Young leaders from sub-Saharan Africa spent six weeks in June and July at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln for an academic and leadership institute sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative, empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities and support for activities in their communities.
As part of their visit, the scholars participated in multiple workshops with College of Business faculty. Topics included entrepreneurship, strengths-based leadership, organizational strategic planning processes, public administrators as change agents, learning agility and self-efficacy, and leading with high emotional intelligence.
Dr. Chris Tuggle, assistant professor of management, led a workshop on strategic decision-making, designed to equip scholars with tools to plan and establish goals, analyze their environment and develop a unique value proposition. Their lively discussion included opportunities to talk about their current issues whether working in businesses, non-profits or government programs.
“What I love about this group is how engaged they are. They brought such intense concentration and constant feedback to our discussion,” said Tuggle. “We talked about how businesses such as Ben & Jerry’s incorporate their social interests into their strategy, and they had so many ideas about how social and commercial value work together. Most importantly, I hope they will become a resource for each other once they go home and turn their experience at Nebraska into action that benefits their communities.”
Nebraska was one of only 38 sites in the United States chosen through a competitive process to host an institute. The elite Mandela Washington Fellowship Program attracted more than 60,000 African applicants with only 1,000 selected. The fellows who came to Nebraska represented 21 different nations.
“It was exciting to work with the Mandela Fellows during their time in Lincoln. These 25 fellows represented the best of the best of their countries’ young business and government leaders,” said Dr. Donna Dudney, associate dean for undergraduate curriculum and programs and associate professor of finance. “With only 1,000 fellows selected from their large applicant pool, this program is harder to get into than Harvard.”
Sonia Feigenbaum, associate vice chancellor for international engagement and global strategies, said it was a pleasure to have the fellows on campus after months of planning. The grant was awarded to the university in February, and Feigenbaum began planning the intensive summer program with the Office of Global Strategies, Center for Civic Engagement staff, as well as faculty and administrators in the College of Business, College of Education and Human Sciences, and College of Journalism and Mass Communications.
“We discussed the many ways in which our respective communities grapple with issues that affect all of us, are representative of distinct cultural contexts yet impact us regardless of country of origin, geographic location or linguistic background,” Feigenbaum said.
During their stay in Lincoln, the fellows also attended courses on various topics related to civic engagement and agriculture. They met with university, community and state leaders and local entrepreneurs, and toured historic sites, Innovation Campus and community organizations in Lincoln, greater Nebraska and Kansas.
Feigenbaum said the university hopes to continue hosting the program in the future. For more information, visit the Mandela Washington Fellowship website
or read about their experiences on Twitter with the hashtags #UNL_MWF17 and #YALI2017.