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Wilder School Cohosts Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders

Niraj Verma, Ph.D., Wilder School dean and Washington Mandela fellow Patience Coleman from Liberia.
Niraj Verma, Ph.D., Wilder School dean and Washington Mandela fellow Patience Coleman from Liberia.

For the second consecutive year, the Wilder School is cohosting the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the prestigious flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative and President Obama’s signature effort to invest in the next generation of global leaders.

‌Fifty of Africa’s brightest emerging leaders in the areas of public management, business and entrepreneurship are spending June 20-July 31 at VCU through the program, which is cosponsored by the Wilder School, the VCU Global Education Office and the School of Business.

“Part of what we hope you’ll learn from this experience is that it is mostly your initiatives that will make the biggest differences in this world,” VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., said to the fellows at a welcome reception Monday. “A world full of people who absolutely, positively need your leadership, need your initiative and need you to be thoughtful about their concerns.”

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‌‌While in Richmond, 25 fellows will participate in the public management and leadership institute through the Wilder School. This institute will expose participants to world-renowned scholars in the fields of governance, management, administration and leadership across the public and nonprofit sectors.‌ ‌

"Cohosting the Mandela Fellows for a second year is a tremendous honor for the Wilder School and helps further establish our global presence," said Dean Niraj Verma, Ph.D. "Our academic programs and our centers, which offer research, consulting and leadership services, will benefit from meeting and interacting with this outstanding cohort of emerging leaders."

In addition, the fellows will meet with elected and appointed officials including U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner and former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder. They will also hear from community organizations such as the Homeward and Tricycle Gardens and participate in a leadership development program through the VCU Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute.

2016 Mandela Washington Fellows with criminal justice professor Robyn McDougle, Ph.D.“The program allows us to blend both the theoretical research of our faculty with the practical policy applications that the Wilder School was founded upon,” said Robyn McDougle, Ph.D., associate professor of Criminal Justice and academic director of the Public Management Mandela Washington Fellows Program.  “We look forward to the outstanding experiences our fellows and faculty will have over the next six weeks.”

‌‌The other 25 fellows will participate in the business and entrepreneurship institute through the School of Business. Fellows will work alongside VCU faculty members and business practitioners to gain knowledge in both theory and application.

In addition, fellows will visit local businesses such as Luck Stone in Manakin-Sabot, the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce and the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. The fellows will also participate in 10 professional coaching sessions with International Coaching Federation-certified coaches — two sessions in the U.S. and eight once the fellows have returned to their home countries.

“We hope that the inspiration that has already begun to formulate in you will flourish completely and will enable you become the strongest leaders imaginable,” Rao told the fellows. “If VCU can be a small part of strengthening your ability to truly make a difference in the lives of millions of others, then we feel wonderful about that.”

The combined cohort of fellows will attend the 54th annual Independence Day Celebration and Naturalization Ceremony at Monticello on July 4 and will also be welcomed at a special reception hosted by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and first lady Dorothy McAuliffe at the Executive Mansion on July 20.

Group image of 25 Mandela Washington fellows, VCU president Michael Rao, Ph.D., and Wilder School Dean, Niraj Verma, Ph.D.The fellows at VCU are part of a larger group of 1,000 being hosted across the U.S. this summer. Upon completion of their program, these exceptional young leaders will meet with President Obama during a summit in Washington, D.C. Select fellows will also receive hands-on experience through six-week placements with U.S. companies, organizations and government agencies.

‌Fellows are young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa who have a proven record of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions or communities.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a U.S. government program that is supported in its implementation by the International Research & Exchanges Board, an international nonprofit organization that provides leadership and innovative programs to improve the quality of education, strengthen independent media and foster pluralistic civil society development.

For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, visit yali.state.gov and join the conversation with #YALI2015. 

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