On behalf of the Drexel community, I want to extend a warm welcome to the 2019 Mandela Washington Fellows. The Mandela Washington Fellowship is a State Department sponsored program established by President Obama in 2014. This is a highly competitive program for scholars—only two percent of applicants are accepted. The 2019 cohort consists of 700 Fellows who will spend six weeks across the United States at institutions of higher education focusing on business, program management or civic engagement. This is Drexel’s third year hosting the Mandela Washington Fellowship, and this year the Civic Engagement Institute is possible through collaboration between Goodwin College of Professional Studies and the Office of Global Engagement.
Today, 25 incredibly talented young men and women will arrive, having traveled to Philadelphia from 20 different sub-Saharan countries. They will arrive tired, jet-lagged, nervous, and yet so excited to begin their journey. They have stepped away from careers, friends and family—some even losing their jobs to take advantage of this opportunity. Their enthusiasm, intention, and desire to learn everything they can to develop skills, knowledge, and connections to better their communities is beyond admirable, it is invigorating, and maybe even enviable.
The Fellows are doctors, lawyers, teachers, artists, and advocates, and they have impressive goals to increase access to healthcare, support the LBGTQ+ community, educate girls, ensure fair housing, improve the lives of refugees, empower deaf youth, and use art to heal. During their six weeks they will interact, collaborate, and engage with Drexel professors, staff, doctors, and senior leadership, as well as community leaders, public health professionals, lawyers, philanthropists, civic leaders, advocates, educators, and business professionals.
One might assume it is the Fellows alone who benefit from their time and experience at Drexel, but that assumption could not be further from the truth. While the overarching goal of the Mandela Washington Fellowship is diplomacy, Drexel benefits from the Fellows’ presence on campus. The interchange of thoughts and ideas and experiences is a two-way street. We also learn from the Fellows through these exchanges, and in turn, share what they’ve learned with their students, their patients, their colleagues, and even their friends, and it continues to spread from there like the concentric rings formed on a body water.
While on campus this summer (June 19 – July 27), take a moment or two to say, “Hello” to the Fellows, come to one of the Brown Bag Lunches to discuss women’s leadership, LBGTQ+ issues, or arts and culture, help build a Fellow’s network, or just sit and chat. The Fellows can be found, primarily, on the 3rd Floor of the Gerri C. LeBow Gall and I know they would love to meet you!
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Anne Converse Willkomm
Academic Director, Mandela Washington Fellowship
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department Head of Graduate Studies
Goodwin College of Professional Studies