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Capital gains for young global leaders

Photos by Nikki Laws

UD Mandela Washington Fellows visit Dover for day with Delaware governor, legislators

The University of Delaware Mandela Washington Fellows left Newark behind and traveled south to the state’s capital city of Dover during the summer for a day of learning about Delaware government.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI), brings hundreds of young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa to the United States for six weeks of networking and leadership development. UD has hosted a Civic Institute for 25 Fellows since the program’s inception in 2014.

“Our institute focuses on civic leadership, and many of our fellows have roles in community organizations that require them to work with the governments of their respective countries,” said Oyenike Olabisi, assistant professor of biological sciences and academic co-director of the program. “Their exposure to state policymakers and the governor provided an opportunity to witness, by observation and interactions, how the different arms of government and industry work cooperatively.”

Upon arrival, Fellows began their day in history, with a guided tour of the Old State House, the state’s first capitol building, constructed in 1791. Here, the leaders learned about the U.S. Constitution and the role of state government before jumping into the present day with a briefing and tribute certificate presentations from Delaware Rep. Paul Baumbach on behalf of the House and Sen. Margaret Rose Henry on behalf of the Senate.

“The fellows faces lit up, and some even teared up, when they were given certificates of recognition from the Delaware House and Senate,” said Olabisi.

The Fellows later joined Delaware Gov. John Carney in his office for an exclusive meeting, where the leaders discussed Delaware’s ties to the African continent.

“We have many Delawareans with African roots, over 20 percent of our population, in fact,” said Carney, adding that U.S. Sen. Chris Coons’ yearly conference provides a forum for the growth of potential business, trade and technology transfer opportunities with the continent and other parts of the world.

The leaders also shared common challenges each faced in their communities. Topics ranged from interactions between the church and state to government checks and balances, women’s empowerment and more.

Billian Ojiwa, a UD Mandela Washington Fellow and aspiring politician from Kenya, sought insights on navigating conflict among constituents.

“We, in our country and in our state, have tremendous diversity in the population and this means that we have very diverse interests,” Carney said. “Democracy takes hard work, but’s a better way of doing it because legislators challenge each other as they represent their constituents. The power ultimately is with the people.”

Talent Tatenda Madungwe, a UD Fellow and program partnerships manager at the Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust in Zimbabwe, said the meeting with Carney as the highlight of her time in the State Capital.

“It's not every day that a leader makes time to interact with young people who are the present and future leaders of our global village,” she said. “As Fellows, we had some tough questions to ask and Governor Carney responded with impressive wisdom and counsel.”

For Madungwe, the experience was one that she said will also impact her own work.

“I am looking forward,” Madungwe said, “to encouraging young people who have never taken the time to observe the deliberations of the Zimbabwean parliament to religiously embrace the opportunity because our laws, regulations and policies affect us more than any other demographic.”

During a traditionally busy time of the year, the Fellows were also individually recognized on the floor of both the Delaware House and Senate. 

To learn more about the UD Mandela Washington Fellowship, visit the Institute for Global Studies website, follow along on Instagram and Twitter and engage using the hashtags #UDMWF and #YALI2018.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is a program of the U.S. Department of State, administered by IREX. The University of Delaware’s Institute for Global Studies is a sub-grantee of IREX and is supporting the U.S.-based academic program of the Fellowship.

About the Institute for Global Studies

The Institute for Global Studies was created in 2009 to enhance the international dimensions of teaching, research and outreach at the University of Delaware. 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 a number of global opportunities, and administers internationally-recognized State Department-sponsored programs such as the UD Fulbright Initiative, Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Student Leaders Program, Mandela Washington Fellowship Program for Young African Leaders, and most recently the Study of the U.S. Institutes for Student Leaders on Women’s Leadership (SUSI-WL) program.

IGS is the home of the UD Alternative Breaks Program and sponsors such signature events as Global Month each fall and country-specific celebrations each spring.

IGS collaborates 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. In addition, IGS partners with Enrollment Management to coordinate the UD World Scholars Program.

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