L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs



The Wilder School is cohosting 25 Mandela Washington Fellows who represent a cross-section of Africa

Participants in the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows program gather for a photo on the steps of the Virginia Executive Mansion on June 30.
Participants in the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows program gather for a photo on the steps of the Virginia Executive Mansion on June 30.

VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, in partnership with the Global Education Office, is hosting 25 civic leaders this summer who are here through the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

The fellowship is part of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Launched in 2010, YALI is designed to support emerging African leaders in spurring economic growth, democratic governance and peace on the continent. While the vast majority of fellows are between the ages of 25 to 35, many already have proven track records of leadership in a public, private or civic organization and experience in mid-level or executive positions. The fellows arrived at VCU on June 19 and will be here through Aug. 1.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe recognize Dean Verma during a special reception for the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellows on June 30.


“We are honored to have the fellows with us at the Wilder School,” said Robyn McDougle, associate professor and academic director of the fellowship program at VCU. “These African leaders are truly inspiring. It is our hope to not only provide them with meaningful academic lectures and site visit opportunities but to build long lasting partnerships amongst our facility and Wilder School alumni across Africa.”

Fellows are meeting with faculty from across the university, as well as community advocates and practitioners. The university is partnering with numerous institutions and individuals to provide a comprehensive experience, including Tricycle Gardens; U.S. Rep. Dave Brat, R-7th; and former governor and distinguished professor, L. Douglas Wilder.

On June 30, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and first lady Dorothy McAuliffe hosted a special reception for the fellows at the Executive Mansion. McAuliffe congratulated the group and expressed a heartfelt hope that the experience of working alongside Virginia’s public service community might ”spur creative problem solving and connections that will result in real solutions on a global scale.“

First Lady of Virginia, Dorothy McAuliffe, chats with members of the 2015 cohort of Mandela Washington Fellows.

This is the first year that VCU has been among the handful of American universities selected to host the Mandela Washington Fellowship Program. Working closely with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational Affairs and its partner, IREX, host institutions are chosen to develop intensive academic and experiential programs that will challenge and inspire developing leaders. Other participating universities include Dartmouth College, the University of Notre Dame, the University of California, Berkeley and Northwestern University.

The fellows at VCU are among 500 being hosted across the U.S. this summer. Selection as a fellow is extremely competitive, with more than 30,000 applications received for this year’s program. Following the program in Richmond, the VCU participants will join other fellows in Washington, D.C., for a summit with President Obama.

The fellows at VCU represent a diverse cross-section of the continent’s most passionate and talented young individuals. The leaders live and work in Benin, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, the Republic of Congo, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritius, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda and Zambia.