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Mandela Washington Fellowship to be at IU for fourth consecutive year


Mandela Washington Fellowship groups together for a photo at IU-Purdue University Indianapolis. The 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders will be at IU for the fourth time. Photo courtesy of IU Office of the Vice President for International Affairs

IU is organizing the 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders for the fourth year in a row.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, the six-week leadership program will begin in mid-June.

“It’s a really impactful program,” director of the fellowship Teshome Alemneh said. “These are young leaders that are becoming future leaders.”

After applying for the grant in 2016, IU has been holding the civic engagement section of the fellowship since 2016. Vice President for International Affairs Hannah Buxbaum said the application process for the grant gets competitive because many universities sign up.

The Office of International Development leads the fellowship.

The program works with emerging leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa doing civic engagement work in their home countries. It assists them with academics, leadership skills and professional networking and job opportunities.

Buxbaum said the variety of leaders IU sees is amazing.

“I love hearing about the work that they are doing in their jobs at home,” Buxbaum said. “The forms of different civic engagement that they are involved in at home is across the board.”

The fellowship includes 700 leaders at 27 institutions around America this year. After the six weeks, they will meet in Washington, D.C., for networking and discussions. Seventy participants will advance to the following four-week section of the program, which includes further professional training at numerous organizations and government agencies.

Leslie Bozeman, academic director of IUPUI's component of the fellowship, said the fellows get to spend about two weeks in Indianapolis, where faculty helps them get settled in America.

“The fellows have stated that the program helps them to better understand their roles as leaders,” Bozeman said. “They learn how to identify their strengths and present their ideas.”

Along with professional opportunities, the fellowship at IU allows participants to experience events such as the Bloomington Farmers Market, Fourth of July parade and other events displaying cultures and traditions, Alemneh said. They will also meet with faculty members and Bloomington citizens to mingle and participate in community service, academic sessions and often receive an American family dinner.

Alemneh said one the main program’s objectives is to help the fellows interact with Americans.

“They learn about the American experience and cultures and traditions,” Alemneh said. “They also establish networking for future collaborations and connections.”

The nationwide fellowship offers two other tracks in business and public management. Alemneh said around 40,000 to 50,000 fellows apply each year, and the U.S. Department of State places them at an institution with the track they are most interested in or best fit for.

IU’s civic engagement track heavily focuses on community service. Alemneh said what the fellows learn in America is transferred back to their home countries.

“We here in Bloomington can contribute to changing lives in Africa,” Alemneh said. “The fellows are young leaders, and when they go back to their respective communities they’re always talking about IU and what they learned about community service. They apply it in their countries to help change lives.”

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