There is a seasonality to higher education and the American education system that is reliable and consistent. We have a fall and a spring semester, with a month-long break between, and a week-long break during each term. The summer brings its own set of programming and enrollment, and we have a moment to breathe before starting again in August.
This year, the reliable pattern has been interrupted for students and faculty alike. While there is much planning, pondering and considering in anticipation for what the fall will bring, it’s also necessary to take a beat and recognize the ways the Staley School has engaged through our co-curricular programs, focused on leadership development and service – what happened this past spring and changes to our typical summer.
During the 2020 spring semester, 17 first-year students traveled to Puebla, Mexico, as part of the Global Citizenship CAT Community. Our partners at Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP) were fabulous – organizing meaningful tours of downtown Puebla, a neighboring town of Cholula with a powerful history of diverse groups working together and the impact of Spanish colonizers, and a visit to La Preciosita to cook with and learn from women whose families have been impacted by immigration to the U.S., and capped off with a mole cooking class. The study tour was full of powerful learning moments for students and faculty leaders alike. Leadership Studies is glad to partner with Education Abroad on this program.
Spring break was a busy time as we also had Alternative Breaks teams in Dallas, Texas; Springfield, Missouri; Denver, Colorado; and Garden City, Kansas. The teams worked alongside nonprofit organizations, schools, K-State alumni and community members to better understand issues of public education, environmental sustainability, food systems, vulnerable populations and public health. We are grateful to have such wonderful partners to work with, especially as changes were made to several breaks when COVID-19 concerns rapidly shifted in our country.
Additionally, our Snyder Leadership Legacy Fellows, Academic Mentors, and Cargill Fellows wrapped up a great year. While not in the same way as being together in person, we were able to virtually celebrate a year of mentoring youth in Manhattan, developing capacity for leadership, and creating professional connections. We wish our graduates of these programs all the best as the move into our world, making it a better place. As we bid adieu to our outgoing classes, we welcomed new ones as well – the new cohorts of Snyder Leadership Legacy Fellows and Cargill Fellows were selected last spring. We’re looking forward to learning with these groups in the 2020-2021 year.
This time of year would usually see student coordinators making trips to the Kansas City airport to pick up 25 Mandela Washington Fellows who arrive from Sub-Saharan Africa. Due to the current global health situation, and with the safety and well-being of Fellows and partners as the highest priority, the U.S. Department of State has postponed the 2020 Mandela Washington Fellowship until summer 2021. Applicants for the 2020 Fellowship who were selected as finalists and alternates have been notified that they are eligible to defer their participation until summer 2021.
And, with international travel not possible right now, our International Service Teams are unfortunately not traveling to our host partners this summer. The students who were intending to participate this summer finished the preparatory course exceptionally well this spring. We value our partners in Kenya, South Africa, Paraguay, Dominican Republic and The Gambia, and are hopeful for continued and new ways of collaborating in 2021.
While the ‘standard’ reliability of the academic season looks different, we look forward to having students back on campus and having meaningful conversations of creating change. Our world needs knowledgeable, ethical, caring, inclusive leaders now more than ever.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX. Kansas State University is a sub-grantee of IREX and has implemented U.S.-based Leadership Institutes as a part of the Fellowship. For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, please visit the Fellowship’s website at www.mandelawashingtonfellowship.org.