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UD welcomes world changers

Illustration by Christian Derr

Institute for Global Studies hosts three State Department programs for change agents from Africa and the Middle East

Sixty young leaders from Africa and the Middle East will call the University of Delaware home this summer as they enrich their leadership skills and immerse themselves in American culture through three exchange and leadership programs funded by the U.S. Department of State.

The trailblazers collectively hail from more than 30 countries and territories. No matter their origins, many of them can be found in the same place, at the forefront of innovation and change.

Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

For the fifth consecutive year, UD is host to a Mandela Washington Fellowship Civic Leadership Institute for 25 early career professionals from sub-Saharan Africa.

UD Mandela Washington Fellow Desale Ghide Ghebremeskel is a researcher and archivist at the Research and Documentation Center in Eritrea in East Africa. Outside of the office, Desale directs a mobile library project, enabling young people in remote areas to access books.

“The project employs 20 volunteers and has had thousands of beneficiaries around the country,” he said. Ghebremeskel’s next mission is to establish an open resource center in his and surrounding villages. “I believe setting up such a center will help narrow the education and information gap between town and village students.”

Other Fellows, like Nandita Nair, put paper aside and focus on digital advocacy. Nandita, a civil servant at the Office of the President in Seychelles and co-founder of an initiative called 'SeyIT.tv', empowers youth to employ active citizenship and critical thinking skills through video-based storytelling online.

Mame Codou Ndiaye of Senegal serves as the president and co-founder of La Parole aux Sisters, an organization that aims to inspire women and girls to achieve higher levels of education.

“I feel like from today, I will no longer be the same person,” Ndiaye said. “What I really am expecting from this program is to learn about how I can bring my movement in a new direction and spread the work of La Parole aux Sisters across my nation.”

Selected from tens of thousands of applicants, UD Fellows explore civic leadership through academic coursework and leadership training. Even after landing in Newark, Fellows cover ample ground, partnering with peer collaborators, meeting with local, state and national policymakers, and volunteering alongside local nonprofit organizations. The Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship initiative of the Young African Leaders Program, is sponsored by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by IREX, a U.S. non-governmental agency.

Middle East Partnership Initiative’s Student Leaders Program

This year marks the 15th anniversary of UD hosting the Student Leaders Program. The Student Leaders Program is funded by the State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). In the program, 15 college students from the Middle East and North Africa have been nominated by U.S. embassy personnel in their countries to explore servant leadership through classroom sessions, service learning opportunities and engagement with local American communities.

“Our students are very aware of community needs, but not always on how to make a positive difference,” said Student Leaders Program academic director Tracey Holden. “The servant leadership approach focuses on using your own talents and abilities to work with others for a greater good. You're not the boss telling others what to do, but a team member giving your best so everyone benefits. It's very much a part of the ideals of the United States. No one is better than anyone else, and we all consider the common good in our actions."

Aimane Idhajji is from Morocco and part of the Student Leaders Program being held at UD. He has channeled his passion for the arts into co-founding a creative space near his home.

“I love writing and I find great pleasure in helping people find their voices,” said Idhajji, who is an undergraduate student in English literature at Ibn Zohr University in Agadir.

Another program participant, Somaia Abu Baker, earned her bachelor’s degree in pharmacy at Birzeit University, near Ramallah. Her next priority is establishing a patient education center in her home.

Amr Dinari, from Tunisia, is a medical student at the University of Monastir, where he also volunteers with the Tunisian Association of Medical Students and more.

“As for my future,” he said, “I plan on instituting my own NGO or association in order to provide free healthcare for people in need in my region, who are increasing in numbers regularly.”

MEPI is administered by Georgetown University.

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Study of the U.S. Institutes Women’s Leadership Program

Twenty young women have traveled from their homes in sub-Saharan Africa for UD’s five-week Study of the U.S. Institutes (SUSI) Women’s Leadership Institute. Led by Amanda Bullough, a UD assistant professor of management, participants hope to gain a greater understanding of women’s participation in U.S. society and culture through an academically-grounded program, engagement with local communities, and study tours to iconic locations on the East Coast.

Yankai Flomo is a third year undergraduate student at the Stella Maris Polytechnic in Liberia, where she studies civil engineering and leads the Society of Women Engineers in Liberia. She leads construction projects and empowers other women to pursue careers in engineering.

Kunda Kataya studies psychology and sociology at the University of Zambia and has volunteered, among other initiatives, as a climate ambassador for UNICEF. After graduating from college, Kataya hopes to begin a foundation that promotes mental health among women in her country.

“My hope is that these high-potential leaders head home at the end of their experience with us at UD full of clarity in their leadership values, a whole new toolbox of competencies to utilize, and an invaluable network of other incredible women leaders to reach out to for the rest of their lives,” Bullough said. UD’s SUSI Women Leaders will return home in August to continue their studies and to implement special “Women Engaging the World” projects in their communities.

The SUSI Women’s Leadership Institute is sponsored by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the University of Kansas.

Fostering Mutual Understanding

While each of these changemakers will leave UD with new connections and ideas, they will also be making a positive impact on the University and local Delaware communities, said Dan Bottomley, associate director for partnerships and programs at UD’s Institute for Global Studies.

“Not only do our young global leaders bring a wealth of knowledge to our campus, they also help us build lasting ties in the Middle East and on the African continent, strengthening the reach of the University and contributing to U.S. national security through people-to-people diplomacy,” Bottomley said.

More than 20 U.S. families have offered to host family dinners and stays for UD’s newest international leaders and even more will serve, work and collaborate with them during their stay.

Follow along throughout the UD Mandela Washington Fellowship, Student Leaders Program and SUSI Women’s Leadership Program at @UDGlobal on Instagram and Twitter. To learn more about the lives and experiences of each of the Institute or Global Studies’ young visiting leaders, engage using the hashtag #UDGlobalSummer.

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 Institute, 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 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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