Rutgers University has hosted cohorts of inspiring young African leaders through the Mandela Washington Fellowship since the inception of the program in 2014. In the wake of the pandemic and resulting travel restrictions, we were unable to welcome our 2020 Fellows to New Jersey, but our team at Rutgers Global was able to pivot by engaging with our Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni network online. In mid-July, Rutgers hosted the first-ever virtual reunion, and then in the summer and fall, Rutgers faculty created two virtual short courses that were made available to the entire Mandela Washington Fellows network of 4,400 alums via a new online portal hosted by IREX. The Mandela Washington Fellowship Institutes and their activities are funded by the U.S. Department of State and implemented by IREX.
Rutgers faculty was part of a group of Leadership Institute Partners that came together to develop content for virtual courses on a range of topics made available through the new Mandela Washington Fellowship Portal. Courses were launched every two weeks beginning in mid-July through the end of the year for the Mandela Washington Fellow alumni network and made use of discussion boards, action plans, and other engagement tools.
Rutgers developed two courses for the portal: “Identifying Market Needs and Gaps: Building Your Business During a Crisis”; and “Prosper Africa: U.S. Government Resources to Promote Resiliency and Growth.”
The first module, “Identifying Market Needs and Gaps: Building Your Business During a Crisis,” was launched on August 12, and designed by Kevin Lyons, associate professor of professional practice at Rutgers Business School, and Johanna Bernstein, assistant dean for global programs at Rutgers Global. This module focused on supply chain management and provided participants with tools to build a resilient business model that includes crisis management, innovative decision-making, and leadership. The guest speakers were a group of owners and principals of New Jersey-based businesses and enterprises, including: Mitch Cahn, President and CEO, Unionwear; Charles Cantu, Founder and CEO, Cantu Holdings and ResetDigital; Mitch Gambert, Owner and Director of Development, Gambert Shirts; Gillian Sarjeant-Allen, Executive Director, Rising Tide Capital, and; Elayne McClaine, Regional Director, NJ Small Business Development Center at Rutgers University, among others. In addition, a 2016 Rutgers Mandela Washington Fellow Alumnus, Misana Manyama Misana, was a guest speaker. He is co-founder of Tutume Worldwide Ltd., a health care testing delivery service that is available to every village in Tanzania, and makes medical supplies designed to allow for biological specimens to be taken and transported for analysis. During the pandemic, his company has been delivering COVID tests across Tanzania.
The second module, “Prosper Africa: U.S. Government Resources to Promote Resiliency and Growth,” was launched on September 9, 2020. This module was also designed by Kevin Lyons and Johanna Bernstein, along with Arturo Osorio Fernandez, associate professor of professional practice at Rutgers Business School. This course was designed to provide participants with information on how to create trade and investment partnerships between their businesses and American companies. The U.S. Government initiative Prosper Africa, which provides a suite of resources that have supported more than $22 billion in deals to date, was highlighted.
The guest speakers for this module included: Sheila Oliver, New Jersey Lieutenant Governor; Tim Sullivan, CEO, NJ Economic Development Authority; and Scott Blow, CEO, Holistic Solar. Two Mandela Washington Fellow Alums were also guest speakers: Alex Nshimiyimana, 2019 Fellow Alumnus (Rwanda) and Jerry Mang’ena, 2019 Fellow Alumnus (Tanzania). Rutgers University was especially honored that the introduction of the course included a video from Tibor Nagy, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, who mentions the University specifically in his message.
Though the pandemic continues to restrict travel and the usual ways of connecting, Rutgers University continues to engage with our Mandela Washington Fellowship network in Africa through new and innovative ways. For more about Rutgers University and the Mandela Washington Fellowship program, visit this page.