UD has welcomed 25 young African leaders who were selected to participate in President Barack Obama's Washington Fellowship program.

Welcome Washington Fellows

25 young African leaders dare to be first through YALI program

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8:18 a.m., June 24, 2014--Twenty-five visiting young African leaders selected to partake in President Barack Obama’s Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, a flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiate (YALI), were officially welcomed to the University of Delaware campus by Provost Domenico Grasso during a reception at the Wright House on Wednesday, June 18. 

“You will be here for the next six weeks and become a part of the University community,” Grasso said, adding, “You are all now Blue Hens.”

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Civic leadership

Twenty-three college students from 16 different countries came to UD as part of a Middle East Partnership Initiative program focused on civic leadership.

Fellows were welcomed by Grasso, Nancy Guerra, associate provost for international programs and director of the Institute for Global Studies (IGS), and Babatunde Ogunnaike, dean of the College of Engineering.

The fellows represent 19 different countries in Africa and are among 500 applicants to be chosen for the program, with the other 475 participating in similar institutes at 19 other universities across the country. 

While at UD the fellows will participate in a six-week academic institute on civic leadership with sessions focused on good governance, political organizing and advocacy, diverse roles of the media, civil society-business relations in the U.S., organizational development and more, all while keeping the African context in mind.

“You all have a gift; the capability and leadership ability to make things change,” said Ogunnaike, who is from Nigeria.

“Our 25 fellows are an impressive group,” said Gretchen Bauer, academic director of the institute. “They are very talented, accomplished and committed to leading Africa in new ways in the years ahead -- it is really exciting.”

During the first week of the program, the fellows were inspired and captivated by an academic session with Wunyabari Maloba, professor of history, titled, “African in America: Walk in My Shoes.” They learned about women’s roles in grassroots and political leadership in Africa and the U.S., how to create a digital portfolio, and how to train their voice and gestures to make the most of their communication efforts. 

“It has been engaging, exciting and insightful. I have already learned so much in such a short while,” said Ijeoma Idika-Chima from Nigeria.

On Thursday the group traveled to Dover to tour Legislative Hall and the Old State House and to meet with Gov. Jack Markell. They asked him questions about good governance, running for public office, constituent relations, public policy and leadership.

“If you want to change the system, you have to be a part of the system,” said Cheikh Sy form Senegal.

They had their first community engagement visit to AIDS Delaware in Wilmington where they spoke with Frank Hawkins, director for education and outreach.

The fellows quoted Hawkins in a Facebook group they use to share photos and information: “Thirty years into the illness, where I came from is not as relevant as to what to do to try and stop it.”

They ended the week with a guided tour of the art exhibition “FreshPAINT” at Mechanical Hall, which features African American art from the Paul R. Jones Collection. The tour was led by Julie McGee, curator of African American art, and Ivan Henderson, curator of education with University Museums.

Over the weekend, the group was able to learn about American history when they traveled to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell and tour the Constitution Center.

Fellows said they are looking forward to gaining leadership knowledge through skills training experiences, as well as networking, and professional development opportunities. 

Next week the fellows will continue with academic sessions focused on good governance and civic leadership, leadership skills training, community service and site visits with community organizations.

The program is implemented by IGS as a component of the UD-Africa Initiative.

About the Institute for Global Studies

IGS was created in 2009 to enhance the international dimensions of teaching, research and outreach at UD. IGS provides leadership and support for programs and experiences that contribute to the education of informed, skilled, open-minded citizens of the world. 

Best known for coordinating the University’s study abroad program, IGS also awards scholarships and grants to faculty and students for global travel and research, administers internationally-recognized programs such as the MEPI (Middle East Partnership Initiative) Student Leaders Institute, and sponsors such signature events as International Education Week each fall and country-specific celebrations each spring. 

IGS also partners with other global partners on campus, including the Office for International Students and Scholars, the Confucius Institute and the Center for Global and Area Studies.

Article by Elizabeth Adams

Photos by Elizabeth Adams and Kelly Bachman

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