Young leaders from 16 African countries make their mark on CASNR
By: Amanda Castro-Crist
When the Mandela Washington Fellows arrived at Texas Tech's College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources in mid-June, they knew there would be some adjustments. Lubbock is a long way from the homes of the 25 young African leaders, who hail from countries like Ghana, Zambia, Kenya, South Africa and Burundi. Three weeks later, there's one thing they're still trying to adapt to.
"The weather has been very unpredictable," said Kenya's Sidney Chahonyo amid laughs from the some of the other fellows. "It's 112 degrees in the morning and then raining in the afternoon."
Thankfully, the predictably unpredictable West Texas weather hasn't slowed the fellows in their quests to learn as much as possible about Tech, Lubbock and the United States. The group is part of the 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative which empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training and networking opportunities.
The cohort hosted by Tech is part of a larger group of 1,000 Mandela Washington fellows studying at institutions across the United States this summer, said Amy Boren, the Academic Director of the Texas Tech University Mandela Washington Fellowship and an assistant professor in Tech's Department of Agricultural Education and Communications.
The fellowship program welcomes African civic, business and community leaders between the ages of 25 and 35 to U.S. universities and colleges and gives them access to free online courses in topics like climate change, entrepreneurship and human rights.
Boren explained that the fellows spent the first half of the six-week program participating in a Public Management Academic and Leadership Institute at Tech sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. They visited businesses, media outlets, nonprofit organizations and governmental offices in the area and participated in daily lectures and discussion forums about leadership, conflict resolution and public policy.
They also have given back to the Lubbock community through service projects at various sites like the South Plains Food Bank GRUB Farm and the Guadalupe Neighborhood Center. That sense of community also extends to the way students learn at Tech, said Joel Ankunda, an attorney from Uganda.
"Back home, most learning is theory-based," he said. "You sit in a classroom, learn and graduate from university without any employable skills but theory. Texas Tech gives you the skills and practice on campus before you graduate, so they release you into the job market with the desired tangible skills ready to compete favorably, and this drives Texas Tech graduates to give back to their communities."
The program has helped the fellows see the connections between those struggling, no matter where they are, said Chahonyo, shifting away from the weather.
"Human beings have the same intrinsic problems," he said. "You see that everyone goes through the same thing, it doesn't matter if you're in Africa, America, Australia. It's just how you deal with the problems you have with the system and the resources you have that makes the difference."
CONTACT: Scott Burris, Interim Chairman, Department of Agricultural Education and Communications, Texas Tech University at (806) 834-8689 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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