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Learning to Lead

Mandela fellows study public management at BSU

Equipped with new leadership skills, Tshepiso Larona Mokgetse wants to end gender stereotypes that discourage Botswanan girls from pursuing science, technology, engineering, and math.

“We're living in the 21st century,” said Mokgetse, who participated in the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders’ public management institute at Bridgewater State University. “Everything a man does, women can do.”

Mokgetse, who has a background in computer science and a passion for teaching girls about STEM, is one of 25 emerging leaders from across sub-Saharan Africa who spent six weeks at BSU. Bridgewater is one of 27 colleges and universities across the United States (and the only one in New England) that collectively hosted 700 fellows.

“These fellows have been so collaborative and really motivated and engaging,” said Dr. Wing-kai To, assistant provost/senior international officer and institute director of Mandela programming at BSU. “They all want to make change and to make their country and the world better.” 

This was the sixth time since 2016 that BSU hosted the fellowship, which is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by IREX. The Minnock Institute for Global Engagement coordinated activities as BSU welcomed fellows to campus for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The young leaders met with Massachusetts politicians and networked with local business leaders. They toured Tufts Medical Center, Brockton Neighborhood Health Center, Attleboro District Court, and a homeless shelter run by Father Bill’s & MainSpring. The group also marched in Bridgewater’s Independence Day Parade and attended Juneteenth celebrations in Boston and Bridgewater.

Namibian Marchell Hoeb broadened his cultural understanding by conversing with Americans and fellows from other African countries. Hoeb, who is senior legal officer with his country’s Ministry of Justice in the Office of the Prosecutor General, aims to use skills gained during the fellowship to expand psychotherapy for victims of domestic violence and rape. 

“I’m passionate about human rights,” he said. “I do not like to see what is wrong go unpunished. I’m a prosecutor without favor, fear or prejudice.”

Mokgetse, who aspires to create a STEM center in Botswana similar to one she saw at BSU, appreciated meeting Governor Charlie Baker, U.S. Sen. Ed Markey and BSU President Frederick W. Clark Jr., ’83. That level of access, she said, is rare in her country.

Mokgetse also enjoyed community service activities, including sewing dresses to be donated through the Dress a Girl Around the World campaign.

“It has been amazing,” she said. “I’ve been getting an all-around experience as a leader.”

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