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Young African leaders find innovation at ASU

Community service a key part of the Mandela Washington Fellows program.
50 fellows studying civic leadership, public management this summer at ASU.
June 24, 2016

Mandela Washington fellows learn from faculty, perform community service as they create solutions for their communities

Fifty young African leaders who are visiting Arizona State University will take home memories of the scorching summer heat, but they also will carry back new ways to improve their communities.

The group is part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, and they are in the United States for six weeks, including academic work at ASU, community service and a meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. This is the third year of the fellowship programThe costs are paid by the U.S. Department of State., begun in 2014 as the main part of Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative.

“I have never been to so much heat ever in my life, but I’ve also never been to a good university that is very well organized,” said Borso Tall, who is a Mandela fellow from Senegal.

Tall is one of 1,000 Mandela fellows from Sub-Saharan Africa who were selectedThere were more than 50,000 applicants. to study at 36 universities in the United States this summer in one of three tracks: civic leadership, public management, and business and entrepreneurship. ASU is one of only four universities with two Mandela cohorts — 25 in the civic-leadership track and 25 in public management.

The fellows are between the ages of 25 and 35 and are selected based on their accomplishments in their home countries. Many own their own businesses, lead non-profit organizations or teach. While here, each scholar develops a project that he or she can implement in his or her communitiesBack home, they will get continued support, such as mentoring and training, from U.S. embassies, Regional Leadership Centers, the Young African Leaders Initiative Network and other partners..

They have 100 hours of academic instruction and spend five days in community service at agencies around the state, according to Dana Newell, assistant dean of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions, which hosts the Mandela program at ASU.

“One of the things that makes ASU unique is that everyone on the faculty and community-partner side is volunteering for this,” she said. “That’s very unique in a university structure, and it shows ASU’s level of commitment to community engagement and how much we care about these global initiatives.”

Newell said that the community-service piece is huge.

“Last summer, our fellows went to the Community Food Bank of Tucson and packed enough food to feed over 6,000 families.”

Nneoma Albert-Benson (left) and Chinenye Ezeakor, both of Nigeria, laugh at the antics of one of the other Mandela Washington fellows as they start team-building exercises at the downtown Sun Devil Fitness Complex on Wednesday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

This year’s projects include work with Habitat for Humanity in Flagstaff and Ben’s Bells and Roosevelt Row Community Development Corp. in Phoenix.

But there also is time for fun.

“I cannot wait to go to the Grand Canyon,” Tall said. “I have seen it in postcards and movies, but I never thought I would see it.”

'Everyone has a role to play'

In their first week together, the fellows gathered at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus for team-building activities.

The young people hopped, squirmed and slid across the shiny floor, clasping hands as they competed to see which team could reach the finish line first while still touching each other.

After the challenge, the 25 participants sat in a circle and dissected the results of their teamwork.

“Leaders aren't always in the front,” Tall said. “Leaders can be in the front, in the middle or in the back. Everyone has a role to play in the process.”

Darlington Muyambwa said that no one should sit back and not participate.

“We have to have the hunger of wanting to be part of the conversation. We need the willingness and eagerness to engage,” said Muyambwa, who wants to establish a center for youth employment in his home country of Zimbabwe.

Concerned about human rights

The projects are the core of the fellows’ work. All of the participants have a vision for a way to help their communities.

Borso Tall

Borso Tall, of Senegal, talks about the concept of working together during team-building exercises at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex on the Downtown Phoenix campus on Wednesday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Andry Rakotomanana is an English teacher at a school in Madagascar with a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

“I have noticed that students are very motivated for Facebook, so I would like to create a social network for education,” he said.

The digital platform would connect high school students, college students, teachers and professionals to provide career counseling.

“Then everyone can advise high school students for their futures,” Rakotomanana said.

Borso Tall’s project combines the three hatsTall also is the executive assistant of the Amnesty International Regional Office for West and Central Africa, a PhD candidate in American studies at Cheikh Anta Diop University, and the co-founder of the Senegalese American Studies Association. she wears in Senegal — American studies and human-rights teacher, independent social worker and university lecturer.

“My goal as a future professor at the university would be to have an officially recognized human-rights program in my department,” she said.

She was impressed with the School of Social Work in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions at ASU.

“It was awesome to see so many people in social work and so many people concerned about human rights,” she said.

“In my country, social work is not in the university — it is a separate training school. All of this collaboration will give me the support I need to add that program to my university.”

Top photo: The Mandela Washington fellows celebrate after team-building exercises at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex on the Downtown Phoenix campus at ASU. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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After 'Brexit': What happens now?

June 24, 2016

ASU politics instructor — and former resident of the UK — talks about why this election was different, and what it could mean for all of us

On June 23, 52 percent of British citizens voted to leave the European Union, a move dubbed "Brexit." Though many did not believe such a result was possible, the vote will have wide-reaching consequences for the United Kingdom, from financial uncertainty to a possible breakup of the U.K.

