Drexel President Meets Mandela Fellows and Discusses the Role of Anchor Institutions

President John Fry spoke with the young African leaders who spent six weeks on campus during their leadership fellowship.
Four rows of people sit in long tables in a classroom as Drexel President John Fry stands at the front of the room addressing them.
President Fry talked with Mandela Washington Fellows during a meeting on July 25. Photo courtesy Parfait Kouacou.

This article was written by Parfait Kouacou, PhD, an associate teaching professor in the College of Art and Sciences, and the academic director of the Drexel Mandela Washington Fellowship Institute.

Drexel University President John Fry recently met with the Mandela Washington Fellows hosted at Drexel University in the last week of their six-week leadership fellowship on campus. The young African leaders shared how they enjoyed living and learning at Drexel and expressed their curiosity about how anchor institutions ensure positive impacts locally and globally. 

Fry told the fellows that Drexel acknowledges its significant influence on urban economic and community development, as well as the quality of life in its surrounding neighborhood, due to its size, scale, scope, resources and mission.

"As a matter of moral responsibility and enlightened self-interest, we have embraced civic engagement and partnerships for two main reasons: to have a greater impact on the public good and to be more innovative and effective in our teaching and research," he explained. 

During the meeting, Fry highlighted the work of Drexel’s Office of University and Community Partnerships, which has undertaken various initiatives to engage with the community and strengthen partnerships, including expanding educational opportunities and providing essential services in areas such as law, health, economic development and the arts. He also mentioned the expanded offerings of the University’s Lindy Center for Civic Engagement, which promotes community-focused scholarship, research and co-curricular programs. Additionally, he mentioned the efforts of Drexel’s Office of Global Engagement to establish partnerships that extend the University's reach and impact in resolving global challenges. 

"We do not assume that we know what is best for our community or our partners; rather, we embrace the practice of deep listening and engage our partners in creating a shared vision and strategy for solving problems together," Fry said, describing the common thread with all these endeavors. 

The interactive session allowed the fellows to gain insights into the decision-making processes and strategies employed by Drexel's leadership to improve its surrounding neighborhood and city, reflecting dedication to both the public good and the institution's progress. Under Fry’s leadership, Drexel aspires to be the most civically engaged university in the nation. 

Fry, who last year was appointed Honorary Consul of South Africa, said meeting with the Mandela Washington Fellows at Drexel every summer is a treat, not only because Africa is a priority region for the University but also because of the valuable insights about innovative management, change leadership, and civic engagement he learns from young African leaders. 

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Funded by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented by IREX, the program empowers young African leaders by providing them with academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking and professional development.