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Mandela Washington Fellowship returns to Purdue in summer 2023

Purdue University has been selected as an Institute Partner for the 2023 Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) for Young African Leaders. Beginning in mid-June, Purdue’s International Programs in Agriculture (IPIA) will host 25 of Africa’s brightest, emerging entrepreneurs for a six-week leadership institute, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship, a flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities and local community engagement. Created in 2010, YALI supports participants as they spur economic growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa. 

“As anyone who has been associated with this program and interacted with previous cohorts of Fellows can attest, the Mandela Washington Fellows are an extremely talented and highly engaged group of young professionals. We are very excited to have them on campus. Many are agricultural entrepreneurs, and our engagement with them presents us with an opportunity to shape the future of global agriculture,” says Gerald Shively, associate dean and director of IPIA. “The connections made while the group is on campus — especially connections with Purdue faculty and Indiana business leaders — open doors for a range of future public and private partnerships and collaborations.” 

Since 2014, the U.S. Department of State has supported nearly 5,800 Mandela Washington Fellows from across Sub-Saharan Africa to develop their leadership skills and foster connections and collaboration with U.S. professionals. The cohort of Fellows hosted by Purdue will be part of a group of 700 Mandela Washington Fellows hosted at 28 educational institutions across the United States.

After their Leadership Institutes, Fellows will participate in the Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit in Washington DC, where they will participate in networking and panel discussions with each other and U.S. leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Following the Summit, up to 100 competitively-selected Fellows will participate in four weeks of professional development with U.S. non-governmental organizations, private companies, and government agencies.

Funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented by IREX, Leadership Institutes will offer programs that will challenge, motivate, and empower young leaders from Africa to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

“We are extremely proud to be hosting our fifth Mandela Washington Fellowship Leadership Institute in Agribusiness,” says Gary Burniske, Purdue’s MWF academic director and assistant director for program development in IPIA. “Each year, the Fellows set the bar higher for the subsequent cohort, and judging from the high energy from last year, the Fellows in 2023 will be aiming very high for impactful contributions to advance intercultural, technical and business exchanges. The Fellows have meaningful experiences they are anxious to share with Purdue University and the Greater Lafayette community. They are eager to learn from all Hoosiers and are excited about establishing networks with people whom they meet to support their entrepreneurial and business initiatives when they return to their respective countries in Africa.”

Some highlights of the Purdue program will include:

“I really enjoyed interacting with the Fellows in past years,” says Torbert Rocheford, Purdue’s Patterson Endowed Chair and professor in agronomy. “Jointly exploring challenges we’re facing as a society provides many opportunities for collaboration. Each cohort is filled with intelligent, motivated and ambitious individuals, and I look forward to helping organize a public networking event this summer. This event will showcase their projects on posters, and we will return to  The Spot for food and Marimba music by Zimbuya.”

For additional information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship Leadership Institute at Purdue and how you can get involved, please contact Gary Burniske, or register here.  

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX.  For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, visit and join the conversation at #YALI2023. 

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