ASU to host Washington Fellows

Arizona State University has been selected as one of 20 leading U.S. universities to serve as an academic institute for the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the new flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

Led by the College of Public Programs, ASU will host 25 young African leaders for a six-week professional civic leadership training institute at the Downtown Phoenix Campus.

Launched in 2010, YALI is the Obama Administration’s signature effort to support young African leaders in their effort to spur growth, strengthen governance and enhance peace and security across Africa. The new Washington Fellowship aims to create opportunities for young leaders to gain practical new skills that can be applied to public service and business.

“We are very excited to be part of this effort. Through this program, we leverage our college’s strengths in social entrepreneurship and civic engagement to advance efforts to enhance the leadership skills, spur innovative thinking and connect young leaders from around the world,” says Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Programs.

Welcoming promising leaders

ASU’s effort brings together faculty and practitioners from the School of Public Affairs, School of Community Resources and Development, MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program and Changemaker Central.

Washington Fellows will learn through applied coursework tailored to their cohort. Curriculum will help fellows gain broad understanding of citizenship, ethics, leadership, community building, economic development and the role of technology in community engagement. They will meet with civic and community leaders – including the large African refugee populations who call Phoenix home – and see firsthand the challenges and successes in developing strong civic leadership models through trips to communities throughout Arizona.

The transdisciplinary program combines social entrepreneurship with innovative community development and civic leadership best practice models. The goal is to provide a basis for exploring capacity building and fostering positive change. The coursework covers a range of organizational activities and structures, including public, private and nonprofit.

Changemaker Central will lead unique service learning experiences for each fellow. Through ASU’s connections in the Phoenix area, participants will have the opportunity to gain skills relevant to their focus area – economic development, food security, education or other core concerns for their communities.  

All 500 participants around the country will attend a summit in Washington D.C. and 100 fellows will stay for follow-on internships throughout the U.S.

Leveraging international expertise, connections

Students from more than 120 countries around the world attend ASU, ranking it 11th among all colleges and universities in the country as a top choice for international students. During the 2012-2013 academic year, international student enrollment increased by nearly 30 percent to 6,645 students.

“Hosting the Washington Fellowship for Young Leaders program is an excellent opportunity for ASU and The MasterCard Foundation Scholars currently on campus. We look forward to providing opportunities for these two groups of future African leaders to engage in dynamic discussions about civic leadership,” says Aryn Baxter, director, The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program at ASU.

A first step in a larger effort

The fellowship serves as the beginning of their training. The U.S. Government has a long-term investment in the YALI program, working with institutions to create meaningful opportunities in Africa. Civic Leadership Institutes, such as the one hosted at ASU, will be oriented to young Africans who are civically engaged and serving the public through non-governmental organizations, community based organizations or volunteerism. Civic Leadership Institutes will expose participants to the meaning of civic leadership in the U.S., while building technical and leadership capacity in areas such as citizenship, community building, economic development, grassroots activism, political organizing and leadership, and volunteerism. In order to define the content of the institute and enhance the academic experience, programs may focus on a specific theme or sub-themes, such as organizational management, strategic planning, fundraising, community relations and outreach, advocacy, monitoring and evaluation, media and coalition-building.

Fellows also have access to funding. The U.S. African Development Foundation will be awarding over $5 million in small grants during the first three years of the program. The U.S. State Department will help alumni establish and grow organizations or projects through an additional $5 million over the course of the program. United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will leverage over $200 million in ongoing youth programs and initiatives through regional hubs that connect Washington Fellows to opportunities.

The program’s goal is to increase to 1,000 participants per year.

The program is sponsored by th Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of th United States Department of State and IREX. To learn more about YALI and the Washington Fellowship, visit