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YPN5Q: Fawn Bernhardt-Norvell

In this week’s edition of YPN5Q, we hear from Fawn Bernhardt-Norvell, a founder of Wellstone Action!.


“YPN5Q” is a weekly Q&A series spotlighting the state’s top young business and civic leaders and creative minds — professionals propelling change through entrepreneurship, the arts, public service, social media, and community involvement. This week, we hear from Fawn Bernhardt-Norvell, a founder of Wellstone Action!.

Beginning her career as the assistant finance director for the Wellstone Alliance in 1994, Bernhardt-Norvell has now worked with nonprofits and political campaigns for over 17 years.

In 2007, she was named a “Forty Under 40” Twin Cities leader by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

Bernhardt-Norvell volunteers her time to mentor campaign finance teams for local, state and national campaigns.

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She also proudly serves on the board of Project SUCCESS, a youth-development organization that helps middle- and high- school students in the Twin Cities realize their dreams after graduation by introducing them to the arts.

Courtesy of Fawn Bernhardt-Norvell
Courtesy of Fawn Bernhardt-Norvell
Fawn Bernhardt-Norvell

Name: Fawn Bernhardt-Norvell
Age: 40
Residence: Minneapolis
Current job title: Director of development and operations
Current employer: Wellstone Action!

1. What do like most about your job?
Being a part of continuing Paul and Sheila Wellstone’s legacy gives me great pride.

At Wellstone Action! we believe that with the right skills and tools, ordinary people can be leaders who make exceptional change in their communities.

It’s deeply satisfying watching the thousands upon thousands of people we’ve trained go out and do just that.

2. What do you know now that you wish you knew 10 years ago?
That listening is an invaluable skill. Seriously, stop talking and listen.

Those who know me well know I’m still learning this one, but I’ve found that, especially in the workplace, after listening to other people’s ideas, nine out of 10 times you’ll modify your own great idea.

3. What actions, strategies or professional networks have been most helpful to you in building your career?
Political house parties!

No matter what your political affiliation is, you can meet and network with so many people at political parties. Plus they’re fun!

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If the suggested donation is too steep, just offer to volunteer — that can absolutely get you in the door.

4. Who are your favorite writers?
In these frustrating political times, I find solace reading news columnists and bloggers.

I love almost anyone writing for The Nation, including Eric Alterman, Katha Pollitt, and my husband’s favorite, Jonathan Schell.

I also read Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast, follow Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog in The New York Times, and get excited for installments of Jeffrey Toobin’s “Annals of Law” in the New Yorker — his Supreme Court series is worth digging up.

5. Which living person do you most admire?
Barack Obama.

I’m frequently discouraged by him as a politician, but as a person, I find him to be incredibly confident and talented and absolutely secure with himself and his beliefs.

His speech on race while he was campaigning in 2008 blew me away.

I think he might be self-actualized! Whoa!

To nominate a young professional for “YPN5Q,” email with the nominee’s full name, employer or contact info, and one or two brief sentences supporting your nomination.