Photo of a crowd at a recent Mandela Washington Fellowship gathering.
A previous gathering of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders program. (Getty Images)

CWRU chosen to host Young African Leaders Initiative Fellows this summer

Six-week institute to focus on energy, environmental and public health policy

This summer, 25 rising young leaders from sub-Saharan African countries will spend six weeks at Case Western Reserve University in a federal program aimed at empowering them through workshops, leadership training and networking.

Case Western Reserve is one of 38 colleges and universities chosen nationally by the U.S. State Department and IREX (International Research and Exchanges), a U.S.-based nonprofit, to host the 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

The Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) was begun in 2014 to invest in the next generation. Nearly a third of Africans are between age 10 and 24, and about 60 percent of Africa’s total population is younger than 35.

The YALI Fellows are expected to arrive sometime in mid-June and complete the program in late July or early August.

“This program is a chance for Case Western Reserve to have a real impact on the future of Africa,” said Dan Lacks, chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and the C. Benson Branch Professor at the Case School of Engineering. “One of the program’s goals is for Fellows to learn about best practices in energy, the environment and public health in the United States. But another key goal is for us all to learn about each other as people, and we’d like to get members of the CWRU and Northeast Ohio communities engaged in this exciting opportunity.”

Lacks is academic director for the university’s YALI program. Radhika Ramamurthi, manager of graduate programs quality at the Weatherhead School of Management, is administrative director.

“The Fellows are really the rising stars of Africa—it’s an incredibly competitive program, with more than 64,000 applications for only 1,000 Fellow positions,” Lacks said. “The Fellows will become government, business, medical and education leaders, shaping the future of their countries for years to come.”

Each 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow will complete a six-week Academic and Leadership Institute at one of the selected U.S. colleges and universities in one of the following areas: business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership or public management.

Each institution will provide tailored academic programs for the Mandela Washington Fellows that include workshops, mentoring and networking with U.S. leaders. Each Institute will also offer insights into American society through site visits, community service and cultural programming.

Case Western Reserve’s institute will focus on public management, with an emphasis on energy, environmental and public health policy as well as policies for economic and workforce development in each of these sectors.

More specifically, CWRU’s visiting YALI Fellows will participate in the following academic tracks:

  • Leadership, led by Shirley Mosley, associate dean of students, and Darnell Parker, associate vice president and Title IX coordinator.
  • Energy policy, which Lacks will direct.
  • Environmental policy, led by Robert Simons, a professor at Cleveland State University’s Levin College of Urban Affairs.
  • Public health policy, directed by Darcy Freedman, associate professor of epidemiology, biostatistics and social work and associate director of the Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods at the School of Medicine.
  • Policies for economic and workforce development in energy, environment and health, led by Michael Goldberg, assistant professor in the Department of Design and Innovation at the Weatherhead School of Management.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to show them first-hand the things that we’re doing on campus and in the community,” Goldberg said. “Policymakers around the world have similar challenges in job creation and growing economies, and it takes creativity. This is a chance to show the Fellows how we’ve tried and what we’ve learned that they can take back to their home countries when they leave.”