Mandela Washington Fellowship

The Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities, and local community engagement. YALI was created in 2010 and supports young Africans as they spur economic growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across Africa. Since 2014, the U.S. Department of State has supported nearly 5,100 Mandela Washington Fellows from across Sub-Saharan Africa to develop their leadership skills and foster connections and collaboration with U.S. professionals.

The University of Notre Dame's Leadership in Business Institute will connect with the Fellows in various ways to provide an engaging and professionally enriching program. Fellows will work with South Bend entrepreneurs, businesses, and organizations to connect to a network, discuss pressing business issues, and serve the local community. The Fellows will also learn from leadership in business sessions and join as a cohort through cultural activities, which usually include a Hospitality Night, a local baseball game, white water rafting, and much more. 

After their Leadership Institutes, Fellows will participate in a Summit. Up to 100 competitively selected Fellows will also participate in six weeks of virtual professional development with U.S. non-governmental organizations, private companies, and government agencies.

Funded by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented by IREX, Leadership Institutes will offer programs that will challenge, motivate, and empower young leaders from Africa to tackle the challenges of the 21st century. Given the scope and rigor of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, the Pulte Institute has worked with several on-campus and corporate partners to help facilitate the program each year. The Pulte Institute has received critical faculty and course support for the Leadership in Business Institute from other units on campus, including:

Additionally, the Pulte Institute is proud to partner with IBM to administer this year's program.

Over time, the Mandela Washington Fellowship—which has become one of the most prestigious and sought-after exchange programs of its kind in the world—has also become one of the Pulte Institute's most recognizable and popular global development programs and has served as a major boon for Notre Dame as it has endeavored to become a truly international university. By imparting these Fellows with new knowledge, skills, mentors, and other resources to accelerate their own career trajectories, the Pulte Institute has helped strengthen Africa's next generation of leaders, who are now better prepared than ever to robustly contribute to strengthening democratic institutions, spurring economic growth, and enhancing peace and security across the continent and beyond. 

For additional information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship Leadership Institute implemented by the University of Notre Dame, please contact Sarah Genz.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX. For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, visit

Program Staff

  • Melissa Paulsen, Director, Entrepreneurship and Education Programs and Keough School Term Assistant Teaching Professor
  • Sarah Genz, Program Manager, Pulte Institute
  • Edward Jurkovic, Program Manager II, Pulte Institute
  • John Pinter, Community Partnerships and Outreach Coordinator, John Pinter Consulting