Appalachian hosts 25 young African leaders for six-week institute

Appalachian State University held a welcome reception June 21 for the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellows — 25 young African leaders. The reception, held at Appalachian’s Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, marked the start of a six-week 2018 Mandela Washington Fellowship Institute focused on civic leadership. The fellows were welcomed at the reception by members of the Appalachian campus and local community as well as host families.

The welcome reception for Appalachian State University’s 2018 Mandela Washington Fellows brought together 25 young leaders — representing 19 different countries in Africa — and members of the campus and local community, as well as host families. It was held in the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts. Photo submitted

“The fellows who are here represent 19 different countries in Africa,” said Dr. Jesse Lutabingwa, associate vice chancellor of Appalachian’s Office of International Education and Development (OIED), during his opening remarks. “It is very rare — at least for us here in Boone — to have 19 different countries represented at one single time, and so, we are so happy to have these fellows with us here.”

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Dr. Jesse Lutabingwa, associate vice chancellor of Appalachian’s Office of International Education and Development (OIED), gives opening remarks at the welcome reception for the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellows. He thanked community members at the reception, saying, “It is because of your support and the tremendous support we’ve received from this community that we are able to implement a program like this.” Photo submitted

The Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative(YALI), was created to empower young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities and local community engagement.

Dr. Brian MacHarg, director of academic civic engagement at Appalachian, welcomed the fellows on behalf of the university and said of the fellows, “When you get to know them over the time they have with us, you will quickly realize that they are an incredibly talented group.”

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Kapenangutjiua Vetira, a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow from Namibia. Vetira shared her story at Appalachian’s welcome reception. She is the founder/director of ChiNamibia Arts Education for Development, a nonprofit organization founded in 2013 that educates, develops and empowers children and young people through arts and culture. Photo by Chase Reynolds

One of the fellows, Kapenangutjiua Vetira, from Namibia, also spoke at the reception and shared her story. She is the founder/director of ChiNamibia Arts Education for Development, a nonprofit organization founded in 2013 that educates, develops and empowers children and young people through arts and culture.

“Every one of us from Africa traveled very long distances to just come and be here, and we only have six weeks,” Vetira said. “We would like to do the best we can do to bring about change to Africa at large, because we are the leaders of tomorrow and we want to drive Africa to the next level.”

During the institute, the fellows will participate in practical academic sessions, site visits, leadership training, community service, and organized cultural and social activities, such as:

  • Workshops on U.S. culture, grant writing, use of technology, social entrepreneurship and more.
  • Visits to Grandfather Mountain, Linville Caverns and Falls, Horn in the West and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
  • A four-day trip to Greensboro and Raleigh to visit with state government representatives and important cultural sites such as the International Civil Rights Center and Museum.
  • Volunteer days with local organizations, including Hospitality House, Hunger and Health Coalition, F.A.R.M Cafe, Watauga County Habitat for Humanity, and Crossnore School and Children’s Home.
  • Networking sessions with a group of young leaders in the Watauga/Boone area and various members of the Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture.
  • A homestay experience with host families for a weekend.
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Danielle Carter, director of the Office of Multicultural Student Development at Appalachian, left, with Rita Yaa Ntoso, a 2018 Mandela Washington Fellow from Ghana. Photo submitted

The fellows hosted by Appalachian are part of a larger group of 700 Mandela Washington Fellows hosted at 27 institutions across the United States this summer. According to Lutabingwa, the number of fellows and institutes is down from previous years due to budget cuts at the U.S. Department of State.

“It is a competition and a very stiff competition,” he said, “and I am very pleased that Appalachian was selected to implement this program for the third year.”

The program, which is supported through a partnership between Appalachian’s OIED and Appalachian and the Community Together (ACT), provides the opportunity for talented African professionals to collaborate with Appalachian faculty on issues of civic leadership, community development and nonprofit management.

At the end of their stay at their individual institutes, the fellows will meet in Washington, D.C. for the fifth annual Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit, where they will take part in networking and panel discussions with U.S. leaders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Following the summit, 100 fellows will participate in six weeks of professional development training at U.S. nongovernmental organizations, private companies and government agencies.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a program of the U.S. Department of State and is administered by International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX).

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At the welcome reception for the 2018 Mandela Washington Fellows, Alina Zhuwawo, a fellow from Zimbabwe, talks with John Spagnolo, technology specialist for faculty development at Appalachian. Photo submitted

About the Office of International Education and Development

The OIED is responsible for spearheading the internationalization efforts at Appalachian. The internationalization mission of Appalachian is to develop awareness, knowledge, appreciation and respect of cultural differences in both domestic and international contexts in its students, faculty, staff and the surrounding communities. The university is also dedicated to creating a campus environment that builds the theoretical and practical skills needed to interact effectively in a global society. Learn more at

About Appalachian and the Community Together (ACT)

Appalachian and the Community Together (ACT) provides service experiences as opportunities to connect and engage with others to build authentic relationships, stimulate critical thinking and skill building, and recognize individual impact and responsibility to the local and global community. Since 2004, Appalachian State University students have contributed over $22.48 million of value to the community via the ACT program (just over 1.1 million hours of service plus $631,317 funds raised) using the $24.14 per hour national standard for volunteer time. ACT partners with over 160 local non-profits. Initiatives include blood drives, hunger and homeless awareness events, fundraising for local charities and alternative service experiences. Learn more at

About Appalachian State University

Appalachian State University, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The transformational Appalachian experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and embrace diversity and difference. As one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, Appalachian enrolls about 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.

Appalachian State University

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