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Mandela Washington Fellows: Week Two Reflection

The map of Africa decorates the Staley School, handcrafted for Africulture by fellow Manoa Rakotoarison, from Madagascar.

Two weeks ago, a group of Mandela Washington Fellows arrived in the city of Manhattan, Kansas for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), hosted by the Staley School of Leadership at Kansas State University. This remarkable group of young African leaders are here for a six-week Civic Leadership Institute. Throughout the course of the Institute, the Staley School will facilitate opportunities for cultural exchange and leadership development to advance the work of each Fellow by growing their capacity to lead change upon return to their home countries.

It has been a fun learning and sharing experience for the Fellows. It’s safe to say they love the city, they love the people, they love the program. “Everyone is friendly,” said Ruby Goka of the Mandela Fellows to a reporter from The Manhattan Mercury. “It’s almost like home. A stranger sees you on the street and smiles at you. I don’t think anyone has really felt homesick. It’s just like another home.” Read more about the article published in the Manhattan Mercury here.

Marie-leopoldine Tossou, from Ivory Coast, and Gloria Chukia, from South Sudan, laugh as they try to sign their names with their non dominant hands during a class session at the Institute.

Provost April Mason On Tuesday, June 27, K-State Provost, April Mason visited the Fellows at their residence where they had a conversation about food security, strategic planning in higher education, and the benefit of high impact learning. The Provost shared her passion about advocating for safe and quality food accessibility for all, especially in underprivileged areas that suffer from hunger. Using the example of the K-State 2025 strategic visionary plan, she encouraged the fellows to implement long term strategic plans to carry on with big vision and achieve greater goals in their work. The Fellows were humbled by the powerful closing remark from K-State Provost about servant leadership: “A leader is someone who is willing to be part of a team that somebody down the road will take credit for the work done,” she said. Her response to Fellows who asked for her advice on managing conflicts and animosity in the workplace generated laughter in the room. “Sometimes it is necessary to get on your soapbox,” said Provost Mason as she stepped on a coffee table nearby, “However it is important to present your view with respect and professionalism.”


Diksha Beeharry, from Mauritius, and Manoa Rakotoarison, from Madagascar, amused as K-State Provost, April Mason illustrates the expression to “get on your soapbox.”

The Staley School has been delighted to provide support to fellows who continue to advocate for their cause miles away from home. This week’s highlight is from Kanono Thabane, from Lesotho, who lead a campaign in observance of International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in June 26. Together with his fellows teammate, Kanono posted a picture       on social media with messages of awareness against drug abuse and illicit trafficking. Follow the hashtags #WorldAntiDrugDay#MandelaFellows, or #KStateYALI to see more messages from the fellows. Also, check out previous highlight of the fellows’ advocacy campaign on our campus here

During their learning modules this week, the Fellows had the opportunity to learn about government systems in Kansas and at the local level. On Friday, June 30, they went on a tour in the Topeka capital and the Brown v. Board of Education Museum where they visited with state representatives Jim Gartner and Vic Miller. A few Fellows also attended individual meeting with peer mentors in their field of interests. Even closer to home, the Fellows visited the City of Manhattan offices on Thursday 29. The city Mayor Usha Reddi gave them a tour of the offices and briefly described the structure and the role that the city plays in the government of Kansas as a whole.

K-State 2017 Mandela Fellows at the Brown v. Board of Education Museum

Relationship building is an important element of leadership that Mary Hale Tolar, Director of the Staley School, often emphasizes, and it is with that spirit that the Fellows welcomed the Mandela Fellows from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to Manhattan on Saturday, July 1, for a soccer match. The match took place in the K-State Memorial Stadium, followed by a refreshment reception at the fellows residence. It was definitely a moment of reunion and connection between Fellows of both institutes who originate from the same countries. It was also a moment of exchange between the K-State YALI team and the Nebraska team, who are hosting YALI for the first time this year.

Soccer match between K-State fellows and Nebraska-Lincoln fellows at the K-State World War I Memorial Stadium.

On Saturday, June 30, the African Student Union (ASU) at K-State hosted the fellows for diner at the Frith Community Center. A much needed nostalgic moment for the fellows who said they enjoyed the African food served and music. The African students were humbled and proud to interact with such an impressive group of young African leaders who execute great work to improve lives of locals back home. Besides the fun, the president of ASU gave an opportunity to fellows to share about their work and vision for a better Africa. This opened up room for future collaboration and networking between the two groups of Africans. Kuddos to the African Student Union for a successful event. We appreciate their initiative to lift Africa up by celebrating its talents and reuniting its children.

Africa continued to be celebrated on Saturday July 1, with Africulture. Africulture is a cultural event initiated by the Staley School to give the Fellows an opportunity to share their African traditions through drama and rhythms, food, and fashion. This year, the Mandela Fellows also educated our guests about a facet of Africa that is often forgotten or underrepresented. The narrative was about the “unknown story of Africa” said Ruby Goka who directed this piece of art, a story beyond “colonialism, poverty, and disease, safaris, mountains, and beaches.” The Fellows introduced and acted out a skit about the richest man to ever live, King Mansa Musa, also the first medical degree given in Kairouan, and the fierce female warriors. They told the story of longest wall to ever be built, the walls of Benin, and the origin of education and writing from Egypt. Kuddos for the 2017 Mandela Fellows for a successful event! We appreciate their creativity to entertain and educate the public in Manhattan. The event was streamed live on YouTube, and you can watch it here. The School also celebrated Eid al Fitr along with the Muslim Fellows in June 25, to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan. We are grateful for everyone who came out to celebrate diversity of our ever changing world with the Fellows, the Staley School, and Kansas State University.

Group picture with fellows and guests during Africulture

We are grateful for our community partners, peers educators, and friends who continue to contribute to make YALI a sucess at K-State. With your support, we look forward to a continued learning experience for everyone involved.

Picture from Africulture, July 1: Bayo Adio, local business owner connects with a Kansas couple who received a Fulbright Scholarship to teach in Nigeria many years ago.

See more photos from the 2017 Civic Leadership Institute in our Facebook Photo Album, and keep up-to-date on the current happenings at the Institute through our hashtag, #KStateYALI, on Twitter and Facebook!

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