Global professionals develop their skills at the Humphrey Institute

Twenty-seven fellows from 22 countries are participating in five separate fellowship programs this year at the institute.

Ed Swaray

For 17 years, Matilda Williams devised policies and strategies in the foreign ministry of her native Sierra Leone. Now, as a fellow at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, she is expanding her knowledge of formulating analysis and implementing public policies.

“We did not have the time to be trained formally as public officials,” Williams said. “Now I can learn the theories and principles of public policy.”

Like Williams, midcareer professionals from various countries come to the Humphrey Institute annually to develop professional skills and conduct research related to their work in their home countries.

Karen Lokkesmoe, associate coordinator of the school’s fellowship programs, said it is critical that relationships be established between U.S. professionals and their foreign counterparts.

She said 27 fellows from 22 countries are participating in five separate fellowship programs this year at the institute.

Each fellowship program has its own goals and objectives, but they are all geared toward benefiting each fellow and promoting a long-lasting relationship with the University and the community, Lokkesmoe said.

She said although some fellows are seeking degrees, most of them are midcareer, nondegree professionals whose areas of interest and expertise include science, business and agriculture.

Williams said her studies will help her contribute immensely to her country’s political progress.

“Our democracy is new, therefore, our ways of doing things have to change,” she said. “People are expected to ask questions in a democracy.”

Williams said this ideal is a novelty in her country and it will take time for public officials, who are not used to being challenged, to get used to it.

However, Williams said, she is bent on changing her colleagues’ minds on a one-to-one basis until others have the opportunity to formally learn about implementing public policies and providing good governance.

Mustaque Ali, a Humphrey fellow from Bangladesh, said the program affords him the opportunity to have a broader understanding of human rights issues.

Ali, executive director of a nongovernmental organization that helps street children in his country, said that as an activist he did not have the time to study theoretical aspects of human rights in Bangladesh.

“This program gives me the chance to scrutinize my activities from a theoretical point of view,” he said.

Ali said working with U.S. nongovernmental organizations is another advantage of the program. Those professional affiliations have taught him how to strategize and produce good results, he said.

The best part of being a Humphrey fellow, Ali said, is that a single issue can be looked at from various points of view.

Ragui Assaad, the fellowship programs’ faculty coordinator, said they provide a unique opportunity to bring potential leaders of various countries to the University.

He said the fellows draw from diverse educational and cultural backgrounds and the University can benefit from their experiences.

The institute’s programs are the Hubert H. Humphrey International Fellowship Programs, the Edmund S. Muskie Fellowship Program, the U.K. Fulbright Fellowship Program for Civil Service, the Halle Wittenberg Exchange Program and the Economic Research Fund.