2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship: A Summer in Review

For the second summer in a row, the African Studies Program at UW-Madison has had the pleasure and privilege of hosting 25 Young African Leaders as part of the U.S. State Department’s Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF). With the institute over and planning for summer 2018 already under way, African Studies reflects on a summer of exchange, networking and fellowship through the MWF program.

Global Health talks and idea exchange

Along with hosting a talk by Dr. Alexis Nizigiyimana, the founder the Burundi chapter of the Young Professional Chronic Diseases Network and a member of the 2017 cohort of Mandela Washington Fellows, UW-Madison’s Global Health Institute shared the idea of One Health, offering new ways for health practitioners to address challenges and promote health in interdisciplinary ways. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, former assistant secretary of state for Africa and ambassador to Liberia, visited campus to give a talk titled “Africa Matters: A Discussion of U.S.- Africa Relations.” Along with reminding this year’s Mandela Fellows that they are “Africa’s future,” Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield also shared the significance of investing in women’s empowerment on the continent.  A visit from Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama, president of Botswana, sparked discussion around conservation and how African nations can make the most of their rich, natural resources.

Enjoying Summer in the Midwest

Cultural exchange requires some adjusting. Amidst homesickness, MWF fellows found ways to enjoy summer Madison-style. Fellows celebrated independence and gave the opening pitch at a Mallard’s game on the 4th of July. They enjoyed BBQ and host family dinners with Americans, attended Concerts on the Square and the Farmers Market, visited a milking parlor in rural Wisconsin, spent a night in Chicago, and really enjoyed our ice cream. Fellows also had the opportunity to visit the famed Arnold House designed by architectural great and Wisconsinite Frank Lloyd Wright.

During the Mandela Washington Fellows’ visit to Englewood Grass Farm, owner Kristi Agnew (left), explains how she and her husband began tending their herd of White Park and Black Angus cattle nearly a decade ago. (Photo by Catherine Reiland / UW-Madison)


During a visit to Columbus Community Hospital, Akin Akinlade (center), a maxillofacial surgeon from Nigeria, and Niziyimana Alexis (left), a doctor from Burundi, share a meal with hospital staff. Akinlade and Alexis are participants in UW-Madison’s 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship program. (Photo by Catherine Reiland / UW-Madison)

Community Service and Local engagement

Fellows offered the Madison community over 400 hours of volunteer service during their time in Madison, working with community partners at the River Food Pantry, Porchlight homeless shelter, Troy Gardens youth farm, and the Lussier Community Center. Over their six week stay Fellows were also able to meet with state officials, faculty members, community leaders and youth.


Redefining the African Narrative and post-MWF connections

Fellows hosted a successful conference entitled “Redefining the African Narrative,” celebrating a new vision for Africa. The conference was attended by 89 people and included dance, a fashion show, interdisciplinary panel discussions and interactive games. At the end of the institute, fellows departed bright and early for Washington, DC, where they met with 975 other Mandela Washington Fellows who were at 38 universities across the nation. The three-day summit, where this brain trust came together, offered space to tackle some of the continent’s most pressing challenges and celebrate some of its most promising successes. The fellows were selected from over 64,000 applicants across the continent. As young leaders, the MWF is only the beginning of their work and cross-cultural collaborations. A 2016 fellow from last year (Femi Adebola, Nigeria) was on campus this summer attending the Quality Improvement Institute at GHI, thanks to the connections he made on campus during the MWF. A member of ID IIP program, Carly Stingl, is in Uganda with 2016 fellow, Rachida Nakabuga, and UW-Madison student Ellie Anderson, developing an internship in Uganda’s coffee sector.