Yasmine Halmane, Photo Editor

Last Monday, the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs announced its 2022 cohort for the Maurice R. Greenberg World Fellows Program, consisting of 16 individuals from around the world but brought together for their accomplishments in their respective fields. 

Each year, World Fellows join the International Leadership Center at the Jackson Institute in August for an intensive four-month period of academic enrichment and leadership training. This year’s cohort includes, among others, a former Peruvian government minister, a senior BBC news editor and the head of the African Development Bank. This cohort brings the program’s total to nearly 400 Fellows, representing 94 countries, since its inception in 2002.

“​​In a time of geopolitical conflicts, climate change, and a pandemic, the 2022 World Fellows are incredible examples of the bold and visionary leadership needed in today’s world,” Emma Sky, the founding director of the International Leadership Center, told the News. “From an extremely competitive pool of thousands of applicants, we are thrilled to bring 16 leaders from around the world — from China to Belarus — to strengthen their skills, grow their knowledge, and to inspire and learn from Yale students.”

Holly Salter, who serves as assistant director of the World Fellows program, explained how the Fellows provide “a practitioner’s lens on global issues,” which is important to the mission of the Jackson Institute.

Salter also noted that although the World Fellows program is run through Jackson, the visiting Fellows play a role throughout the University.

“They serve as mentors to Yale students and host talks and workshops throughout their time on campus,” Salter wrote in an email to the News. “The World Fellows are leaders in their communities around the world and uplift and inspire those around them to make the world a better place.

Salter also mentioned that the 2022 cohort made history by including the first Belarusian and Uruguayan Fellows to participate in the program. 

BBC Africa Senior News Editor Vera Kwakofi described to the News the experiences that led her to become a 2022 World Fellow.

“I’ve always been inspired by the power of storytelling,” Kwakofi explained. “From as far as I can remember, the radio and news was always a part of my life growing up.”

Kwakofi described how as a child growing up in Ghana, her father would test her skills by making her recap the main stories from the BBC when he would return from his travels. Being surrounded by journalism and storytelling pushed her to later join the media world through Ghanaian local radio. She eventually joined the BBC, where she has worked for over 15 years.

Her work at the BBC, Kwakofi said, allowed her to see the direct impact she could make in people’s lives. She pointed specifically to the Ebola information programs she personally set up with her team in the aftermath of the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, as well as her team’s most recent BBC Africa Eye investigation into corruption in Kenya’s driver licensing and vehicle road worthiness inspection, which led to an immediate change in the process and further investigations.

“What’s great about this period [of serving as an editor] is that I now have the power to directly shape and fund the journalism we offer our global audiences and it’s an immense privilege to have,” Kwakofi said.

Serving as a World Fellow will be different from much of what Kwakofi has done in her career, but she noted her excitement to embark on the “new adventure.”

“I see it as validation of the work I’ve been doing over the years in supporting journalism in Africa,” Kwakofi said. “It’s also daunting because it means there is even greater expectation to do more — though that’s a challenge I relish. I’m looking forward to meeting my colleagues at Yale and starting on this new adventure that will allow me [to] learn from them and share ideas about gaining a better understanding of our world.”

Another 2022 World Fellow, Solangel Fernandez, spoke about her more than 15-year career as an architect, urban designer and urban economist in Peru. Having grown up in a workers’ neighborhood in the heart of Lima, Fernandez formed an interest in protecting citizens’ wellness, as well as the natural and man-made environment, through public and private investment. Fernandez studied in a public university in Peru before winning a scholarship to continue her postgraduate studies in England, where she worked for two years.

Fernandez also served as the Minister of Housing, Construction and Sanitation of Peru from November 2020 to July 2021, during the transitional government of President Francisco Sagasti. During this time, Peru’s congress passed both the National Housing and Urbanism Policy, aimed at improving the living conditions of Peruvian citizens, and the Sustainable Urban Development Law, marking a historic milestone for the country.

“Having visited all the regions of Peru and reached its most remote villages, and seen the enormous challenges and risks vulnerable families face due to the state’s inaction and inability to plan accordingly, has consolidated my commitment to keep working for a more sustainable and equitable country, especially around the implementation of public policies and actions during trying times and in complex political situations,” Fernandez said. 

Babatunde Omilola, who was also selected to be a 2022 World Fellow, manages the African Development Bank’s COVID-19 response. He said that at Yale, he looks forward to connecting and exchanging experiences with his cohort of World Fellows, as well as working on strategies for a changing development landscape in Africa.

For the past 20 years, Omilola has tackled some of the biggest issues facing the world, from accelerating the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in over 80 countries worldwide to saving lives and livelihoods in Africa through a multi-billion-dollar response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Through the Yale World Fellows Program, I am looking forward to improving my ability to build consensus and harmonization among different stakeholders in promoting development and improving society while being sensitive to the surrounding political economy, existing systems, and entrenched social or cultural norms to change attitudes as well as policies,” Omilola said.

The Maurice R. Greenberg World Fellows Program runs annually from mid-August to mid-December.

Miranda Jeyaretnam is the beat reporter covering the Jackson Institute of Global Affairs and developments at the National University of Singapore and Yale-NUS for the YDN's University desk. She was formerly the opinion editor for the Yale Daily News under the YDN Board of 2022 and wrote as a staff columnist for her opinion column 'Crossing the Aisle' in Spring 2020. From Singapore, she is a sophomore in Pierson College, majoring in English.
William Porayouw covers international affairs at Yale and serves on the YDN business team. Originally from Southern California, he is a first-year in Davenport College majoring in ethics, politics and economics.