By day, Boris Romuald is a jovial and witty tour guide in his home country.
“You can ask me anything about Madagascar,” Romuald said. “Do you know the movie?”
Joining the conversation in the Nebraska Union with other young professionals from Sub-Saharan Africa, Romuald explained his daily work, but said his true passion is helping Madagascar by teaching sustainable farming practices to adolescents, young adults and established farmers in cooperation with Big Red Earth.
“I want to help future generations in my country be better farmers and entrepreneurs,” Romuald said. “If I don’t do it, who is going to do it?”
This dedication to civic service is shared deeply among the 25 emerging leaders from 20 African countries chosen to attend the Civic Leadership Institute at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln as Mandela Washington Fellows. The institute began June 16.
Like others in the group of 25- to 35-year-old fellows, Romuald expressed excitement to learn new practices from the most renowned agricultural minds in the United States and the world while in Lincoln, and having the opportunity to pick the brains of successful entrepreneurs.
Nebraska is one of only 38 sites in the United States chosen through a competitive process to partner with the U.S. State Department and the International Research and Exchanges Board to host an institute. The elite Mandela Washington Fellowship Program attracted more than 60,000 African applicants, with only 1,000 selected.
Sonia Feigenbaum, associate vice chancellor for international engagement and global strategies, said it is a pleasure to finally have the fellows on campus after months of planning. The grant was awarded to the university in February, and Feigenbaum, the Office of Global Strategies, Center for Civic Engagement staff, as well as faculty and administrators in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, College of Education and Human Sciences, and College of Business Administration began planning the six-week intensive program.
“We will discuss the many ways in which our respective communities grapple with issues that affect all of us, are representative of distinct cultural contexts yet impact us regardless of country of origin, geographic location or linguistic background,” Feigenbaum said. “In short, I am convinced that this experience will be transformative for all of us.”
During their stay in Lincoln, the fellows are attending courses on various topics related to civic engagement, agriculture and entrepreneurship. They will also visit university, community and state leaders and local entrepreneurs, and will be touring historic sites, Innovation Campus and community organizations in Lincoln, greater Nebraska and Kansas.
The overall goal of the institute is to help participants learn new concepts and tools to take back to African communities when they depart Lincoln July 30.