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In partnership with The Mastercard Foundation, the Talloires Network collaborated with Network member university Universidad Veracruzana to develop the Elephant Initiative, a fellowship program that engaged global youth in a participatory strategic planning process. The Elephant Initiative used the Talloires Network Leaders’ Conference (TNLC2017) as a platform for students to 1) develop and present their perspectives on strategic priorities for the Talloires Network, and 2) to practice leadership skills that are critical to economic and civic participation.

Read the Elephant Initiative Report!

Six university students from Talloires Network member institutions across 6 countries, a majority of which were from the Global South, were accepted into the Student Fellow program. Fellows participated in 10 weeks of e-learning, conducted 219 informal stakeholder interviews, received 3 trainings and an average of 2 hours per week of mentorship from higher education leaders. This experience culminated in a dynamic and interactive Fellow-led TNLC2017 plenary presentation.

Fellows’ insights articulate a vision for higher education that supports students’ connections to the world outside the university. Specifically, they call for:

  • Support in navigation and reduction of financial barriers to college access
  • Comprehensive support for student leadership development
  • Opportunities to learn from faculty, program staff, and others who lead by example and
    can practice what they teach
  • Platforms to collaborate with like-minded peers
  • Higher education that is contextualized in professional realities and prepares them for
    life after graduation

The outcomes of the program illustrate that involving students directly in institutional strategy- making is a twofold opportunity. Engaged universities can benefit from students’ experiential insights into the realities of university life around the world; these insight help institutions to better understand the needs of their students and can inspire innovative approaches to their work. Additionally, students can gain direct exposure to the realities of higher education leadership, and to the skills and mindsets needed to problem-solve effectively.

Fellow profiles: 

Daniela Acosta De Anda — Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico

Daniela is studying architecture. She sees architecture as a discipline with huge potential for social impact — for example, through the design of schools or community buildings that promote cohesion and community enhancement. Daniela is also the Social Development Coordinator of the Chihuahua Student Association, through which she develops and supports social impact projects. Currently, she is working to develop a book drive for low-income schools in her community and collaborating to create volunteer opportunities that improve school infrastructure.

“The right to education, the responsibility to create prosperous communities and societies, and the right to livelihood are critical issues in the present that need immediate action. The world needs more people concerned about the future and the progress of our society.”

Faizan RashidNUST School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, Pakistan

Faizan is currently in his third year of study in Mechanical Engineering. He is an active member and team leader in NUST’s Community Services Club, and over the course of his membership has worked on sustainable projects focused on fundraising for underprivileged students in the local community, creating educational opportunities for orphans, and gender equality. This past March, he was also the Event Lead for a blood drive put on in collaboration with the Jamila Sultana Foundation. His mission is to lead by example and inspire others to take up the responsibility of service to every facet of society, children and the underprivileged in particular.

“Those of us who are fortunate enough have a moral responsibility to not only give back to the community but to work towards its progress and prosperity.”

Kimberly Tapiwa Kujinga University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe

Kim is a medical student at the University of Zimbabwe. She was born and raised in Harare, Zimbabwe, and is passionate about empowerment of the underprivileged, her family, the medical field, and food! She is a past president of the Rotaract Club, a graduate of the paNhari life skills development program and now the paNhari Campus Coordinator, and a 2014 Talloires Network Student Leader and entrepreneur. Her mission statement is to challenge the status quo, by pursuing her passions for entrepreneurship and leadership so she can change her own life, and the lives, of those around her, in a positive and sustainable manner.

“Leadership is the capacity to influence people through inspiration, such that they volunteer to join you as you work towards a worthy goal.”

Poonnapa Zheng — The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong

Poonnapa was born and raised in Thailand. After high school, she decided to further her studies overseas. Currently, she is in her final year of study in Chemical Technologies. One of her most memorable experiences at PolyU was a service trip to Cambodia. Due to her work in Cambodia, Poonnapa was nominated to represent PolyU at the University Social Responsibility Summit (USR). The student sharing sessions at USR enabled her to tap into ideas of others, and this summer she will be visiting Cambodia once again to deliver a new project! Poonnapa believes that it is every citizen’s responsibility to commit to helping society.

“Being able to stay with local villagers and observe how their students struggle to gain education makes me more willing to contribute to the community. I strongly believe that world will become a better place with the combination of small acts.”

Seyma Sevik — Andadou University, Turkey

Seyma is 22 and a first-year graduate student of Creative Drama in Education. She graduated in 2015 with her Bachelor’s Degree in English Language Teaching, and is now focused heavily on children’s education and language teaching. She is also a member of the Contemporary Drama Association, through which she organizes drama workshop for people of all ages. She is involved in many social responsibility projects of creative drama, and sees creative drama as a way to take people’s natural world, creative play, and develop it further using theater techniques to create learning experiences.

It is the most natural right for everyone to reach education easily without obstacle.” 

Stephen Wamembo — Livingstone International University, Uganda

Stephen is a full-time student of Business Administration and will graduate this June. He attended Livingstone University on a four-year scholarship. For Stephen, his four years at Livingstone have been years of self-discovery, commitment, and purpose. He has served as a minister for academics and discipline, the President of the Students’ Guild, and as a member of numerous student associations and clubs. At church, he has served as youth chairperson of the parish; at local government level he was the General Secretary for youth in political leadership of the town council. Stephen would like to gear his efforts toward mentoring young people who have leadership potential, but are limited by the circumstances around them.

In collaboration with my fellow leaders, we can enhance change and draw a global leadership perspective for not only the current but also the next generation.”