Adrian Kulesza

The Maurice R. Greenberg World Fellows Program will post online introductions for the members of its diverse cohort, from a clergyman from Zimbabwe sentenced to decades in prison for treason charges to a wildlife conservationist from Papua New Guinea.

The program, run out of the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, invites a group of professionals from various backgrounds annually to Yale for four months of intensive academic enrichment and leadership training. This year, the program will host 13 individuals as part of its 19th cohort and will coordinate virtual programs with the fellows and the broader Yale community throughout the semester.  World Fellows Week — the program’s initiative to introduce the fellows — kicked off on Monday, despite only half of the fellows having arrived in New Haven. 

“They are impressive leaders, doing amazing work in their communities around the world — and they are eager to exchange ideas with Yalies and others about how to contribute to making the world a better place,” program director Emma Sky wrote in an email to the News. “Given the current circumstances, we can’t hold a big jamboree. So we asked the World Fellows to each make a video about who they are and what they do.”

Sky said that during World Fellows Week, the Jackson Institute invites people to visit the program’s website, where they can chat with the fellows via their individual pages and schedule one-on-one virtual meetings. She added that U.S. embassy closures have restricted nearly half a dozen fellows from being able to arrive on campus by the start of term. 

The website also features the introductory videos made by the fellows. Some fellows recorded their videos in their home countries. For example, journalist Stephanie Busari filmed hers from Lagos, Nigeria.

Other fellows, such as clergyman Evan Mawarire, filmed their statements around Yale’s campus. Mawarire’s video features him walking past major Yale landmarks while talking about his social justice advocacy in Zimbabwe.

“I was upset and frustrated at the way the country was being run,” Mawarire said in his video. “So I took my flag and my phone, propped it up against my Bible in my small office, and just began to speak from the heart about the kind of Zimbabwe that I wanted to see … What I wasn’t prepared for was how my voice –– the voice of a nobody –– would become the voice of a nation.”

Because the program typically relies on in-person interactions, Sky said the pandemic poses unique challenges for the fellows. Still, she added they have adapted “really well,” even in a virtual environment.

Fellows engage with one another via a weekly meeting about community participation, and they broadly share these values with the global community via a lecture series, the Good Society Forum. Through these and other events, the cohort is also able to connect easily with former World Fellows who share similar interests. 

Current fellow Sally Abi Khalil affirmed the program’s success and added that she is definitely able to connect with her peers. She said the fellows have created a successful “safe space in Zoomland” to get to know each other.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far that, even in this virtual world, that life is still beating and it’s still the same,” Abi Khalil said. “People want to learn, people want to engage, people want to network and they want to expand their horizons. That’s all still there, so I do expect that people will reach out.”

Since the program’s founding in 2002, there have been 259 World Fellows from a total of 91 different countries.