UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

Delegation of young Southeast Asian leaders visits UND

The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Professional Fellows Program fosters cultural exchange between U.S., Southeast Asia

YSEALI fellows pose with their faculty hosts at the Memorial Union. Photo by Joe Banish/UND Today.

Editor’s noteIn the UND LEADS Strategic Plan, the Equity core value calls on the University to “promote diverse perspectives and inclusive worldviews” by offering, among other things, “opportunities to understand diverse populations and meet their changing needs.” The University’s participation in the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Professional Fellows Program is meant to help the UND community “understand diverse populations” and “promote inclusive worldviews.” 

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On Monday, UND welcomed to campus four fellows representing the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Professional Fellows Program (YSEALI PFP), an exchange designed to boost cultural ties between the U.S. and Southeast Asia.

The program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, invites young leaders representing the Southeast Asian nations of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Vietnam to gain experience working in the fields of civic engagement, economic empowerment, governance and society, as well as sustainable development and the environment. According to the State Department’s website on YSEALI, it is the “U.S. government’s signature program to strengthen leadership development and networking in Southeast Asia.”

In hosting the fellows, UND is partnering with the Mansfield Center at the University of Montana. Named after Montana’s former U.S. Sen. Mike Mansfield — a veteran of multiple leadership roles, including Senate majority leader and U.S. ambassador to Japan – the Center promotes global exchange and civic engagement.

Randi Tanglen, UND vice provost for Faculty Affairs, said the fellows’ visit to Grand Forks and UND will be mutually enriching and informative.

“These are the rock stars of their countries here,” she told the group. “You are so experienced, credentialed and qualified – it’s an honor to have you here on campus and in Grand Forks. UND wants to be a leader in the community and state, and programs like this allow us to build relationships in Grand Forks, the state and in this case, throughout the globe.”

Tanglen added that cultural exchanges such as YSEALI are a means to effect positive change and expand participants’ worldview.

“We know that our communities and world are facing big problems that are in the headlines every day,” she said. “We think that problems are solved and change happens at a grassroots level through relationships. Everyone here today is expanding their sphere of influence and ability to make a difference in the world.”

UND President Andrew Armacost and Provost Eric Link made a surprise visit to the luncheon, welcoming the fellows to UND and Grand Forks.

From left to right: UND President Andrew Armacost, Kev Channa, Ngo Bao Linh, Zezinha “Z” Lumena Do Rego Cornelio and Provost Eric Link pose in the Memorial Union. Photo by Joe Banish/UND Today.

Kev Channa, who serves as the learning center program manager at PEPY Empowering Youth — an education-focused non-profit based in his home of Siem Reap, Cambodia — called YSEALI an “eye-opening opportunity,” one that he hopes to use for the betterment of his community upon returning home.

“I feel like I am a seed, and you all are the fertilizer and water that will help me grow,” he said.

While in Grand Forks, Channa will help Manuela Gabriel, director of UND’s International Center, with the center’s peer mentoring program, along with reviewing marketing materials used to recruit international students.

Ngo Bao Linh, a restorative justice advocate at The Classroom Circle in her native Hanoi, Vietnam, said the collaborative learning aspect of the program, support from the campus community and a desire to “pay it forward to my community back home,” prompted her to apply for YSEALI.

“I hope this is an opportunity for all of us to share and learn from each other,” said Linh, who will be working alongside Laura Link, professor of teaching and leadership at UND.

Siti Suci Larasati of Medan, Indonesia, and Zezinha “Z” Lumena Do Rego Cornelio of Dili, Timor-Leste, round out the YSEALI delegation to Grand Forks. Larasati will be mentored by Joshua Hunter, UND associate professor of Education, Health and Behavior Studies, and Cornelio will be mentored by Sheila Morris, vice president of Advocacy at the Community Violence and Intervention Center in Grand Forks.

The fellows and their hosts will participate in weekly lunch meetings to discuss their progress. Their visit will conclude with a celebration and panel discussion on Friday, May 24 at 11 a.m. at the Memorial Union’s Social Stairs.

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