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The University of Delaware will host the Mandela Washington Fellowship Civic Engagement Institute in a virtual format beginning late in June. This photo was taken in 2019 before the coronavirus pandemic necessitated physical distancing and the wearing of masks.
It’s become a rite of summer at the University of Delaware. Each June, 25 young African leaders come to Newark for a six-week Leadership in Civic Engagement Institute, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship.
But in 2020, a run of seven consecutive years at UD came to an end, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of the program until 2021.
This year, the program and its leaders will return in a virtual format starting the week of June 21. The U.S. Department of State made the decision with the health, safety and well-being of Fellows and Partners as the highest priority.
While remaining in their home countries, Fellows will participate in virtual Leadership Institutes, which will include leadership training, networking, mentoring and professional development.
The group of 25 participants at UD are from the following countries: Madagascar, Malawi, Zambia, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Djibouti, Namibia, Mozambique, Republic of Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, Guinea, Cameroon, Burundi, Mauritius, Liberia, Ghana and the Central African Republic.
“The University of Delaware is proud to be a longtime host of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, which shares our goal of promoting thoughtful global citizenship, and we look forward every year to working with and learning from these inspiring young leaders,” said UD President Dennis Assanis. “Even though we’re virtual this year, it is going to be a great program, and we hope that all of the participants will come to visit UD when it is safe to do so.”
The Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities and local community engagement.
“Our Fellows go through a very rigorous selection process and are highly sought after candidates globally after their fellowship for many international awards and graduate fellowships, which makes them an excellent recruitment pool for graduate and, potentially, undergraduate programs at UD,” said Michael Vaughan, UD interim vice provost for diversity and inclusion and principal investigator of the Mandela Washington Program. “When one considers our designation as a Community Engaged University, the MWF Program provides a wonderful opportunity for our campus to partner with the U.S. Department of State and other global entities to create value within the talent and leadership development space.”
Given that the experience will be virtual this year, the program leadership intends to leverage the benefits of online programming.
“We, the Institute staff, plan to connect current Fellows with past UD Fellows now back in their home countries, via Zoom,” said Oyenike (Nike) Olabisi, associate professor of biological sciences and academic director of the MWF program at UD. “Fellows will also be able to interact with UD faculty, government and community leaders through the virtual platform. They will also have site visits, networking and cultural connection events in the virtual space. A virtual program also improves the potential for recruitment of our Fellows as future graduate students.”
The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) was created in 2010 and supports young Africans as they spur economic growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across the African continent. Since 2014, the U.S. Department of State has supported nearly 4,400 young leaders from across 49 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to develop their leadership skills and foster connections and collaboration with U.S. professionals through the Fellowship. The cohort of Fellows hosted by UD will be part of a group of 700 Mandela Washington Fellows hosted by 26 educational institutions across the United States.
After their Leadership Institutes, Fellows will participate in a virtual Summit. Up to 70 competitively-selected Fellows will also participate in six weeks of virtual professional development with U.S. non-governmental organizations, private companies, and government agencies.
Funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented by IREX, Leadership Institutes will offer programs that will challenge, motivate and empower young leaders from Africa.
“We are so glad the program is back in 2021, even if virtual,” Olabisi said. “We rely on UD faculty and community leaders to support our Fellows professional development and training by serving as mentors, host families and presenters/panelists and welcome your participation.”
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Fellows have been contributing their experiences to the official UD Mandela Washington Fellowship blog.
For additional information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship Civic Engagement Institute at the University of Delaware, visit the Office of Institutional Equity, Diversity and Inclusion under the leadership of Michael Vaughn (program principal investigator, interim vice provost for diversity and Inclusion); Oyenike (Nike) Olabisi (academic director and UD associate professor biological sciences); and Colin Miller (academic director and UD CAS director global arts, adjunct faculty UD School of music).
The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX. For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, visit mandelawashingtonfellowship.org and join the conversation at #YALI2021.
Article by Peter Bothum
Published June 3, 2021