federal government, as well as not for profit organizations.

For more information about the Cookingham-Noll Management Fellowship, please visit: cookinghamnoll.wixsite.com/cookinghamnoll.