Larissa Kambani stands in the sun holding a gardening tool over her right shoulder. She smiles broadly at the camera, her black hair worn in long braids some of which are pulled back for the hard work she's doing. She wearing black rectangular sunglasses, a heather blue T-shirt with a circle logo that says "UC Davis Global Affairs" and a blue work glove on her right hand. She stands in a park with trees, plants, and a neighborhood street visible behind her.
UC Davis Mandela Washington Fellow Larissa Kambani (Republic of Congo, 2019) lends a hand planting and caring for trees during a site visit in July 2019.

The Mandela Fellows Are Back (Virtually)

Sponsored by State Department’s Young African Leaders Initiative

This article originally appeared on the UC Davis website

Quick Summary

  • UC Davis Global Affairs organizes and leads program
  • Leadership in Public Management Institute starts June 21
  • This is the university’s fifth cohort of fellows since 2016

Mandela Fellows are “returning” to UC Davis! Thirty young African leaders from 20 countries will participate in public management training that the fellows will then put to use in their homelands.

UC Davis had planned to host its fifth cohort of fellows a year ago, until  the pandemic forced the program’s cancellation. This summer’s program, which starts Monday (June 21), will be virtual.

“As COVID-19 has changed the way we connect around the globe, we are thrilled to utilize now-familiar virtual tools to meet and collaborate with this year’s Mandela Washington Fellows,” said Joanna Regulska, vice provost and dean of Global Affairs, which leads and organizes the university’s program.

Mandela Fellows come to UC Davis — in person (or virtually, as is the case this year) — under the auspices of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of the U.S. Department of State’s Young African Leaders Initiative.

Established in 2010, the initiative supports young Africans as they spur economic growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across the African continent.

‘Passion for community’

From the first cohort that UC Davis hosted in 2016, to this year’s, UC Davis has hosted more than 120 Mandela Washington Fellows. “Their passion for community, wealth of experience, and critical knowledge are an inspiration for our UC Davis community,” Regulska said. “We’re proud to welcome this year’s fellows and look forward to many, many collaborations to come.”


The Leadership in Public Management Institute will build practical knowledge and leadership capacity in topics such as public management, community engagement, public speaking, and the intersection of public health and local government.

The fellows will participate in discussion forums, professional networking, cultural connection activities, leadership sessions, community service, and focus project coaching.

Speakers and special guests this year will include Chancellor Gary S. May, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Croughan, and Vice Provost and Dean Regulska, along with faculty members and community partners, including the mayor and vice mayor of Davis, along Gloria Partida and Lucas Frerichs, respectively.

Diverse backgrounds, expertise

This year’s cohort includes engineers, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and leaders in public health and medicine, energy, gender equity, education, water resources, environmental protection, governance, public management and more.

“We are so proud to have the unique opportunity to host this fellowship,” said Jennie Konsella-Norene, assistant director of global professional programs in Global Affairs, administrative director of the program.

“We have a very diverse group of fellows this year, with backgrounds and expertise spanning several industries and interests, including energy, women’s and girl’s issues, and health and medicine,” Konsella-Norene said. “The opportunity to learn from each other offers meaningful intercultural and interdisciplinary exchange and collaboration, and we are delighted to see meaningful, collaborative projects develop out of the relationships that are built through the fellowship experience.”

Konsella-Norene and academic director Peter Hartsough, project scientist in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, have led the UC Davis program since its inception.

About Global Affairs at UC Davis

Global Affairs brings the world to UC Davis, welcoming more than 10,000 international students, scholars and leaders, and hosting programs that inspire global curiosity, understanding and engagement. Compelled by the valuable outcomes of thinking globally, we make transformative opportunities a reality by supporting the thousands of students and faculty learning and researching globally—and by facilitating collaborations that tackle the world’s most pressing challenges through more than 150 global partnerships.

Putting our vision of a UC Davis community that engages, thrives, and leads in this interconnected world into action, Global Affairs is in pursuit of an ambitious goal: Global Education for All.

About the Mandela Washington Fellowship

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 and join the conversation at #YALI2021.  

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