Young African Leaders program to feature 25 Fellows, 19 countries

By University Communications
June 22, 2016
This year’s class of 25 Mandela Fellows has arrived at UW-Stout. Back right is Chuck Bomar, dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Management.

Photo: This year’s class of 25 Mandela Fellows has arrived at UW-Stout.
Back right is Chuck Bomar, dean of the College of Science, Technology,
Engineering, Mathematics and Management.

 University of Wisconsin-Stout is preparing to welcome its third group of leaders in business, government and nonprofit organizations from Sub-Saharan Africa after being selected to participate again in the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

“The fact that UW-Stout will host its third group of YALI participants is a tremendous honor for the campus,” said UW-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer. “It is highly unusual for a campus to be selected for this program three years in a row, which speaks volumes about the quality of the program we have at UW-Stout.”

The Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities and support for activities in their communities. Fellows have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities and countries.

The group of 25 Fellows hosted by UW-Stout will be part of a larger group of 1,000 Mandela Washington Fellows selected from more than 50,000 applicants. The Fellows will be hosted at institutions across the United States this summer from June 17 to July 31.

YALI logoThe young leaders will meet at the end of their institutes in Washington, D.C., for a Presidential Summit. Select Fellows also will spend six weeks in professional development training with U.S. nongovernmental organizations, private companies and government agencies.

This year’s Mandela Washington Fellowship program at UW-Stout is being directed by Meriem Chida, assistant professor in the business department.

The participants at UW-Stout will come from 19 Sub-Saharan countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Djibouti, Guinea, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia.

Weekly leadership training sessions, developed and managed by Professor Renee Surdick from the School of Management and the Discovery Center, have been added this year, Chida said, to help Fellows build a long-term leadership plan.

In addition, the institute will alternate between sessions led by industry executives and academic sessions led by UW-Stout faculty and academics from other institutions. The UW-Stout community, as well as the community at large, can interact with the Fellows and may volunteer to serve as U.S. Cultural Exchange Ambassadors, which are cultural liaisons.

“This year we recruited 19 subject matter experts to lead industry-relevant sessions during the institute,” Chida added, “and 25 subject matter experts in residence from Dunn County who will serve as expert mentors for the Fellows. This was made possible thanks to the support of Julie Keown-Bomar, northwest regional director of the UW-Extension, who was able to match the diverse interests of the Fellows with experts in the field.”

In addition, Chida said, the Fellows will visit 12 of the most innovative national and multinational corporations in Wisconsin and in the Midwest.

For instance, Partners in Food Solutions, a leader in food capacity building in Africa, with headquarters in the Twin Cities, has arranged for the Fellows to meet their executive team to share their expertise in the area and meet one of their partners: the General Mills Innovation team. GMI is hosting the Fellows for a leadership and innovation session as well as a network lunch.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a U.S. government program supported in its implementation by IREX, an international nonprofit organization providing thought leadership and innovative programs to promote positive lasting change globally. For more information, visit

Anyone interested in serving as a U.S. Cultural Exchange Ambassador can attend a brown bag picnic from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, June 23, at the Lakeside Park Shelter on Wolske Bay Road or contact Chida at 715-232-5524 or email her.


Bottom Photo: YALI logo