Note to Editors: The three scholars, as well as experts quoted in this release, are available for interviews and photos by calling Karen Wheeler at (970) 491-6435.
Three of the 15 recipients of the Mandela Economic Scholarship Program have come to Colorado State University to begin studies this fall, making the university the only public institution in the country to host that many scholars.
The students–Junior (Albert) Khumalo from East Rand, Lillian Meyer of Cape Town and Alpheus Nelufule of Venda–were selected to leave South Africa to study in America through a highly competitive selection process conducted by a panel consisting of U.S. and South African economists, South African academics and senior South African government officials. The scholars were selected from a pool of about 200 candidates on the basis of evaluation of academic, professional and personal qualifications and achievements. After completing the program, the students must return to South Africa to work in public service at selected institutions for a minimum of two years.
"Colorado State offers the quality of programs, the range of courses and a faculty expertise which makes it a highly desirable institution," said Gundu Rau, Projects Manager for Aurora Associates International Inc. which manages the selection, placement and administration of the scholars. "The university also got their bid in early and provided all the information needed to make an informed decision."
The Mandela Economic Scholars program is part of the US/South Africa project called "Support for Economic Growth and Analysis/Mandela Scholars Program," which is mandated to address issues primarily in areas crucial to South Africa’s reconstruction needs. The program provides technical assistance and training to help South Africa plan, reform and direct its economic destiny.
"To be selected is quite an honor for these students and to have been selected as the one public institution to receive three of these special individuals speaks to the quality of the academic programs we offer at Colorado State," said Alicia Cook, interim vice provost for international programs. "We’re very happy to have these students on our campus, not simply because of the knowledge we hope to share with them, but because of what we as a community can learn from them."
Lillian, Alpheus and Junior agreed that the sacrifice of spending the next 18 months far from family and friends is worth the opportunity for personal and professional growth.
"Knowing you’re going to be away from home for two years, with no chance to visit during that time, the homesickness really kicks in," Lillian said. "But this scholarship is an incredibly good thing. I am really looking forward to going home and giving back to my community, to my country by becoming an economic consultant specializing in unemployment and small to medium micro-enterprises."
For Alpheus, the sacrifice is particularly sharp: "I miss my wife and children very much but we all realize how important an opportunity this is. The future of my family is inextricably tied to the future of South Africa. These studies will give me the knowledge I need to contribute meaningfully to the economic success of my country, and thereby my own family."
When asked to relate the most surprising aspect of studying in the United States, the three had the same response: the relationships between student and professor.
"To see that a student can actually challenge a professor was quite surprising. The educational system here is much more interactive; students have a platform which allows them to contribute. This, I think, particularly enhances learning," Lillian said.
Colorado, they all agreed, is beautiful and offers interesting diversions, but not enough to make any of them consider returning permanently.
"There are many places I would like to visit in this country, like California, and many things I would like to try, like skiing. But my goal is to return to South Africa to make a difference, a contribution," Junior said. "I see myself working for an institution like the Development Bank of Southern Africa and being a part of a quality policy-making effort to improve the standard of living of the South African people."
Colorado State has a history of educational exchange with South Africa. For example, Leo Cefken, professor of political science, has been studying and writing about South Africa for more than 30 years, and Jerry Eckert, professor of agricultural and resource economics, has been going back and forth almost as long. Both were 1991 Fulbright Scholars who chose to return to study in South Africa.
Robert Kling, associate professor and chairman of the economics department, points out that Colorado State has expertise in areas such as economic development and financial market policy, both of which are relevant to these students’ interest.
"’Micro-enterprise’" development, for example, is the emphasis for the ’90s and a lot of economic development comes from small business–as opposed to large corporations–these days. This is especially important for developing countries," Kling explained. "We hope that this is the beginning of an ongoing relationship with the Mandela program. Such ties are part of our commitment to global education and outreach which, in turn, is a reflection of Colorado State’s long tradition of international involvement."