Last week, we said goodbye our fourth cohort of Mandela Washington Fellows! The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders (MWF-YAL) is a leadership program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State that brings 1,000 exceptional young leaders from sub-Saharan Africa to 40 host institutions across the United States for six weeks of professional development, culminating with a three-day summit in Washington, D.C. This year MWF-YAL received 68,000 applications for 1,000 fellowship positions, making acceptance to the program more competitive than Harvard!
In partnership with the McCombs School of Business, the UT International Office coordinated programming and academic coursework for 25 young entrepreneurs from 19 different African countries. The Fellows followed a rigorous business curriculum designed by Professor John Doggett, Senior Lecturer at the McCombs School of Business. They also participated in leadership workshops organized by Dr. Charlee Garden of the LBJ School of Public Affairs. They went on site visits to many of Austin’s prominent organizations, including SXSW, Capital Factory, and The Austin Chamber of Commerce. The Fellows participated in a range of community service and cultural activities, from volunteering at Casa Marianella and hearing the stories of the refugees there to playing cowboy at the Silver Spur Dude Ranch in Bandera, TX. Their work culminated in a Pitch Competition at ImpactHub, in which each Fellow presented a five-minute business pitch to a panel of judges.
The Fellows did some incredible networking during their time in Austin. Each Fellow worked with a Peer Collaborator who helped to introduce them to people in their field, and they all actively sought out additional networking opportunities. All together, the Fellows made 487 individual contacts, met with 96 different businesses and organizations, and connected with 12 UT Departments. Their impact will certainly be felt in Austin long after their departure—a few Fellows even started businesses here! The International Office is planning to welcome a fifth cohort of Mandela Washington Fellows next summer.