This summer, in support of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), William and Mary hosted 25 fellows from across Sub-Saharan Africa. These fellows were participating in a six week civic leadership institute that included visits to UVA and three presidential homes in addition to William and Mary. During their two weeks in Williamsburg, two members of the Higher Education Program had the opportunity to work with the fellows.
Jamison Miller, a PhD student in higher education administration, led an afternoon-long session on technology and teaching adult learners effectively. Miller engaged the group in examining how they are using technology in their work, using the lens of critical pedagogy to expose how their digital practices are impacting their audiences. What was remarkable to Miller were the parallel issues and problems confronting the YALI fellows with advancing technology. For instance, Halima Miradji, a journalist from Comoros, detailed how the news agency she worked for was enjoying a surge in readership through their Facebook feeds, yet struggling to adapt their writing to an audience who is reading the content on the small screens of smartphones and shorter attention spans. The fellows reinforced for Miller the profound impact of technology in globalization, and the surprising evenness of our experiences with it.
Jim Barber, assistant professor of education, served as a faculty mentor to a small group of fellows and assisted them in the development of their “essential questions” during their time at William & Mary. Each fellow posed an important question facing his or her community at the local, national, or regional level, and worked with Barber to create a logic model and practical action plan to address the issue upon returning home. He reflected, “I enjoyed the opportunity to work with the fellows individually to think through their projects and find ways to spur social change.” Barber continued, “I learned a great deal from the fellows and look forward to following their progress. Working with the YALI fellows was one of the highlights of the summer.”
The 25 fellows who studied at William & Mary were hosted by the Presidential Precinct, a consortium between the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia, William Short’s Morven, and the homes of three Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, James Madison’s Montpelier and James Monroe’s Ash-Lawn Highland. Fellows spent time at each of these locations during their six-week tenure in Virginia. This week, the fellows traveled to Washington, DC to meet with the larger group of 500 YALI fellows for a Presidential Summit with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. In all, 500 YALI fellows studied at 20 sites across the United States over the past six weeks.
The opportunity to engage with such a diverse, international audience proved to be a rich and rewarding experience for Miller and Barber. Both are looking forward to keeping in touch with the fellows as they continue their work in Washington, DC and after they return home.