Cultural Connections at the Heart of Mandela Fellowship at the Humphrey School
Fostering cultural understanding has been an important aspect of the Mandela Washington Fellowship program since it was created five years ago to bring emerging leaders from Africa to universities in the United States for six weeks of leadership training.
Those cultural connections are at the forefront of this year’s fellowship at the University of Minnesota, which coincides with celebrations of South African leader Nelson Mandela on what would have been his 100th birthday.
This year’s cohort of 25 fellows, who come from 19 sub-Saharan African countries, were guests at the Minnesota Orchestra’s Celebrating Mandela concert on July 20. They processed into Orchestra Hall carrying the flags of their home countries, and three fellows from South Africa were welcomed onstage for special recognition.
The fellows will meet up with the Orchestra again next month in South Africa, when the ensemble tours South Africa and performs in Soweto and four other cities as part of its Music for Mandela project. All 125 Mandela Fellowship alumni from the University have been invited to attend the concert and a reunion, hosted by Humphrey School Dean Laura Bloomberg.
“The Mandela Washington Fellowship program provides us all a great opportunity to create new friendships, and to expand the Humphrey School’s global impact,” Bloomberg says. “We’re excited to bring together our fellowship alumni for our reunion next month in Johannesburg, and to hear about the work they’re doing to advance the common good in their home countries.”
The fellowship program is an enriching experience that combines classroom work with mentorship opportunities that connect fellows with local government leaders and nonprofit organizations throughout the Twin Cities.
It also includes robust followup programming in the fellows’ home countries, including networking opportunities, continued professional development, and access to seed funding.
"One of the most important aspects of the program is making connections with people in the United States and in other African countries, so we can learn from each other and borrow ideas to address issues in our communities,” says Aminta Dicko, a fellow from Mali who works for a nonprofit organization that is fighting to stop human trafficking.
Another fellow, Adebola Kurunmi of Nigeria, adds that the benefits of those connections go both ways.
“It’s important for the University to think not just what it can give to the fellows when we come to the United States, but to ask how our knowledge can enrich the content of your programs and provide a more global and rounded perspective to your thoughts on the work that you do,” says Kurunmi, who is the founder of a nonprofit consulting firm called Ideation Hub Africa.
During their stay in Minneapolis, the fellows engaged with Minnesota’s African immigrant community through events and activities in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood, Hennepin County, and at the nonprofit organization Books for Africa, among others.
The group travels to Washington, DC next week to attend a three-day summit with Mandela Fellows from around the country.
About the Mandela Washington Fellowship
The fellowship is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), established in 2010 by former President Obama to support young African leaders as they seek to encourage growth and prosperity, democratic governance, and peace and security. This year, 700 fellows from nearly 50 sub-Saharan countries are participating in the program.
The University of Minnesota has been a host for the program since it began five years ago. The State Department selected about 30 host institutions that represent the excellence and diversity of higher education in the United States. The fellows are hosted on campus by the Center for Integrative Leadership, an initiative of the Humphrey School and several other colleges at the University.
The fellowship program is supported in its implementation by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX). Find more information on the Mandela Washington Fellowship.
2018 Mandela Washington Fellows at the University of Minnesota:
- Adebola Yewande Kurunmi, Nigeria
- Aicha Mohamed Ali, Djibouti
- Aminta Dicko, Mali
- Anna Lawino, Uganda
- Brandon Ainslie, South Africa
- Cyril Onwuelazu Uteh, Nigeria
- Daniel Maduk Bol, South Sudan
- Desyrani Rampertab, Mauritius
- Donald Bwalya Mumba, Zambia
- Edgar Jamba Martins Songanga, Angola
- Fonchenalla Jude Achiageonzoh, Cameroon
- Jacqualine Kowa Ruddick, Kenya
- Johny Muhindo, Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Justine Bagirisano, Rwanda
- Laura Musimbi Musambayi, Kenya
- Luleka Mkuzo, South Africa
- Maame Yaa Akyiaa Barnes, Ghana
- Mafalimehang Mamokete Tjabane, Lesotho
- Mbulelo Nguta, South Africa
- Michel-Vianney Dembault-Mopate, Central African Republic
- Sem Mandela Uutoni, Namibia
- Sophie Stephanie Diadhiou Ndiaye, Senegal
- Thato Chobokoane, Lesotho
- Umu Deen-Tarawally, Sierra Leone
- Wilfried Wilhelm Mbamba, Namibia