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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.

Mandela Washington Fellowship

Photo by Nikki Laws

Young African leaders will gather virtually this summer at UD

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.

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and with the health, safety, and well-being of Fellows and Partners as the highest priority, the U.S. Department of State is planning a virtual Fellowship for 2021.  While remaining in their home countries, Fellows will participate in virtual Leadership Institutes, which will include leadership training, networking, mentoring, and professional development. 

While remaining in their home countries, Fellows will participate in virtual Leadership Institutes, which will include leadership training, networking, mentoring and professional development.

“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.  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.  

“Mandela Washington 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 Fellowship at UD. “When one considers our designation as a Community Engaged University, the Fellowship 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.  The group of 25 participants that will be hosted by UD are from the following counties: Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“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.”

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.”

Follow Along

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).

About the Mandela Washington Fellowship

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.

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