The University of Iowa has been selected to host 25 young and empowering African leaders this summer in collaboration with the U.S State Department’s Mandela Washington Fellowship.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship comprises 25 fellows between the ages of 25 and 35. They will be sent to different colleges across the nation and spend six weeks of the summer further developing their skills through the business and entrepreneurship track.
The fellowship is the flagship program derived from President Obama’s Young African Leadership Initiative, which was created to help invest in the future generation of African leaders.
“When the request for proposal came to us, we jumped on it,” Dimy Doresca, the director of the UI Institute for International Business. “We thought it was a great opportunity for the UI and the state of Iowa because the fellows will be bringing their culture, ideas about how things are done in Africa, and they will share that with us here.”
Doresca said being at the UI will show the fellows, who he considers “the best of the best,” what is going on in the Heartland.
Sarah Gardial, the dean of the Tippie College of Business, said the fellows will work with the Pappajohn venture school, a program it has offered all over the state to help people better understand the process of starting a new business. She said the lessons being taught in this program are transferable to developing countries.
“We try to create success for our students in a global world they are moving into,” she said. “Anything we can do to increase the global awareness in our college is something we highly value.”
Gardial hopes the fellows will love Iowa City, but more importantly, she hopes the fellows will leave with a better understanding of the shared impact their stay will have on Iowa.
“We have the ability to become partners with them,” she said. “Our students can come to their countries, they can send students back to ours; we want to create more of that free flow of people across borders. The more we have relationships like we will create with the Mandela fellows, the more it opens up global opportunities for the whole community.”
David Hensley, the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center executive director, said he is excited about the opportunity for students and faculty to interact with African leaders and learn about different cultures and economies.
“As a part of this fellowship, we will be able to transfer our knowledge and experience for those African leaders to take back to their country, which will hopefully implement and change the economic trajectory of their communities,” he said.
Furthermore, Doresca said, the concept of citizen diplomacy plays an important role in the fellows’ stay this upcoming summer.
Citizen diplomacy is the political concept of average citizens engaging as representatives of a country or cause either inadvertently or by design.