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Young African Mandela Fellows Sitting in an Auditorium

Drexel LeBow Joins Elite List of Host Institutions for U.S.-Africa Program


February 15, 2017

Drexel LeBow’s Institute for Strategic Leadership (ISL), in partnership with the University’s Office of International Programs, has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of State to be a host university for the 2017 Mandela Fellowship for Young African Leaders. Drexel will host 25 Fellows for a six-week residential civic leadership development training program at LeBow College of Business beginning June 16.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), which empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training and networking. The young leaders selected to be Mandela Fellows are between the ages of 25 and 35 and have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries.

While at Drexel LeBow, the Fellows’ experience will include: classroom instruction by Drexel faculty and other subject matter experts, panel discussions, speaker events, team-building experiences, cultural immersion, community service opportunities, leadership development and peer mentoring. The curriculum, developed by the ISL, will focus on a civic leadership track.

“Being selected for this highly competitive grant is a significant achievement for the ISL, LeBow and the entire Drexel community,” says Alison Young, executive director, of the ISL. “Civic engagement is part of our DNA at Drexel, and developing young civic leaders from African nations gives us a role in building a more peaceful and prosperous world. The Fellows will benefit from the ISL’s unique hands-on leadership development curriculum, deep community engagement, and full cultural immersion in the historical civic leadership roots of Philadelphia to develop them as global leaders. We’re excited to host the Fellows on campus and learn from their diverse experiences.”

Adam Zahn, associate director of Drexel’s Office of International Programs, says “Considering Drexel’s commitment to being the nation’s most civically engaged university, our distinct global mission, and our reputation as a leading university in experiential education, we are excited to deliver an impactful, high-quality program for the Mandela Fellows. Furthermore, support from other university partners such as the English Language Center, Campus Services and the Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships will allow us to offer these Fellows additional opportunities for civic engagement with the Drexel community and the City of Philadelphia.”

At the culmination of their six-week academic residency at Drexel LeBow, the Fellows will visit Washington, D.C., for a summit featuring networking and panel discussions with U.S. leaders from the public, private, and non-profit sectors. One hundred select Fellows will remain in the United States to participate in a six-week professional development experience with U.S. non-governmental organizations, private companies, and governmental agencies that relate to their professional interests and goals.

Upon returning to their home countries, Fellows will continue to build the skills they developed during their time in the United States through support from U.S. embassies, regional leadership centers, the YALI Network, and customized programming from USAID, the Department of State and affiliated partners. Through these experiences, select Mandela Washington Fellows have access to ongoing professional development opportunities, mentoring, networking and training, and support for their ideas, businesses and organizations.

In 2016, Mandela Fellows represented all 49 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. They also represented diversity across the continent with 66 Fellows identifying as having a disability, 30 percent coming from rural areas or towns of fewer than 100,000 people, and 50 percent of Fellows were women. For more information on the Mandela Fellows cohort at Drexel University, contact Alison Young at or Adam Zahn at