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The Dartmouth
May 26, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

The College hosts Mandela Washington Fellows

Dartmouth hosted 25 young African leaders over the summer through its partnership with the Young African Leaders Initiative’s Mandela Washington Fellowship.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship has been YALI’s highly competitive flagship program since its inception in 2014. Young leaders are given the opportunity to study, build skills and engage in professional development for six weeks at American colleges and universities. Seven hundred applicants are chosen for the fellowship each year, often from a pool of up to 60,000 applicants. The program is run by the U.S. State Department, which sends the fellows to 28 university partners each summer.

This past summer was the College’s fifth year hosting young African leaders with the Mandela Washington Fellowship. The John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding has coordinated the program for the past five years, in which 125 leaders from 38 different African countries have come to Hanover to hone their leadership skills since 2014. This year’s fellows represented 20 different countries across sub-Saharan Africa.

This year marked the beginning of the Tuck School of Business’s involvement in the fellowship program. This summer, the program’s six leadership seminars, originally hosted by the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences, were instead designed by Tuck’s associate director of intercultural leadership Vincent Mack and members of Tuck’s faculty. The sessions focused on intercultural conflict, Africa’s value and potential and practical leadership skills such as communication, negotiation and entrepreneurship.

The leadership seminars inspired many fellows to re-adapt their leadership endeavors in their home countries.

“I will definitely redesign my business model and focus more on a business that promotes community engagement,” said Clara Silva, a fellow who plans and manages corporate events in Angola.

The Thayer School of Engineering also hosted courses for the fellows. Thayer’s fifth year of involvement in the program allowed the fellows to learn about design thinking through an intensive workshop.

“The design thinking course was a highlight for me,”said Nasreen “Victoria” Yongule, a fellow from South Sudan. “Design thinking enables you to explore and fill in gaps in the business world.”

Following her departure from Dartmouth, Yongule applied a design thinking mindset to her work at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. She said she plans to return to South Sudan to continue her work with the Nasvick Initiative, which she founded to empower South Sudanese women through soccer and agriculture.

In addition to courses and workshops taught by the two graduate schools, fellows also participated in courses and activities hosted by the Dickey Center, the Tucker Foundation, the DALI lab and the Jones Media Center, which included lessons on entrepreneurial pitches and digital storytelling.

The fellows visited local businesses around Hanover such as King Arthur Flour, Timberland Headquarters, Village Industrial Power and Ben and Jerry’s. These visits taught fellows about local business practices, such as using farm waste to generate power, employee ownership models, social media and maintaining social missions while operating under a larger corporate entity, according to Dickey Center senior program officer Amy Newcomb, who directs the fellowship at Dartmouth.

The fellows participated in visits and activities to immerse themselves in American culture. These activities included community service at local non-profits, concerts on the Green, conversations over coffee at the Collis Center and home-stay weekends with local families. The Outdoor Programs Office at Dartmouth also engaged with the fellows through outdoor activities like canoeing on the Connecticut River and visits to the Moosilauke lodge, Newcomb said.

“I was always told Americans were cold and were from a cold culture, so in my mind I had a picture of very individualistic people,” Jenny Rasija, a fellow from Madagascar, said. “That was not what I saw. I saw myself welcomed and embraced as I am … For me, this meant the world.”

Once the fellows left campus, they attended a summit in Washington, D.C. with fellows hosted by other universities. Following the summit, most fellows returned to their home countries to continue their own business, entrepreneurship and community outreach efforts.

Looking forward, the Mandela Washington Fellowship could face changes. The fellowship began as an initiative of the Obama administration, with funding and programming outlined for 2014. Although the White House has seen a transition in administrations, the fellowship has received support from both the Trump administration and bipartisan support from Congress, who have voted to continue funding the program for another three years.

While funding for the fellowship has been secured, the fellows program hosted at Dartmouth could still change, according to Newcomb.

“We at Dartmouth had made an original five year commitment,” she said. “Part of what we’re wrestling with now is [the question of] whether we should continue to host.”

Newcomb said she feels there are many benefits to continued involvement.

“[The fellowship is] a highly impactful summer program, and it’s important to us that we’re not simply running an exchange program,” she said. “We want to make sure our networks with the people we’ve hosted can deepen … and that students and faculty have the opportunity to expand upon that work.”