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Department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Leadership

Serving Nelson Mandela's Legacy through Agricultural Education

OSU hosted its second Nelson Mandela Washington Fellowship Institute in the summer of 2018
Nelson Mandela Fellows visited the Stillwater High School Agricultural Education Program and FFA Chapter.

Hosting a Mandela Washington Fellowship Institute (MWFI)

“The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders  is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI)” (U.S. Department of State, n.d.a, para. 1). Oklahoma State University (OSU) hosted its first Institute cohort  of 25 Mandela Fellows during the summer of 2017. OSU was again supported by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), as funded by the U.S. Department of State, to provide a second Institute in 2018. During the 2018 Fellowship summer, OSU was one of 28 Institutes nationwide that included “700 outstanding young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa [SSA]”  (U.S. Department of State, n.d.b, para. 1).

Because of the Institute’s emphasis on entrepreneurship, and
for many participants in the context of agriculture and food, it was planned and delivered as a collaborative effort between OSU’s Department of Agricultural Education, Communications, and Leadership, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR) and its Riata Center for Entrepreneurship of the Spears School of Business. Over two summers, OSU’s Fellows hailed from 29 SSA nations. Most ranged in age from 25 to 35 and had business ventures involving production agriculture or in the value-addition stream providing food for domestic consumption and export. The 2018 Fellows included many who were also developing youth in and for the agriculture sectors of their respective nations, and the programs of some Fellows focused on STEM preparation and careers.

What Did We Do?

The Fellows participated in numerous presentations led by faculty members, entrepreneurs, and other citizens of the OSU/Stillwater community and Oklahoma more broadly. Other than topics on general entrepreneurship and business, the history and mission of land-grant institutions, agricultural education and extension in the United States, youth empowerment through agripreneurship, the U.S. approach to youth development in agriculture, including FFA and 4-H models, and preparation of agricultural educators in the U.S. were subjects discussed. To make these topics more experiential, field trips, shadowing, and service activities occurred to help the Fellows understand the U.S. approach to agricultural education for pre-college youth. Such involved touring Stillwater Public Schools’ Agriculture Education/FFA Facility and learning about the SBAE program from its three educators; volunteering with several Oklahoma 4-H STEM programs, including Lego Robotics training as well as youth working with solar ovens and solar-powered cars; and presenting on their countries’ agriculture and cultures during the annual Oklahoma 4-H Roundup (i.e., state 4-H leadership conference) held at OSU.

They also had a number of site visits to Oklahoma farms and agribusinesses as well as enterprise and job shadowing experiences appropriate for their entrepreneurial interests. For example, after a tour of OSU’s Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center (FAPC), Richard Sati, a Fellow and potato producer, processor, and seller from Nigeria said: “This is what I wanted; this is what brought me here!” Other Ag-related tours included gardening and farming equipment dealers; a food processing equipment store; a vertically integrated, egg layer farm and other family farms emphasizing sustainable practices to name a few of the Institutes’ field-based learning experiences.

Saturdays during the Institutes were mostly reserved for cultural activities and excursions unique to Oklahoma, including visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City as well as the Cherokee Heritage Center near Tahlequah, Oklahoma. These examples, respectively, of domestic terrorism, the American West, and social marginalization, including forced land resettlement while also struggling to preserve a group’s cultural identity, resonated with many of the Fellows based on personal experiences in their home nations.

A Cornerstone of U.S. Agricultural Education – Leadership Development

The Fellows’ completed a leadership development plan. The plans serve as blueprints and sources of accountability for the Fellows to return home and work as servant leaders in their organizations. They participated in leadership development workshops to clarify their visions, values, and goals as leaders. The Fellows studied the “Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership” found in Kouzes’ and Posner’s (2017) text, The Leadership Challenge, to emphasize the importance of servant leadership in successful organizations. A three-workshop series focused the Fellows on creating leadership and personal vision statements, clarifying their personal core values, and establishing short- and long-term goals. Lauren Cline, a former FFA state officer and doctoral student in agricultural education at OSU, who led the workshop, shared her experience with the Fellows:

Leadership is global, and every organization, regardless of where they are located in the world, is yearning for servant, ethical leaders. By reflecting on their visions, values, and goals, the Fellows gained confidence in their ability to make significant impact as leaders within their organizations, communities, and beyond.

This content was taken from an article written for The Agricultural Education Magazine by Michaela Clowser, Alex Smith, Luis Flores, Mahamane Cissé, Lauren Cline and Chris Eck, Craig E. Watters, and M. Craig Edwards.