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Goodwin is the official academic partner for the Mandela Washington Fellowship at Drexel University

Three women at Rep Dwight Evans office
Sandra Petri, Program Coordinator, Officer of International Programs, Anne Converse Willkomm, Academic Director, Mandela Washington Fellowship at Drexel University, and Alyssa Innis, Legislative Aide to Representative Dwight Evans

February 4, 2019

For the third year in a row, Drexel University has been selected as an Institute Partner for the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. Beginning in mid-June, the Goodwin College of Professional Studies and Office of Global Engagement and Education Abroad will host 25 of Africa’s brightest Civic Engagement leaders for a six-week Leadership Institute, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

Dr. Koren A. Bedeau, Interim Vice Provost for Global Engagement and Vice Provost for Academic Programs & Strategic Initiatives shares, “We’re so excited for the opportunity to host another cohort of Mandela Washington Fellows for civic leadership training at Drexel. Our campus and our community partners benefit so much from engaging with these amazing role models for service leadership.”

The Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities and local community engagement.

During their time on campus, these scholars have the opportunity to experience Drexel’s renowned experiential education through site visits, collaborative projects, and partnership development with local organizations. They will also join President John Fry’s mission to make Drexel the most civically-engaged university by taking part in service projects on campus and across the City of Philadelphia.

Three educators in front of the Mandela Washington Logo
Drexel leadership: Adam Zahn, Anne Converse Willkomm and Sandra Petri in Washington, D.C.

Anne Converse Willkomm, Goodwin’s Department Head of Graduate Studies and this year’s Academic Director, adds, “The Mandela Washington Fellows bring such energy and enthusiasm to campus during their six-week visit. From my experience as a mentor in this program over the past two years, their excitement is contagious. Due to their wealth of experience, I have found that we learn as much from them as they will learn from us. The community building and cultural exchange is a huge benefit for both the Drexel community, as well as the greater Philadelphia community.”

Goodwin’s Assistant Dean Tim Gilrain continues, “We are proud to co-host the Mandela Washington Fellows and act as the academic partner for this program. With our focus on relevant and hands-on education, we believe the Goodwin College of Professional Studies is an excellent place for the Fellowship.”

Two women in office
Varna Joseph and Suhaila Aboud, 2018 Mandela Washington fellows mentored at Goodwin

Two of Goodwin’s recent Mandela Washington mentees Suhaila Aboud—who works internationally to train and educate health workers on how to prevent and respond to gender-based violence—and Varna Joseph—who volunteers with multiple human rights organizations and has a passion for working with children—shared their experiences in a July 2018  interview. They discovered that one of the core benefits of the program was working so closely with peers who work in a wide variety of civic positions. Suhaila noted, “Most of our problems are similar in a way. People share their experiences and how they are tackling the issue in their country, and I get an opportunity to borrow from what is already working. The more you share, the more you receive.”

For additional information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship Institute at Drexel University, or if you’d like to get involved, please contact Anne Converse Willkomm at or Adam Zahn, Associate Director, Global Engagement, Office of International Programs, at

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX. For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, visit and join the conversation at #YALI2019.