JSU becomes the first Mississippi institution to partner with the Mandela Washington Fellowship, hosts 24 African professionals

Jackson State University is the first Mississippi institution to host 24 Mandela Washington Fellows from Africa for a two-week Alumni Enrichment Institute sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

“This is a big deal for Jackson State University and the institute as well. The ability to partner with an HBCU like JSU enhances our culture and the [fellows]understanding of this environment,” said JSU President Thomas K Hudson, J.D. during the welcome reception on July 25.

“These scholars are a wonderful array of talent; from working in the office of a president to researchers, attorneys, and authors, it really shows the talent that’s out there. If we could all work together, we could all be enhanced. So, this is a wonderful learning opportunity for all of us,” Hudson said.

The visit is a result of JSU’s selection as an Alumni Enrichment Institute Partner for the 2022 Alumni Enrichment Institutes, which provided the opportunity for the 2021 Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni to travel to the United States in late July.

During their two-week stay, participants took part in experiential and discussion-based learning to provide them with applicable knowledge of the U.S. culture and society. The fellows collaborated with U.S. counterparts and each other to continue building professional and leadership skills they developed during their virtual 2021 leadership institutes.

They also gained exposure to the Jackson community through service projects with Stew Pot Community Services and Habitat for Humanity. The Fellows also participated in leadership sessions, visited local museums, networked with local professionals, and other activities to emerge the participants in American and Mississippi culture.

“This program is to support the development of the participant’s understanding of the United States by building on the programming they completed in the 2021 learning sessions focused on the U.S. society and culture,” said Lydia Didia, Ph.D.administrative director for the Alumni Enrichment Institute at JSU.“These participants are vibrant innovators with the skills and motivation to induce economic growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic institutions and governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa.”

The African scholars originate from 23 different countries and strive to build a strong network between their countries and the U.S. to create a better way of life.

“The College of Business is delighted to host the talented Mandela Alumni Enrichment fellows from all over Africa”, said Fidelis Ikem, Ph.D., dean of the College of Business. “Most of the fellows are entrepreneurs and pairing them with our entrepreneurship faculty has led to interesting discussions and idea generations. They have also shown interest in developing possible collaborations with our College and University. I am very proud the of our faculty members, Dr. Didia, Dr. Simmons, and Dr. Davidson who have helped immerse the fellows in American Business practices”.

Samba Jaiteh from The Gambia has dedicated his life to disability rights advocacy. Jaiteh has nearly a decade of experience as a special-needs educator and teaches the blind and visually impaired to independently use information technology, including computers and smartphones. He also volunteers as a radio presenter for disability rights advocacy and is passionate about the rights of persons with disabilities.

“In my country, there isn’t a lot of accessibilities for people with disabilities. During my time here, I want to learn how to make those resources universal in The Gambia,” explained Jaiteh, who is visually impaired. “I hope to take what I’ve learned here back to my country’s leaders and show them the importance of inclusivity for disabled people and show them our value.”

Thierno Souleymane Diop Niang is a jurist, author, sustainable goal practitioner, foreign policy specialist and entrepreneur. He also conducts research on the Sahel, one of the world’s most neglected and conflict-ridden regions. He plans to champion the role of youth in Africa’s development.

“The young people need to be educated, and they need tools for that. Meeting people here and having a good network could lead to a powerful Africa. Black people living here in America are much respected; China, Russia and America are countries that are well respected because they are powerful countries,” Niang stated. “Africa just needs to be united, and once they are united, all the sons of Africa will feel it no matter where they are. This is the next important thing we have to do for a better future.”

At the end of the fellowship, the scholars will hold presentations about their experiences before their departure on Saturday, Aug. 6.