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10:23 a.m., Aug. 6, 2015--It was in her small Louisiana hometown of Baker that Linda Thomas-Greenfield, now the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, got her first taste of the African continent.  At 12 years old, she learned SeSwati from a Swazi teacher who had recently arrived from Swaziland to train young Americans headed to the continent as Peace Corps volunteers.  

Years later, in July 2015, Thomas-Greenfield visited the University of Delaware to engage with UD’s Mandela Washington Fellows, part of President Barack Obama’s initiative to bring 500 young African leaders to U.S. university campuses for professional development and networking. 

Here, she encouraged the young leaders to teach more Americans about Africa.  “You should find that 12-year-old who would never have thought about Africa, who would have gone their whole life without an African experience,” encouraged Thomas-Greenfield, “and affect that person’s life so that 10 years from now they will still think of you.”

During her visit, Thomas-Greenfield outlined her hopes for the fellows, who will return to their home communities this month to continue advocating for change in areas like democracy, good governance and human rights, among others.  

Thomas-Greenfield also took the time to speak about the State Department's Bureau of African Affairs’ goals on the African continent. Namely, the bureau seeks to partner with African governments and people to build democracy, peace and prosperity across the continent.

“We want peace on a continent where we have seen too many wars,” she noted, “where terrorism is affecting people’s lives.” 

Over lunch, Thomas-Greenfield opened the floor to the Mandela Washington Fellows and to the 20 young women from sub-Saharan Africa here as part of UD’s SUSI Women’s Leadership Institute, another exchange supported by the State Department. Together, they represent rising young leaders from across dozens of African countries. 

In an open dialogue, she responded to questions about the grand challenges facing their home communities. Topics included illicit finance, eligibility for the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, women’s rights, terrorism prevention and the implementation of practices aimed at securing democracy and good governance.

Thomas-Greenfield challenged each representative to accept the great responsibility of creating change. “Your goal should be about changing lives one person at a time.  Ultimately you will have a positive impact on your country,” she said.

For Arsène Tungali, a Mandela Washington Fellow from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the idea of creating personal impact is essential to his cause. “You must take the time to sit, engage, inspire one person to make an impact,” he said. “The Mabingwa Forum is the platform I created in my country with the aim to connect, inspire and challenge emerging leaders, those who are working on innovative solutions to tackle the issues we face as a community.”

The forum gives young Congolese leaders on the rise a platform for networking, guidance and finding resources for their enterprises.

To learn more about the Mandela Washington Fellowship or the Study of the U.S. Institutes-Women’s Leadership (SUSI-WL) Program at UD, visit the websites and engage by using the hashtags #UDGlobalSummer, #UDMWF and #UDSUSIWL.

Contact Dan Bottomley at with questions regarding the programs.

The Mandela Washington Fellows and SUSI Women’s Leadership Programs are sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The Mandela Washington Fellowship is administered on behalf of the State Department by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX).

About the Institute for Global Studies

The Institute for Global Studies was created in 2009 to enhance the international dimensions of teaching, research and outreach at the University of Delaware. IGS provides leadership and support for programs and experiences that contribute to the education of informed, skilled, open-minded citizens of the world.

IGS awards scholarships and grants to faculty and students for a number of global opportunities, and administers internationally-recognized programs such as the UD Fulbright Initiative, MEPI (Middle East Partnership Initiative) Student Leaders Institute, Mandela Washington Fellowship Program for Young African Leaders and most recently the SUSI-WL (Study of the United States Institutes for Student Leaders) program

IGS sponsors such signature events as Global Month each fall and country-specific celebrations each spring.

IGS collaborates with other global partners on campus, including the Office for International Students and Scholars, the Confucius Institute and the Center for Global and Area Studies. In addition, IGS partners with Enrollment Management to coordinate the UD World Scholars Program

Article by Nikki Laws

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