ASU to host Mandela Washington Fellows

February 23, 2016

Beginning in mid-June, Arizona State University will host 50 of Africa’s brightest emerging leaders for six-week academic and leadership institutes sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), empowers young African leaders through academic coursework, leadership training, mentoring, networking, professional opportunities, and support for activities in their communities. Fellows are young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa who have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries.  Mandela Washington Fellows 2015 As part of their Civic Leadership experience at ASU, the 2015 Mandela Washington Fellowship participants at ASU visited the Grand Canyon. Download Full Image

ASU has been a host institution for the program since its inception in 2014. Led by the College of Public Service and Community Solutions, two cohorts of fellows — one in Civic Leadership and one in Public Management — will come to Arizona as part of a larger group of 1,000 Mandela Washington Fellows hosted at institutions across the United States this summer. The highly competitive program attracted more than 40,000 applications.

“We are excited to expand the program this year with two cohorts. Each year has been inspiring, and we truly learn as much from the fellows as they do from us,” said Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Working closely with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational Affairs and its implementing partner, IREX, host institutions have designed academic programs that will challenge and empower these inspiring young leaders from Africa.

“Our college has diverse, cross-sector expertise in civic leadership, social entrepreneurship, public policy and urban management. Coupled with our strong community partnerships, we are creating connections that will result in collaborative solutions,” Koppell added.

Fellows will meet with faculty from across the university, as well as community advocates and practitioners. The College has partnered with dozens of institutions across Arizona to provide this group a comprehensive experience: City of Phoenix, Local First Arizona, International Rescue Committee, the Hopi tribal community, Grand Canyon Trust, Terra BIRDS, City of Tucson, City of Flagstaff, National Parks Service, and more.

As part of the institute, fellows will travel to Flagstaff, Tucson and Sedona, visiting landmarks such as the Grand Canyon and Kartchner Caverns. They will work on community service projects, visit with elected officials, local agencies and nonprofits.

At the end of the institutes, all of the fellows will gather in Washington, D.C. for a Presidential Summit; select fellows will also spend six weeks in professional development training with U.S. non-governmental organizations, private companies and government agencies.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is a U.S. government program that is supported in its implementation by IREX.  For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, visit and join the conversation with #YALI2016.  

Heather Beshears

director marketing and communications, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


Arizona Republic journalist named Cronkite News director

February 23, 2016

Venita Hawthorne James, a veteran Arizona Republic journalist, is a new director in the Phoenix bureau at Cronkite News, a multiplatform daily news enterprise at Arizona PBS operated by Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Hawthorne James, who worked for more than three decades at the Republic, is charged with leading coverage at the Cronkite News – Phoenix Bureau, in which advanced multimedia student journalists cover important public policy issues across the state for Arizona PBS and other regional outlets. Venita Hawthorne James Venita Hawthorne James (left), the new director of the Cronkite News - Phoenix Bureau, talks with Cronkite student Amber Kahwaji. Download Full Image

Hawthorne James most recently led the Republic’s Community Watchdog operations, overseeing government accountability, public safety, education and other issues. In her 34 years at the Republic, she had a number of leadership roles, including West Valley editor, acting metro editor and communities editor, among others. She also reported on Maricopa County Superior Court and Phoenix City Hall.

“Venita is an excellent journalist with a deep understanding of our state and region,” said Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School. “Her experience leading news coverage at the Republic makes her a perfect fit to direct the Cronkite News Phoenix bureau and mentor our students.”

At the Republic, Hawthorne James led teams that launched community newspapers and websites in the West Valley and other regions. She also led the Republic’s website,, in conducting in-person and virtual town hall meetings on major issues and launched the Valley's first virtual school-choice fair for middle school students and parents. 

A graduate of Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., Hawthorne James is a former chapter president and regional director of the National Association of Black Journalists.

“I am excited and honored to join the team at the Cronkite School, which builds excellence and innovation in journalism,” Hawthorne James said.

Cronkite News is the news division of Arizona PBS, the state’s main PBS station. Reaching 1.9 million households, it is the nation’s largest media outlet operated by a journalism school. With news bureaus in Phoenix, Washington and Los Angeles, the news-gathering operation includes 15 full-time editors/professors and more than 120 students who produce daily news content on TV and digital platforms for Arizona audiences.