ASU instructor Daniel Pout

Daniel Pout (left), originally from England and now an instructor in the School of Politics and Global Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, discussed how this election is unlike any other, and what it could mean for the future of the U.K. and the world.

Question: Is this truly a "populist" victory? Or have we misnamed this kind of effort?

Answer: Voter registration was up and turnout was large, and in those terms it was very much a popular referendum. "Demos," which we translate as "people" and is the root of the word "democracy," was used in ancient Greece to refer particularly to people not in the aristocracy or higher classes. In this sense, the victory was very much a popular victory.

Iain Duncan Smith, former leader of the Conservative Party, claimed to have information suggesting 80 percent of people on council estates (public housing) turned out to vote. The turnout rate is usually less than half of that with that demographic. It was also populist in that voters rejected the advice of the establishment in the form of their own party leaders, groups of experts, artists, international economic organizations, the president of the United States, and even David Beckham.

Referenda are extremely rare in British politics, and the people made good use of this one to deliver a verdict that shocked the established order and brought down the British government.

Q: Are there signs of a "Frexit" in France or elsewhere? What could that mean for the world?

A: I've heard that there is as much anti-EU sentiment in France as in Britain, which could lead to a "Frexit," and some political leadership there is looking for a similar referendum. If Britain and France both leave, Germany will dominate the EU, over which it already has quite a bit of influence. They insist on fiscal responsibility that has never really existed in southern Europe, so the biggest economy and population in the EU, Germany, will start to call more of the shots. Russia is funding many of the far-right parties in Europe, probably to sow discord, and is probably happy with the Brexit result. NATO is very much alive and active on Russia's western border these days, so I'm not surprised they feel threatened.

Q: There are hints of a Scottish independence referendum. What would be the consequences of Scottish independence? Could Scotland support itself within an EU strapped for cash to bail out member states?

A: Scottish independence is a very real possibility. Let's not forget that close to 40 percent of Scottish people voted "leave." That's a sizeable minority. Scotland would not be the smallest or poorest country to be an independent member of the EU, and I would expect to see them make a solid go at it. While it's true that Scotland currently receives a net benefit from being part of the U.K., a lot of their economics depend on what sort of deal they could win on North Sea oil. It's worth noting that Northern Ireland also voted to remain.

Q: That's an interesting point. Sinn Fein, the Northern Irish political party that supports a unified, independent Ireland and has ties to the IRA, has used the opportunity to call for a united Ireland. What could that mean?

A: Sinn Fein absolutely sees this as an opportunity to ask for a vote on their political ideal of a united Ireland. Without a single Irish state on that island, there will be an international boundary that could conceivably be reinforced by tariffs and restrictions in the movement of people. Since the independence of the Republic of Ireland about 100 years ago, there has been an agreement that people may cross between Northern Ireland and the Republic mostly unencumbered. That is why Ireland, like the U.K., is not part of the Schengen AreaThe Schengen Area is the area including 26 European countries that have abolished passport and any other type of border control at their mutual borders. It mostly functions as a single country for international travel purposes, with a common visa policy. . I don't see a reason why this arrangement can't continue post-Brexit.

Q: It was said that even the bookies didn't think Brexit would be a reality. How did we miss it, and is there a particular demographic to point to?

A: In this case, 75 percent of the money was placed on "remain" to win. However, 75 percent of the individual bets placed were on "leave." Though a small number of people placed large bets predicting "remain" would win, the majority of people were backing "leave."

In terms of demographics, the betting market was a reflection of the upper-middle classes, particularly those based in London, who bet the large sums against many more ordinary people having a small flutter.

Q: Are comparisons to the U.S. election and fight over immigration issues overblown?

A: It seems that Donald Trump has targeted a lot of disenfranchised voters in the U.S., which is a striking similarity. In both the U.S. and the recent referendum you saw a backlash against an established order that was doing everything it could to hold the status quo. Polls showed that those voting "remain" did so primarily because they were afraid of the economic ramifications of leaving. They heeded the warnings of the establishment, including a threat by the chancellor, George Osborne, to implement an emergency budget full of austerity measures should there be a "leave" vote. On that basis, the comparisons are fair.

In the Brexit vote, however, immigration was more of a secondary issue than it is in the U.S. Polls show that those voting to leave the EU did so in order to bring decision-making back to Westminster from Brussels.

Q: We talked about Scotland voting by a large margin to remain in the EU (62 percent). Thoughts on Donald Trump's comments to a Scottish audience about how he thinks leaving the EU is a good thing?

A: (Laughs) I think there is very little that Donald Trump could say that would make his welcome in Scotland anything other than very chilly!