a group of Mandela Washington fellows stand in front of the UT tower

Texas Global Creates Online English Resource for Mandela Washington Fellowship Network

  • Oct 30, 2020
  • Jenan Taha

Over 4,400 alumni and selected candidates for the 2021 cohort of the Mandela Washington Fellowship For Young African Leaders now have access to world-class English language virtual programming, thanks to a new online toolkit and course from the Texas Global English Language Center (ELC) designed to develop participants’ practical professional English skills and offer communication techniques to help grow their unique enterprises, organizations and professional networks.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is the flagship program of the U.S. State Department’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers emerging community, civic and business leaders across the continent with academic coursework, leadership training and networking.

UT Austin has hosted a Leadership In Business Institute for the Mandela Washington Fellowship every year since it began in 2014, with an Alumni network of 150 entrepreneurs and leaders across Sub-Saharan Africa working to increase internet accessibility to rural communities, leverage digital technology to improve education among school-aged children, improve STEM education for girls and women, promote the arts across the continent through cinema and fashion, serve in government and a myriad of other accomplishments.

When the 2020 program was postponed due to COVID-19, the State Department selected Texas Global to create a toolkit for Fellowship Alumni and selected candidates for the 2021 Fellowship to improve their English communication and networking skills as part of a broader initiative supporting online programming.

The two-part toolkit and professional skills course equips fellows with resources and guidance to identify areas for improvement and practice their English across a variety of competencies. The program also includes asynchronous videos covering topics such as creating effective LinkedIn profiles, writing professional emails and refining presentation and networking skills.

The toolkit, in combination with 20 other virtual courses and resources developed by a select group of universities around the United States, allows Fellowship Alumni and selected candidates for the 2021 Fellowship to continue advancing their skills despite the postponement of the program in 2020.

"Because the toolkit offers virtual access to self-paced modules, it is an ideal resource to help the Mandela Washington Fellows create a personalized plan to improve their language skills,” said Mike Smith, director of the English Language Center. “The ESL Toolkit is an exciting way for us to extend the expertise and reach of UT's English Language Center to a group that might not otherwise have access to our resources."

ELC teacher and creator of the toolkit Christine McCourt says she hopes the resource helps non-native English-speaking participants shape their leadership skills, develop their organizations and positively impact their communities.

“These fellows are really impressive movers and shakers of all kinds of organizations that help other people,” McCourt said. “We want them to have the language skills they need so they can go out and meet their goals of improving the world.”

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX. UT Austin is a sub-grantee of IREX and developed the ESL Toolkit as a part of the Fellowship’s Virtual Programming.  

Learn more about the Mandela Washington Fellowship at UT Austin.