By Markus Smith
For the third time since 2011, UW Bothell hosted a cohort of students and their faculty mentor from the University of the Free State (UFS) in Bloemfontein, South Africa. They were part of Leadership for Change, an ambitious and visionary program intended to provide leadership education and training.
The partnership between UW Bothell and UFS is built on mutually enriching student and staff exchange activities. Most recently, Diversity Director and Global Initiatives Director Natalia Dyba, led a Summer 2015 study abroad program to South Africa for the second annual Global Leadership conference. Both institutions have a common commitment to expanding access and increasing equity in higher education, as well as taking advantage of opportunities to improve diversity on campus.
These exchange opportunities have proven to be an effective way to learn from one another and for our students to gain a global perspective on social issues that both groups have in common. “This experience has helped me understand that privilege and equity contribute to the systematic oppression of marginalized communities, and it’s not limited to one country,” says Cruz Garibay, a senior who served as a UW Bothell student ambassador for the visiting students.
Students from UFS explored diversity in the U.S. They also learned how UW Bothell’s commitment to diversity is evolving along with an increase in student-led equity initiatives. Sifiso Mgaga, a UFS student, says it’s time for a change when it comes to diversity and social justice in the US and South Africa. “Now we are moving ahead. We were born in a different circumstance than people who are leading us,” says Mgaga. “We have a different mindset now and we should change. Everything is changing around us and I just want people to see that. Let’s change with it.”
During the two week program UFS students had the opportunity to meet with student organizations on the Bothell and Seattle campuses, host a South Africa table at the Global Student Welcome event, participate in a service project for MLK Day, and visit UW Bothell classes. They also got to know the families of several UW Bothell faculty and staff. The program was organized by Global Initiatives and the Office of Diversity.