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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Lessons from a new world: IUPUI welcomes Mandela Washington fellows from Africa

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IUPUI welcomed 25 young leaders from 20 African countries to the campus for a six-week program through the Mandela Washington Fellowship. 

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is a U.S. Dept. of States program that supports African professionals with developing skills to take home to further develop their countries. Seven hundred people are accepted every year and are separated into groups to visit different schools across the United States.

“The Mandela Washington Fellowship brought us here to Indiana to learn civic leadership to take back to our home countries, but this trip has meant way more than that to me and the other fellows,” said Bassirou Kebe, better know as “Bas.” 

IUPUI recently held a reception to introduce the students to the staff, faculty and local community. The speakers Monbolade Akplogan, Benin; Boubacar Sy, Mali; Thobekile Matimbe, Zimbabwe; Jeannière Tumusifu, Congo, and Olivia Nwankudu, Nigeria, all shared stories of personal experiences from their homes and what the Mandela Washington Fellowship means to them. 

“It’s been very impactful so far for me because I’m from a completely different culture, and it’s opened my eyes to a lot of things I was not aware of before this trip,” Christy Anang said.

Anang is a radio journalist in Cameroon and sought out the fellowship to learn how to hold leaders in her country more accountable. She hosts her own show as well as a radio drama to bring awareness about pregnancy to listeners.

“I saw this opportunity as a way to learn leadership skills to use in my own work of holding government officials to their word and preventing corruption,” Anang said. “Cameroon has been plagued by leaders making bad decisions and it’s time to change it. I am so thankful for being chosen and the opportunity to learn to help my country.” 

This is IUPUI’s third year being involved in the program hosted by Indiana University’s Office of International Development institute. The institute’s main goal is bridging relationships to other countries to show that IUPUI is diverse and inviting to people of all backgrounds.

“Our time here in Indy has been filled with so many activities and workshops on how we can better our countries when we return home from the program,” Kebe said. “The experiences I am receiving and the relationships being cultivated are priceless for me and the other fellows that are here.”

The program is a welcomed event not just for the visitors but also the hosts. It is a chance to learn from a different perspective on what’s happening outside the American bubble.

“It’s exciting to work with the Mandela Washington fellows during their time in Indianapolis,” said Phil Powell, associate dean of academic programs for the IU Kelley School of Business at IUPUI. “These young leaders are enthusiastic about gaining business acumen and knowledge they can bring home to their own businesses. We, too, learn from them new perspectives that help us better innovate in our own markets.”

Contact staff writer Dontre Graves at 317-762-7848. 

Boubacar Sy of Mali speaks to the crowd at the Mandela Washington Fellowship program meet and greet. (Photo courtesy of Liz Kaye/IU Communications)

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