25 young African leaders welcomed to campus through the Mandela Washington Fellowship

Mandela fellows with President Wilson
Mandela fellows with President Wilson (center) and OIP leaders

For the second year in a row, Wayne State University has been selected as an Institute Partner for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, a program of the U.S. Department of State.

But what a difference a year makes: While the 2021 fellowship program had to be offered entirely online because of the pandemic, the 2022 program is in-person and the WSU campus is temporary home to 25 emerging leaders from 18 nations in sub-Saharan Africa.

The fellowship is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative, which prepares fellows through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities and local community engagement, to help spur economic growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance and enhance peace and security across Africa.

The fellows arrived in early June for a six-week Public Management Leadership Institute managed by the Office of International Programs (OIP) in partnership with the WSU master of public administration program, which provides the academic content for the institute.

Organizing the program is Fareed Y. Shalhout, associate director of student programs in OIP and administrative director of the institute; Associate Professor Jennifer Hart of history, leadership manager; Associate Professor Kyu-Nahm Jun of political science and graduate director of the MPA program, academic director; Associate Professor Alisa Moldavanova of public administration and coordinator of the graduate certificate in nonprofit management and institute faculty coordinator; and Global Ties Detroit, a leader in international exchange and frequent collaborator with WSU.

The leadership institute curriculum provides an executive style training combined with relevant site visits and meetings with partner organizations, to both enhance fellows’ leadership skills and allow them to develop connections with organizations and professionals operating in Detroit and in southeast Michigan.

Ahmad Ezzeddine, vice president of Academic Student Affairs and Global Engagement, has enjoyed meeting the fellows face-to-face rather than over Zoom.

“We are proud to partner with IREX and the State Department to deliver this program,” he says. “Hosting this amazing group of young African leaders on campus has been an enriching experience, not only for the fellows but especially for our faculty, students, and staff. The fellows’ energy, intellectual curiosity and dynamism has been a welcome addition to our campus life this summer.”

A recent highlight for seven randomly selected fellows was to attend Friday’s Board of Governors meeting to talk about their fellowship and experiences at Wayne State. After the meeting, the fellows met with President M. Roy Wilson and Provost Mark Kornbluh.

“Along with the networking and cultural exchange amongst fellows, the one-on-one session with the mayor of Detroit and the different heads of departments in the City of Detroit exposed us to so much learning in the most inspirational manner," says Florence Fundi of Kenya, who is pursuing a master’s in human resource management.

Ahmad Abdulsamad, who last year led and executed the World Bank Environmental and Social Management Plan Implementation compliance audit across 23 states in Nigeria, called the Wayne State institute “amazing” and said it offers a strong combination of academic and cultural programming.

Fellow Selvana Mootien of Mauritius, whose goal is to be a barrister-at-law advocating for human rights and enforcing fundamental rights outlined in the country’s constitution, agreed. 

“So far I enjoyed how well rounded the activities have been, balancing academic classes with cultural activities so as to make the most of our American experience,” she says. “Throughout, people have been welcoming and the university staff is going the extra mile for us the enjoy the best U.S. can offer.”

The fellows will leave WSU July 17.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship 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.

The Office of International Programs leads Wayne State’s global engagement by creating opportunities that foster international education and research, facilitate the exchange of individuals and ideas that promote global competencies and citizenship, and provide resources that support the expansion of the university’s global agenda. Follow us @WayneOIP.

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