“Sitting in a formal classroom with political scientists was my way to pursue my interests, but it was not the most effective learning environment,” Costain recalls. “The most important part of my Fellowship was the ability to step back from work, and have time to reflect and think about where the world was going.”
The subsequent soul-searching that the Fellowship afforded reinforced Costain’s understanding of what it means to be a leader in local communities and in global organizations. Regardless of entity, Costain believes that change happens from the bottom up. “I am a huge believer in grassroots community-based leadership,” she says. “I always operate from the assumption that solutions exist within communities of people, and that it is in their coming together to mutually solve a problem that they are able to do so.”
The connections, knowledge and confidence attained during her Fellowship propelled Costain to where she is today. In her 25 years since becoming a Bush Fellow, her focus turned from globalization to a professional career in public education. “In 2007, Costain was elected to the school board for the Minneapolis Public Schools and seated as its chair. In 2010, she left to become president and CEO of AchieveMpls, an organization dedicated to ensuring career and college readiness for students and young adults. She retired from that position in 2016, and is currently working as an independent consultant with Nonviolent Peaceforce, an international advocacy and peace nonprofit, mapping out violence reduction strategies related to the pipeline struggle in North Dakota.