The University of Iowa

In the news: Entrepreneurs in Africa save the day for Iowa interns

August 13th, 2020

By Tom Snee

Tippie College of Business senior Mariah Kluesner (on screen), from Farley, Iowa, speaks with Nawsheen Hosenally, a 2017 Mandela Washington Fellowship alumna who ownsMEDIAPROD, a communication service for development agencies in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Kluesner helped update the business’ overall digital communications strategy during a summer internship.

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down college campuses and businesses, thousands of planned summer internships disappeared too.

But 36 students in the Tippie College of Business found a Plan B summer internship thanks to the university’s relationship with the U.S. State Department’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. The Tippie students are interning this summer with alumni of the Mandela Washington Fellowship who own businesses in their home countries in Africa.

“It works really well for the students and the fellows,” says Dimy Doresca, director of the Institute for International Business in the Tippie College of Business and academic director of the Mandela Washington Fellowship at Iowa. “The students who wouldn’t have anything to do are getting a unique international business experience and cross-cultural opportunity, while the alumni fellows are getting advice to help their businesses grow.”

The Mandela Washington Fellowship started in 2014 and brings hundreds of young entrepreneurs and policymakers from African countries to the United States every summer to learn about business and government. Since its inception, nearly 4,400 alumni have completed the fellowship. Iowa has hosted 25 fellows every year since 2016, and now has 100 alumni.