Texas Tech University

Texas Tech to Host Group of Young African Leaders This Summer

Amanda Castro-Crist

February 20, 2017

Mandela Washington Fellowship

The university has been chosen as the site of a six-week academic and leadership institute for the 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship program.

Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

Texas Tech University continues to be recognized as a global leader in cultural and economic development.

The university has been selected as an Institute Partner for the 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. Beginning in mid-June, Texas Tech will host 25 bright, emerging African leaders for a six-week academic and leadership institute sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

"Our institutional, five-year Quality Enhancement Plan is to communicate in a global society, and we felt hosting 25 young leaders selected from several different countries in sub-Saharan Africa was a great way to support this goal," said Amy Boren, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural Education & Communications. "Texas Tech is a world-class institution that can offer a unique cultural and academic experience to the Mandela Washington fellows."

A $150,000 grant has been awarded to the university to fund a Public Management Academic and Leadership Institute for the fellows from June 16 to July 30. After a competitive proposal process, Texas Tech was one of just 38 U.S. colleges and universities chosen for the program.

Sukant Misra
Sukant Misra

Created in 2014, the Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training and networking opportunities. YALI was created by President Barack Obama in 2010 and aims to support the growth and prosperity of young African leaders, strengthen democratic governance and increase peace and security across Africa. 

"We are honored to host the Mandela Washington Fellowship," said Sukant Misra, associate vice provost for international programs in the Texas Tech Office of International Affairs. "This is a prestigious program and is highly competitive. Our selection is a terrific recognition of our institution's international stature and the ultimate testament of our hard-working and ambitious faculty and staff."

The cohort of fellows hosted by Texas Tech will be part of a larger group of 1,000 Mandela Washington fellows studying at institutions across the U.S. this summer. The fellowship program welcomes African civic, business and community leaders between the ages of 25 and 35 to U.S. universities and colleges and gives them access to free online courses in topics like climate change, entrepreneurship and human rights.

"It is important to note the fellows are not students," Boren said. "They are young leaders in their home countries who were among 64,000 applicants to the fellowship program."

Amy Boren
Amy Boren

Fellows are from every country in sub-Saharan Africa and have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations and communities. All of the applicants chosen are fluent in English and proven community leaders as assessed by the U.S. embassies in their countries. The selection process is stringent, Boren said, with less than 2 percent of all program applicants being chosen for the fellowship.

"The fellows are the best of the best in their countries," Boren said. "We are honored to host these rising stars at Texas Tech in an executive-style education program focused on enhancing the leadership and service skills they already have demonstrated."

Boren said faculty and staff from several areas, including the Office of International Affairs, the Department of Agricultural Education & Communications in the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources and the Educational Psychology and Leadership graduate program in the College of Education, are involved in the planning and logistics of the institute.

Working closely with the state department and its implementing partner, the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX), Institute Partners have designed programs that will challenge, inspire and empower the young leaders. During the application process, partners chose between three types of institutes:

  • Business and Entrepreneur Institutes that cater to entrepreneurial fellows and those aspiring to become leaders in the private sector
  • Civic Leadership Institutes for fellows who serve though nongovernmental agencies, community-based organizations or volunteerism, and
  • Public Management Institutes for fellows working or hoping to work in government, regional or international organizations and other publicly minded groups and think-tanks.

"We elected to go with the public management track because my fellow faculty members and I have worked extensively with public institutions in African and Latin-American countries," Boren said. "We felt we had a better grasp of the issues in this sector than in the others."

During their time at Texas Tech, Boren said, the fellows will be introduced to U.S. models and best practices through a broad mix of leadership development and academic activities like classroom sessions, panel discussions and site visits. They also will connect with local leaders and the community through volunteer activities and service projects.

"One of the unique aspects of the Mandela Washington Fellowship program is its focus on connecting the fellows to local community members through the Peer Collaborators program," Boren said. "In the coming weeks, we will seek to engage young local leaders between the ages of 25 and 40 to serve as local connections for our fellows during their stay in Lubbock."

Each collaborator matched with a fellow will be asked to meet for about one hour per week throughout the duration of the program. Boren said they expect to foster long-term relationships between Texas Tech and the fellows. She hopes those bonds not only develop into collaborative opportunities to further the university's institutional research, teaching and service goals, but also serve the fellows as they continue to advance as leaders in their home countries.

"Providing Texas Tech students with opportunities to interact substantively with leaders from several different countries will help them understand and contextualize issues of importance to a variety of stakeholders across the African continent," Boren said. "In the same way, our Mandela Washington fellows will return to their home countries and share their experiences with others in their spheres of influence at home."

The fellows will meet at the end of their institutes in Washington, D.C., for the Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit, where they will take part in networking and panel discussions with each other and U.S. leaders from the public, private and non-profit sectors. Following the summit, 100 competitively selected fellows will spend six weeks in professional development experiences with U.S. nongovernmental organizations, private companies and government agencies.

Ambassador Tibor Nagy said he had the opportunity to meet with returning Nigerian Mandela fellows last summer while serving as the U.S. Interim Ambassador to Nigeria. He was able to witness firsthand the impact the program had on the young leaders.

"They were without a doubt one of the most impressive groups of people I've ever met," Nagy said. "They were from wide-ranging backgrounds – nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, public service – and represented Nigeria's ethnic and religious diversity."  

Beyond their personal accomplishments and credentials, Nagy said he was impressed with the overwhelmingly positive impressions the fellows gained about America and Americans from their U.S. experiences. 

"Africa will add the largest number of people over the next several decades. Nigeria alone will grow to 380 million people by 2050, replacing the U.S. as the world's third-most populous nation," Nagy said. "The continent's population will be increasingly young and such positive interaction with America for Africa's emerging leaders is important for America's future as well."  

Nagy said the incredible quality of the program participants has left him beyond delighted that Texas Tech was chosen as a host institution.

"YALI is, in my view, among President Obama's greatest foreign policy accomplishments," said Nagy. "Texas Tech's participation in this program is an honor and represents one more indication of our university's growing reputation as a first-class global institution."

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a U.S. government program funded by the U.S. Department of State and supported in its implementation by IREX. For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, visit yali.state.gov and join the conversation at #YALI2017. 

Find Texas Tech news, experts and story ideas at Texas Tech Today Media Resources or follow us on Twitter.